Do you think this heat wave is making everyone in Austin feel stupid? Me personally, I’m wearing a big dunce cap and wandering around Waterloo Park telling everyone to look at the blue building, remarking on how blue it is, asking concerned bystanders if they’ve ever seen a building that blue, and so on. It’s starting to get weird for people.
The building I’m ranting and raving about is the office and residential complex now in a late state of construction at Symphony Square in downtown Austin by international developers Greystar and Ivanhoé Cambridge, a mixed-use plan raising two connected structures at the southeast corner of East 12th and Red River Streets — a 32-story, 388-unit apartment tower known as the Waller, alongside a 12-story office building with 4,000 square feet of ground-level retail space called 1121 at Symphony Square.
The two buildings look nice, but more importantly, they look blue. We’ve already noted this interesting element of the Symphony Square project’s outside appearance from its designers at Washington, D.C.-based studio R2L Architects with the requisite allusion to Tobias Fünke back in 2021, but the renderings of the project available at the time could only portray the striking cobalt tone of its exterior panels to a point. With most of the panels now installed in real life, these buildings pop, and it’s a surprisingly bold choice for the development team, which also includes our friends at local landscape architecture firm TBG Partners — yes, most new towers in Austin use blue-tinted glass curtain walls, but giving the cladding around the windows themselves such a deep blue color has created a building that looks increasingly singular on our skyline as it nears completion. It counts as a risky design choice!
The residential and office buildings both leverage modular façade components in a shared palette of rich azure blue and copper-colored paneling, wood accents, and cream-colored local Austin limestone.
— Symphony Square, R2L Architects
Okay, the quote above calls the color “rich azure blue,” but it seems like cobalt to us. As mentioned in the design narrative above, what actually makes those blue panels pop is the contrast of the strong blue color with metallic copper-colored panels near the ground level creating a sort of earth-sky color dynamic, along with the creamy native limestone we wish more projects would include in their facades — there was once a time where local limestone and pink granite were major elements of Austin’s skyline color palette, and Symphony Square’s bringing it back.
With the Waller apartment tower now in the pre-leasing phase as of last week, we’re excited to see this project wrapping up later this year. Downtown’s fledgling Innovation District caught a big handful of Ls this summer, but spend some time admiring the blue from the lawn at Waterloo Park and you’ll probably agree that Symphony Square is the district’s new signature tower, at least for the time being. Anyway, here’s a story about a little guy that lives in a blue world.