The Intake is a utilitarian building; function is the main driving force of its design. This design, in its concept, accommodated modification to satisfy demand and adapt to the needs of a fast growing city. A series of additions made over time attest to the flexible nature of this structure, which is manifest architecturally through the repetition of forms (structural bays and window punctures) that can easily be replicated as needed. We will again call on this original design concept to minimally modify the structure to once more adapt to the growing metropolis and remain a functional and active element of Austin’s urban fabric.
The Intake stands in a unique location, with one façade directly over the lake, the other engaging a very active urban
context. At the same time, it is located inside one of Austin’s great recreational spaces. The building at the center of
these multiple intersecting environments has the potential to be a hub of activity for the community at large. In its current
condition, however, it divides these environments, acting as a wall-like barrier between Cesar Chavez Street and Lady
Bird Lake, as well as an obstruction along the Butler Hike & Bike Trail. It is under this premise that our design proposes
to open up the building (physically and conceptually), to permeate different environments and programs in order to take
in the city’s culture and give it back to the community as a reflection of their lifestyle.
Opening up the bays at the lower levels will allow Lady Bird Lake and its recreational activities to occupy the building.
The Butler Hike & Bike Trail is re-routed to a new spacious boardwalk on the south face, lake side of the building. A
heavy timber deck over the boardwalk is pleasing to both the scale and feel of the human body. At the opening of the two
structures, where the grand stair sits, the boardwalk extends out towards the lake and two diagonal piers spring out to
the east and west respectively. Along the full length of the boardwalk’s lakeside steps lead to a floating deck and provide
immediate access to the lake. The piers, the boardwalk and the floating dock form a semicircle that outlines a space that
Lady Bird Lake completes. We envision this space as a generator of many activities that engage the water and provide
a spot for sporting competitions, a resting place after a hard workout, or a simple place to enjoy the beauty of our lake.
The now-open lower portion of the building houses an open classroom and a fitness area. This portion of the building
sits 18 inches above the boardwalk, and is accessible from the grand stair area. The remaining edge (elevation change
condition) features planters and benches to serve as a divider and definer between the classroom/fitness areas and the
The open classroom area houses the rain water basin, enjoys an engaging view of the lake and is located in the heart
of Austin, a perfect backdrop and opportunity to engage in a discussion about the city and the environment. Information
about the Intake Facility’s history and its sustainable aspects will be displayed for the general public. This space will be
used by school groups as an educational space, as well as a spot for private and public informal talks, presentations,
and a variety of events. To the east of the grand stair, the fitness area offers a place for group classes as well as spot
for the trail user to stretch or work out.
At the Cesar Chavez Street level the original gap between buildings one and two widens to create a public plaza,
views to the lake, passive cooling by prevailing breezes, and vertical circulation. The widening of the gap between the
buildings is based on the historical dogtrot building type that is traditional in Central Texas. The plaza will keep with the
architectural language of the boardwalk and will be elevated from the street level to match the new floor elevation at the
main hall. To the street side, the spacious area includes an interactive water feature. To the south, towards the lake, the
plaza becomes a balcony to enjoy the views.
Because of the multi-program nature of the building, the vertical circulation is placed on the outside, unattached to any
particular program. This as a great opportunity to not only connect three different elevations, but also to connect three
different aspects of life in Austin: recreation and a healthy lifestyle at the lake level; a vibrant urban metropolis at the
street level; and the leisure and dream visions of the Texas sky at the roof level. For this reason and also to differentiate
the new from old, the stair is built from highly polished stainless steel, as an architectural accent and celebration
of its meaning within the overall site. Because the stair sits in the middle of the opening between the two structures,
the reflective material gives it lightness. Being consistent with The Intake’s commitment to sustainability, the stainless
steel would be made high recycled content. At the core of the stair an ADA elevator connects the street level and the
Open-Air Hall level.
The smaller of the existing structures houses the code-required restrooms, storage, a prep area and a mobile utility lift
for servicing the open-air Hall. A green roof crowns this small utilitarian structure.
The open air hall occupies the roof of the main hall . This space has its origins in the deeply rooted Texas Dance Hall
archetype. The open-air hall is a large, heavy-timber-over-steel structure open deck that can host a large variety of
programs. The deck also acts as a large overhang for the main hall, providing protection from the rain and the sun. A
colonnade over the deck supports the parabolic roof, a modern interpretation of the historical dance hall structure. The
roof’s ridge beam varies in height: high and open to downtown views and prevailing breezes on the east end; an almost
flat portion at its lowest point to allow for rain water harvesting at two thirds of its run; and a minimal, gestural height at
the west end to protect from the western sun exposure. The gentle horizontal curve of the roof acts as a counterpoint
to the existing Intake structure by reaffirming its strong orthogonal character and clearly defining the new and the old.
