The release of long-awaited renderings late last month for the mixed-use tower planned on the same block as Symphony Square in downtown Austin by national multifamily behemoth Greystar arrived as a great relief, especially for those of us who had wondered about the building’s appearance since our first reveal of fairly unsatisfying 2D drawings of the project all the way back in 2019 — and let’s not even mention the spectacularly unsatisfying rendering we found a few months ago.
Now that this tower’s officially broken ground and been caught in 4K thanks to a full-fledged press push by its developers, we know the project’s name on the residential side is the Waller, which might have something to do with the creek passing through this block — the name of the office side is still up in the air.
We also know its vitals haven’t changed much since the first appearance of the project years ago, with 388 apartment units in a 32-story residential tower, a connected seven-level office building, and 5,000 square feet of retail space including a new office (and box office!) for the Austin Symphony Orchestra that previously occupied the site. In addition to its designers at R2L Architects, we’re getting interiors from local legends Michael Hsu Office of Architecture and landscape architecture from TBG Partners. According to its developers, the building should open sometime in 2023.
But although they’re nice to know, all of these details are kind of sitting in the background at the moment, because the first thing you should notice from images of the building is that it’s blue as hell. Like Blue Man Group blue. Eiffel 65 blue.
We’ve complained before on this very site that the ubiquity of blue glass on new Austin towers gets a little repetitive — “the pleated khaki of facades,” you might say — but what makes this tower so striking is that the majority of its, uh, blueness appears to arrive via the deep color of its exterior metal panels, rather than the typical tinted coating applied to the glass windows of its facade. Many of our new towers do the opposite, with blue-tinted glass framed by more neutral tones, but this project’s designers at R2L Architects decided to hit the gas instead.
Yeah, the tower’s technically blue and brown, two colors we’ve bemoaned as a bit too popular in the skyline’s palette over the last 40 years of growth — but if these renderings are accurate to its appearance, the use of color is so intense the building still ends up looking like almost nothing else downtown. The warmer copper tones of the tower’s lower levels keep its pedestrian-friendly retail spaces aligned with their surroundings including the historic space next door, but flip the switch to surprising near-indigo as the office and residential sections head for the sky. The form of the tower itself isn’t reinventing the wheel, but its use of color makes it something special.
Keeping that in mind, we asked politely if the Symphony Square project’s designers at R2L would give us a little background on these color choices, and they were nice enough to humor our perpetual tower tint obsession:
We put a lot of consideration into the color palette as it can be an important design feature at both intimate and urban scales. The base of the building, where many people will experience it up close, is actually based upon local/nearby materials- warm limestone (found in the neighboring Symphony buildings) and copper metallic tones. The color for the upper stories, sheathed in glass and blue metal panels, is intended to complement that in a thoughtful and perhaps unexpected way. The shapes of the buildings are driven by site considerations- the neighboring Symphony, the Capitol View Corridor, the varying street characters, and the considerable topography. The facade compositions include a fairly rigorous organization- carefully proportioned, leveraging construction efficiencies, and maximizing views. The tower’s color helps reinforce the expression of that organization while offering a counterpoint to what you might otherwise expect to see.
— R2L Architects
It’s funny that the architects mention twice that the tower is designed to subvert expectations to some degree. They’re absolutely right, and during a period of Austin’s development where a lot of buildings look pretty much the same any effort to stand out is more than welcome. We’d still like to see more towers in adventurous tones like green, gold, even red — but if it’s gonna be blue, we like this blue.