Architect Michael Hsu Keeps Design Weird and Wonderful in Austin, Texas

It’s fitting that the architect Michael Hsu’s big break came through a restaurant: Both of his parents owned and worked in eateries in the U.S. and Taiwan. Hsu’s mom, a classically trained chef, had owned a noodle shop in Taiwan, and when the family moved to Houston, Hsu spent time at the restaurant she worked in there. In 1988, he moved to Austin to study engineering at the University of Texas, but upon finding his roommate’s architecture work more interesting, he switched majors.

Hsu cut his teeth at OMA’s Rotterdam office, where he worked for a year, and by the mid-1990s was working with the late Dick Clark, then Austin’s most prominent architect, who had helped define the city’s rustic Modernism. While at the firm, Hsu led the design of Uchi, the celebrated restaurant helmed by chef Tyson Cole, which blended a South Austin dance-hall aesthetic with Japanese farmhouse references, including charred woods and traditional joinery.

Thanks to Uchi’s success, in 2005 Hsu founded his eponymous firm, which puts a Texan spin on sophisticated designs—like Loro, another restaurant led by Cole. Michael Hsu Office of Architecture (MHOA) has since expanded, taking on larger projects, from mixed-use condos to its own studio building, which houses 45 staffers. In that time, Hsu has become known for warm, welcoming spaces that simultaneously maintain a scruffiness and individualism that can only be described as Texan. And his interest in the local is more than just aesthetic; Hsu’s projects feature work by Austin-area artisans and craftspeople, as well as custom pieces done in-house by the firm’s interior design team.

Courtesy Bruce Damonte –