It’s been a particularly blissful holiday season for Austin-based Baldridge Architects, now that the firm’s work on Gardner, a new restaurant in an East Austin adaptive re-use development, was cited as one of the best interiors in the world by Architectural Record magazine.
The Gardner project was lauded right alongside much larger projects in New York, San Francisco, Washington, Milan, Italy and Essen, Germany.
“I did not expect this,” said R. Burton Baldridge, the Austin firm’s principal, who said it’s a little too soon to tell whether the international publicity will boost his firm’s prominence.
Gardner is Baldridge Architects’ first restaurant, though the firm has completed hospitality projects before — Kimber Modern hotel, for example. Earning the design assignment from restaurateurs Ben Edgerton and Andrew Wiseheart of Contigo fame was like a shot out of the dark, Baldridge said.
“We were not on their radar at all,” he recalled.
Keith Kreeger, a noted Austin-based ceramicist who knew all the parties involved, saw a fit and made the introductions. Baldridge still isn’t sure why his firm procured the commission at the 11th hour, but an attitude of restraint and authenticity probably won the day. “I told them we needed to find a way to be honest to the post office,” Baldridge said, being compelled to keep the basics such as the bricks and glass intact.
The design process was orderly and slow and the results are stellar in an understated way. Baldridge came to the architectural profession in an offbeat sort of way. He attended the University of Texas and went to law school. “It was a colossal mistake,” Baldridge said.
He decided to save enough money so he could return to college and become an architect. In due time, Baldridge was living in New York, so he landed at Columbia University.