Just as the tradition of the dance hall, this space can host large and varied activities against the unique backdrop of
Lady Bird Lake and Austin’s skyline.
Because the intake is part of the city’s urban fabric and at the same time a park our strategy is to minimize the on-site
parking spots to 4 handicapped and one regular spot. There are abundant nearby transit options, B-Cycle stops, and
Car2Go spots. We would like to encourage use of this type of transportation as well as encourage pedestrian access
to Austin’s growing urban residential population. The program’s parking requirements are to be met off-site through
valet parking or nearby assigned parking spots. A two-lane drop-off area at Cesar Chavez will facilitate and reduce
traffic loads on Cesar Chavez during high peak occupancy at the Intake Facility. An efficient drop-off zone becomes an
essential element of the overall site plan and circulation strategy for the development. The presence of an old major
electrical transmission tower makes traffic circulation-access close to impossible, without sacrificing existing trees, precious
parkland, or taxing existing traffic on Cesar Chavez. For this reason and because of safety concerns our proposal
upgrades the existing transmission tower to a modern structure and moves it to a new inconspicuous location nearby,
allowing for the design and construction of an efficient drop off area. Relocating the transmission tower also increases
safety during construction.
The drop-off zone, because of its minimal onsite parking and its construction pavers is to be perceived as a pedestrian
head trail access when not in use. A handicapped access ramp and a stairway lead to the new boardwalk and to lake
access from the drop-off zone. Located halfway along the ramp and the stairs is a lookout area that offers a place to
pause and enjoy more intimate experience of the site. To the west of this ramp area, a vertical garden integrated with
rain water features acts as a retaining wall, defining spaces and accounting for the large topographical differences. At
its closest portion to the lake, within the wall are two ADA restrooms that service trail users. An extended space in front
offers a water fountain and a place to meet up with other trail users.
The Odom pavilion has been integrated to the overall site. A new ADA ramp, stair (aligning with the current Cesar
Chavez Promenade plans) and roof structure with photovoltaic panels will make the pavilion an attractive and inviting
entry point from Walter Seaholm Drive. A new electrical room, within the existing concrete structure, will house batteries
for storage of unused electricity produced by the PV panels. Heavy landscaping on the north side of the pavilion will buffer
Cesar Chavez’s traffic making it an attractive spot for events or a good resting point to enjoy the views of the Intake
amphitheater and its grounds for the general public.
Water will be a prominent element throughout the landscape. Rainwater will be collected from the large sculptural
downspout on the north side of the Intake. Most of this water will cascade down a rock wall at the Open Classroom to
the cisterns below. However some water will be directly diverted to the rain gardens cascading down from the retaining
wall. This water could cascade through a series of filtration terraces down into the cistern or back into the lake. Likewise
native planting on the side of terraces will slow down the rainwater.
The core sustainibility design elements will be rainwater collection, ultra low-flush and flow fixtures, air cooled VRF
HVAC systems, passive cooling, photovoltaic panels, green roof, native landscape and heathy materials. The Intake
will aspire to be an iconic manifestation of nature-inspired design coupled with exemplary sustainable performance in
all facets. The project will be a visible, publicly-accessible demonstration of systems and materials that embrace 21st
century design imperatives and, more specifically, imperatives fundamental to sustaining Austin’s vitality into the future,
including the long-term health of Lady Bird Lake.
Setting a high bar to pursue both LEED Platinum certification and Austin Energy Green Building 5-Star rating is an
imperative for The Intake’s Design Team and represents the ‘basis of design’. Consideration of other certifications will
also be assessed, including The Living Building Challenge petal certification and the Worker’s Defense Project’s Better
Builder Program to promote a safe and sustainable workplace. The Intake team’s commitment to exemplary sustainability
is exemplified by implementing deconstruction rather than demolition to transition the Green Water Intake Building.
Likewise establishing zero waste, green housekeeping and integrated pest management will be standard practice
for the ongoing operations of The Intake.
The Austinite user rather than the quick profit bottom line will be the driving force for the architectural design. The design
and proposal is a reflection of Austin and its openness, diversity, sophistication and creativity. This design aims to build
upon Austin as a place of opportunities and as a caring community. This proposal envisions a continuation of Austin’s
long term goals as it continues to grow.