Austin, Texas is known for its love of live music, amazing food scene, and self-proclaimed weirdness. It’s a city for those who embrace opportunities and adventure, making it the ideal location for EF Education First’s fourth U.S. office. Construction began in the spring of 2020 and, despite the challenges of COVID-19, the project finished on schedule. The office officially opened to team members in mid-2021, trading in the EF “hello” for an EF “howdy.”
For each new EF school or office, there is a vision that drives the design and functionality of the space. When creating the Austin office, the goal for the entire EF Properties team, including the in-house architecture and design team, was to emphasize community engagement and sustainability. To do this, the in-house team worked with a variety of architects, designers, and businesses, many of them based in Austin. The team also utilized locally sourced materials to craft a space that embraces the free spirit of Texas’ state capital.
Surrounding the downtown area of Austin is an eclectic array of neighborhoods that each have their unique charm. EF’s office is in the historic neighborhood of South Congress, also known as SoCo, home to famous music venues, restaurants, and iconic neon signs. This lively energy was the primary source of inspiration when planning the interior design of the office.
EF’s design team worked with local artists to create a variety of functional art pieces that helped mimic Austin’s landscape indoors. Muralist Andrew Manning hand-painted vibrant graphics along the walls to playfully depict the desert plant life of the region. And to help the plant theme come to life, Tortoise Club Gardens curated a live plant installation of cacti and succulents in the office’s entryway. Together, they create a space of both the real and imaginary where creativity and collaboration can flourish. Other office areas like the swings, sofa alcoves, outdoor terraces, and large café invite EFers to gather for meetings or discuss where to find the best breakfast taco in the city.
Additionally, EF worked with local printers, contractors, millworkers, architects, and furniture designers to create an office that was singular and sustainable. The reception desk was created out of handmade terracotta breeze blocks from Austin’s sister city in Saltillo, Mexico, and purchased locally at Clay Imports. Austin fabricator Litmus Industries crafted the desk to EF’s design, pairing the terracotta blocks with locally sourced Pecan wood with a natural edge.
Throughout the office, EF team members have a range of workspaces to choose from, from big brainstorming areas to quiet nooks. In collaboration with Very Good & Proper, custom workstations feature recycled PET plastic acoustic panels and are designed to be easily separated into their material components for easy repair, re-use, or recycling.
Austin has something for everyone’s passions. Called the “Live Music Capital of the World,” the city is known for renowned festivals like “South by Southwest” and being instrumental in the growth of the folk, blues, and jazz genres. Also, the television show “Austin City Limits” is filmed here, which lays claim to being the longest-running music series in American television history. Music trivia fans may even share a long list of famous musicians born in Austin, like Janis Joplin, Gary Clark Jr., and Willie Nelson. And for those looking for other artistic inspiration, there are many world-class museums to visit, such as the Blanton Museum of Art or the Harry Ransom Center, which has the earliest surviving photograph in existence.
Outside the city’s limits is an outdoor enthusiast’s playground, with activities like swimming, hiking, and kayaking — even bat watching. With an average of 228 sunny days (that’s about 7 and a half months!) per year, the weather favors those who love to be outside. Whether it’s tubing trips down the San Marcos River or paddleboarding on Lady Bird Lake, EFers are taking advantage of what the city has to offer. While the newest EF office captures the vibrancy of this exciting American city, it’s Austin’s friendly and inspiring atmosphere that truly speaks to everything EF stands for.
“Austin for Music Lovers.” Visit Austin, 11 July 2017, www.austintexas.org/austin-insider-blog/post/austin-for-music-lovers.
“Climate in Austin, Texas.” BestPlaces, www.bestplaces.net/climate/city/texas/austin.