Growing up in Utah I did my fair share of climbing. Despite my love of the outdoors, probably some of my favorite climbing has been bouldering in gyms. For those of you who don't know, bouldering is a form of climbing where you ditch all the ropes and harnesses and stick to short routes with pads underneath them in case you fall. As soon as I caught wind of a bouldering gym in East Austin, I was super stoked. I've been eagerly following the construction of the Austin Bouldering Project for the last couple of months, and last week, just days before it would officially open, I had the chance to go through the building with the interior designer for the space Lilianne Steckel.
Lilianne has designed some of my favorite commercial spaces in Austin including Flat Track and Isla, so the idea of her having her way with 40,000 sq/ft of space was exciting. The owners of ABP and their architect fell in love with the look of Thunderbird Cafe and Tap Room (another project by Lilianne) and you'll see a lot of the same styling in the space. The color pallet inside is muted but colorful. While many climbing gyms I've been to in the past tend to be overly masculine and industrial this one is pleasantly bright and playful, in large part because of the gigantic teal climbing walls and the geometric colorful volumes attached to them. That's not to say there isn't a bit of that industrial vibe. Lilianne was actually able to incorporate a good deal of steel that was found on site into the overall design.
Perhaps one of the most exciting things about ABP however is that it is so much more than just a gym. The front area features a small retail space, where you can stock up on the climbing essentials, as well as an amazing mural by Sophie Roach. The mural was just getting finished up while I was there (so no pictures) so you'll have to just go see it for yourself. There are also lockers and showers and a full cross fit style work out area. Upstairs is a massive area full of tables and seating so you can just chill out or watch other people climb. Last but not least there is even a yoga room so you can stretch those muscles out a bit.
Let's be honest though, at the heart of it what the space is all about is bouldering, and in that aspect it definitely does not disappoint. Lead route setter Christine Deyo has been working on setting the routes for months now. There is a huge variety both in difficulty and type, everything from cave sections to low boulders where you can practice your top out.