Fair grounds at Fareground food hall in downtown Austin

Twice last week I visited buzzed-about Fareground food hall on Congress Avenue in downtown Austin, killing time before shows at the Paramount Theater. I’ve yet to see Fareground in the daytime, but at night the softly lit landscaping and plaza sure are enticing. (The stairs and outer plaza seating could actually use a little more light, for safety and usability.)

Looking down into the sunken plaza from street level, you view a hillside planted with Texas dwarf palmetto, sedge, and other low-maintenance, shade-tolerant natives. Stairs and a zigzagging ramp lead you toward a perforated white arbor sheltering a few dining tables.

The shade arbor floats over the outdoor dining area like a paper airplane wing. Daniel Woodroffe of Studio DWG, the landscape architect for the project, commented on one of my Instagram pics that the shade structure is called Nimbus.

Nearby, in the center of the plaza, stands a light sculpture consisting of 12 tall rods, which Daniel called Cloudscape. He said it “atomizes water into actual clouds that are choreographed into a show with light.” According to Studio DWG’s website, “Cloudscape, the iconic water feature at the center of the project, is powered by AC-condensation harvested from the tower.” Both times I visited, Cloudscape only shifted color slightly, from violet to purple, with no cloud-like formations that I could detect. Does it happen at certain times, I wonder? I’d like to see it.

Being a garden geek, I didn’t take a single picture inside the beautiful food hall itself. But I admired the contemporary seating options in the plaza and on the hillside, where turquoise Acapulco wire chairs are gathered around portable round-top tables. The lawn is faux, which is a smart choice for this dry-shade hillside that will see tons of foot traffic and butt lounging.

A wintry tree — a redbud, by the looks of it — awaits spring’s greening touch.

But overall the grounds look green and lush, in spite of our unusually cold winter. On the chilly nights when I visited, only a few hardy diners were sitting on the patio. Everyone else was packed into the indoor seating. But soon enough Fareground’s plaza and hillside lawn will be filled with happily noshing Austinites and visitors.

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5 Responses

  1. Kris P says:

    Landscape that can be enjoyed in the evening is a relative rarity, at least in commercial settings. It’s good to see that some developers keep the big picture in mind.

    • Pam/Digging says:

      Yes, it is. This is a prominent project on Austin’s main downtown street. It used to be an empty sunken plaza with a waterfall fountain flowing along a large retaining wall. But that got turned off due to water restrictions during the horrible drought that peaked in 2011, and the space was ripe for revitalization. —Pam

  2. “butt lounging”… I almost choked on my cough drop!

    Your remarks about the “few hardy diners” had me thinking back to Paris and how we, and they, were dining and drinking on their deep, covered, sidewalk seating everyday, even though it was in the 40’s and 50’s… I loved that! I also love the Nimbus.

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