Lady Bird Loo
Located along the running trail of Lady Bird Lake in downtown Austin, Texas, the new Heron Creek Restroom facility responds to the unique conditions of its environment. The buildings are a simple composition of raw steel and concrete that will patina over time. Subtle shifts in geometry differentiate the structures and give them a sense of personality. Large steel plates suspended on a light frame form the tent like building shell, achieving durability while maintaining a sense of playfulness. The textured concrete accentuates the passage of shadows across its surface, while the steel frame inside draws the eye up towards openings in the roof that allow for a view of the tree canopy and sky.
The Trail Foundation’s design brief was deceptively simple: it asked for an outdated and dilapidated restroom to be replaced with two new facilities that would be low-maintenance, durable, and safe. Located along the lake in the heart of Austin, the site demanded equal attention to ensure that these structures would reinforce the park’s character as an oasis in the city. We derived a solution that engaged all the senses and achieved the goals of both TTF and the City of Austin Parks Department, primarily through the considerations of durability, functionality, a strong sense of safety and lots of ventilation all while creating a sense of respite for the occupant. The enclosures reach high while maintaining a small footprint, creating lots of volume and plenty of openings that frame views of the sky and trees. The lower hem of the oxidizing steel tents are lifted off the ground, allowing for airflow and the ability for the occupant to feel safe by monitoring the perimeter. The door is latched by an oversized, long throw bolt lever that fortifies your sense of safety by feeling and sounding more like a vault being secured. Dappled light streams in through the large openings as do the tree branches. These new restroom facilities take in the textures and elements of the immediate site, and organize them into something new. The site is both field and forest, shaded by dappled light in the summer and graced with urban views through bare branches in the winter. Concrete end walls brace and enclose the buildings and are recessed to create porches. The two structures are scaled to the surrounding landscape, facing one another slightly askew with subtle shifts in geometry that differentiate their form and give them a sense of personality. The separation between the two is bisected by the axis of the solstice, which also points to the mouth of the all-important Barton Creek on the opposite shore of the lake.