No matter how many downtown Austin condo and apartment towers rise in the Rainey Street District — and the answer is “a lot” — the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center (
What you might not know about the MACC is that it’s unfinished, despite its stunning looks. The original building completed its major phases in 2007 and 2010, but additional phases to accommodate larger event and exhibit space have been forthcoming since then — you’ll recall back in 2017 we were very concerned by the plans shown off for its expansion, which we saw as harming its architectural merit.
A closer view of the existing MACC building’s many beautiful angles. Video: The Tejano Trails
Since then, we’ve been happy to see its designers go back to the drawing board, with the new master plan shown off for the center’s expansion a year later in 2018 only enhancing its looks and public utility. That master plan is currently only partially funded, but it’s back on our minds due to this stunning concept video of how an expanded center might look, posted by architectural visualization firm Codesign Group showing off a design created by interns at Gensler Austin:
As you can see from the aerial views in the video, this concept would extend the crescent-shaped MACC building into a larger half-circle with additions on both sides, along with a second pyramid-shaped performance space coming off the main building. You’ll also notice a fairly substantial pier and boardwalk-style structure over Lady Bird Lake, creating additional public space with an unmatched view. Compare the video above with the illustration below from CasaBella back in 2018 showing an expanded center and you’ll see it’s roughly the same — the boardwalk area over the lake has just gotten a lot bigger, which we obviously fully support.
The folks at Gensler tell us this video was produced by members of the firm’s summer internship program, working in partnership with the MACC to visualize a potential future for the expanded facility. As you can see from its similarities with the previous master plan, the design is very similar to what the center hopes to eventually build, but Gensler’s representatives stress it’s completely conceptual, and the firm isn’t responsible for the design of the actual expansion. The final design team chosen for the next phase of the center is a partnership between local firm Miró Rivera Architects and Mexican architect Tatiana Bilbao, and new concept renderings for their work haven’t shown up yet — though the 2018 master plan should give us a general idea.
Even if we don’t know exactly how the finished product will look, Austin City Council approved a $22 million contract back in September with Texas construction firm Rogers O’Brien for expansion work on the center, which in the midst of a pandemic is more progress than we’ve seen on a lot of projects around here. Anyway, it’s a good opportunity to reacquaint yourself with the MACC — no matter how much Rainey changes, this center represents its proud history, and no Austinite should forget it.