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SXSW preview: Step inside one of the most innovative 3D-printed homes made in Austin

House Zero will not be listed on the market but will instead be used to generate excitement. (Laura Figi/Austonia)

Austinites will be able to walk the curved halls of ICON’s newest 3D-printed home, House Zero, for themselves during SXSW weekend.


Designed in tandem with Lake|Flato Architects—the firm behind South Congress development Music Lane—House Zero is the first of ICON’s “exploration series,” which shows how 3D-printed construction can be customized, such as with curved walls.

As an official partner of SXSW, ICON will host tours from March 13-14.

@austonianews East Austin’s House Zero is meant to show all the uses of 3D-printing construction. Read about how to tour the house at SXSW on austonia.com! #atx♬ original sound - Austonia

Printed in less than two weeks using ICON’s proprietary cement-like material, “Lavacrete,” co-founder and CEO Jason Ballard said he hopes the home helps push the boundaries of what to expect from housing.

Behind Jason Ballard, there's not a single straight line making up the walls at the front of the house. (Laura Figi/Austonia)

“This is really an exercise in expanding people's imaginations.” Ballard told Austonia. “I hope people see this and realize not only that we cannot accept the way that we're building right now, but when you see this as you don't want to accept it anymore. You realize much more fantastic futures are possible.”

At more than 2,000 square feet, the home has three bedrooms, two-and-a-half bathrooms and a 350-square-foot one-bedroom, one-bathroom accessory dwelling unit just outside. Absence of corners and rigid straight lines, plus an open floor plan, give the home an organic feeling.

The living room connects to an office space and the kitchen. (Laura Figi/Austonia)

Floor-to-ceiling windows ensure that indoors are always brightly lit with natural light and natural cabinetry inside provides a seamless transition from outdoors to indoors.

Luxury finishes in bathrooms provide a spa-like experience with rain showers, detached bathtubs and countertop sinks.

Meanwhile, bedrooms are equipped with remote-controlled shades, so you can always wake up to morning light.

Though the ADU is small, a murphy bed, closet space lining the walls and massive windows make the home feel more spacious than it truly is. With a miniature induction stove, ample counter space and luxurious bathroom, the ADU can host short, long-term or even permanent guests.

On its way to its goal of ending the housing crisis in Austin, Ballard said ICON is now focusing on finishing its 100-home project in North Austin, which will be the world’s first 3D-printed neighborhood, and looks forward to continuing work with Community First! Village to build homes for the homeless.

“Often conversations about homelessness and housing affordability and housing supply, are like very depressing conversations and I hope this puts a hopeful exclamation point on the conversation,” Ballard said. “We can have sustainability, we can have affordability, we can have increased supply, we can have dignity, we can have all the things that we want out of our houses. But we're gonna have to be brave enough to try some new things.”

Tours will run from 6-9 p.m. and SXSW badge holders will be given priority. Ballard will also deliver a featured talk to discuss the role of robotics in architecture on March 15 for SXSW.

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‘Like speed dating of cats’ at Purr-fecto Cat Lounge
Purr-fecto Cat Lounge

Lina Martinez with her newly adopted cat, Emmanuel, who she renamed Sullivan.

Timmy and Tommy are ready to play.

As the 2-month-old white-and-tabby brothers swat feather wands, chase toys and generally hold court inside Purr-fecto Cat Lounge, a half-dozen potential adoptive parents look on lovingly, trying to get their attention.

“This is kind of like the speed dating of cats,” said Lupita Foster, owner of Purr-fecto Cat Lounge. “I intentionally didn’t put in any tables. That’s why we call it a lounge instead of a cat café because we have these lounge areas where you can sit and relax and cuddle.”

Foster, who has owned a cleaning company, Enviromaids, for 18 years, was inspired to open Purr-fecto Cat Lounge after adopting her own cat, Romeo, from a local shelter.

“When you want to adopt a cat, you have to spend a lot of time with them to get their personality,” Foster said. “I wanted to do something to help the community and something that makes me feel good, that warms my heart. A business with a purpose. This was a perfect idea.”

Actually, a purr-fect idea.

Inspired in part by a cat lounge she visited in Los Angeles, Foster began laying the groundwork for the business in late 2021 and officially opened the doors of Purr-fecto Cat Lounge, located at 2300 S. Lamar Blvd., in July 2022. Since then, she’s worked with rescue organizations such as Fuzzy Texan Animal Rescue and Sunshine Fund Cat Rescue to facilitate nearly 100 cat adoptions.

At any given time, there are 10-15 cats living in the space, which features an ideal blend of calm, cool corners and adorably Instagrammable backdrops with phrases such as “I want to spend all my 9 lives with you.”

Lina Martinez, 32, learned about Purr-fecto Cat Lounge from a friend’s Instagram post and made an appointment to visit two days later.

“My first impression was, ‘AWW!’” Martinez said. “The kittens were to die for. I felt happy and at peace – just what I needed.”

Visitors to the cat lounge pay $15 for a 30-minute CATXperience session or $30 for a 70-minute session that is spent getting to know the personalities of each cat. Foster said the first thing she typically sees from visitors to the lounge is a smile.

“Everybody that enters the door is smiling,” she said. “And we’ve seen people who have cried because they can’t have kids and they decide to go and adopt a cat instead.”

Foster said she loves bringing in cats who might not have a chance to be adopted at traditional shelters. She told the story of one cat named Izzy, who was partially blind, who was adopted by a family that had a deaf cat at home.

“Izzy was not going to get adopted anywhere else, but she’s extremely beautiful,” she said. “If she was in a cage in a rescue and you tell people she’s blind, she was probably going to be overlooked. But visiting our space, she doesn’t seem like she’s blind. She knows her way around. She moves around perfectly.”

Although Martinez, who had been casually looking for a pet to adopt since moving to Austin nearly four years ago, was interested in a cat named Ruby that she had seen on Purr-fecto’s social media, at the lounge she instead found herself drawn to 5-month-old mixed breed Tuxedo cat.

“I thought he was a star,” she said. “He worked the room and introduced himself to everyone. When I laid down to pet Ruby, he ran from the other side of the room and cuddled with me. It was game over. He got me.”

And she, of course, got him, complete with a commemorative photo that read “My Furrever Family” the day she took him home. Although his original name was Emmanuel, she renamed him Sullivan after her favorite DJ.

“Purr-fecto is special because of the amount of effort and love they put into taking care of the cats,” Martinez said, “and finding them good homes and making possible adopters feel at home.”

Foster, who spent a recent Thursday hosting a group of teenagers in foster care at the lounge, several of whom expressed interest in working there, said the best part about her new endeavor is that her heart is always full.

“I just feel complete,” she said. “I always felt as an entrepreneur that I was missing something. I knew I accomplished a lot, but in my heart I was missing a little connection with the community. Now I’m creating connections between humans and pets and that’s amazing. I’m creating family bonds. It’s just about love, you know. And we need that.”

Austin's 7 Best Indian Restaurants

We all have those cravings for an amazing butter chicken or some authentic dosas with coconut chutney, but when I was thinking about where I wanted to go to satisfy my taste buds I realized that my list of great Indian food around Austin was surprisingly short. After doing some research and asking around, here is your list of the best Indian restaurants around town.

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