Have you noticed there’s a very small building now sitting in the parking lot at the corner of Cesar Chavez and Red River Streets? It’s got sort of a modernist hot dog stand thing going on, but what’s the real purpose of this structure? The panes of glass offer a clue — though it’s subtle, each one has a slightly different sheen.
The range of exterior coatings applied to the glass curtain walls of towers all provide various effects in terms of tint and reflection, and the differences are slight enough that it’s hard to visualize the look of a few similar coatings without physical examples — enter this architectural mockup, which allows the tower’s developers to see how each glass panel appears in a real-world setting.
A view of the 98 Red River street site where the Waller Creek supertall tower is planned by Lincoln and Kairoi — the mockup in question is directly east across Red River Street at the corner of that unpaved parking lot, which is currently so dusty it actually creates weather anomalies.
Considering that the mockup’s location is owned by the development team of Lincoln Property Company and Kairoi Residential — mentioned very prominently by the banners on the fence, if you have trouble reading — we think it’s a safe bet this is a test of the glass for the upcoming Waller Creek “supertall” tower planned across the street by the same developers, which at a reported 1,034 feet would become the new tallest building in the state. (There’s also talk of another replacing this very parking lot as a second phase of the same development, but we, uh, can’t confirm that yet.)
In fact, we’re not betting on this at all — see those little stickers towards the bottom of the panels? Let’s zoom in and see what they say:
There’s actually six panels of glass being tested here — the larger vision glass panels on the bottom, and the small spandrel glass lining the top — which is why you’ll notice there’s more than three stickers. Most are marked with “runner-up,” while the two we show in the photos above are labeled “KPF preferred” — that’s Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates, the architecture firm designing the Waller supertall. As seen on the stickers, both of the preferred panels are coated with VRE 19-65, a product by major architectural glass supplier Viracon. Here’s what that coating supposedly looks like:
That’s a handsome gray, isn’t it? It also looks very similar to renderings of the Waller supertall, though the tower uses multiple exterior colors:
All of this intrigue is fun, but there’s one last twist. Look closely at the sticker on the glass and you’ll notice it says “Glaze this side in.” That means we might not be getting a full look at what this glass actually looks like from the outside — there’s a door in the side of the mockup that allows folks to go inside and see the glass, possibly under different lighting conditions. We can’t get inside there, at least not legally.
(UPDATE: Someone who knows a thing or two about skyscraper glass contacted us with a second possibility — the stickers could have been moved from the inside to the outside of the panels so folks could see them without going into the mockup. That would mean the tints we see on the exterior panels here are the real deal. Not a bad theory!)
It’s enough to make your head spin, but the important thing here is that the tower has reached this stage of development, with physical mockups built to test its materials. We’re not pointing any fingers, but we haven’t seen that kind of thing for some of the other towers in various stages of limbo around here — and it makes us more confident than ever that the potential new tallest building in Texas is still moving forward.