Passing through some of the city’s most treasured neighborhoods, Burnet Road represents a major axis of growth through Central Austin — and while we’re fond of almost any effort to add density on this corridor, there’s one project we find particularly inspiring as a model for downright graceful development in the region. Victory Plaza, an office building by local firm Elevate Development Partners now under construction at 5209 Burnet Road, responds to a challenging three-acre site with impressive poise in its design from architecture studio Runa Workshop. The project’s development team also includes landscape architects Coleman & Associates, engineers IMEG, Wylie, and WGI, alongside general contractors Flintco.
The laundry list of limitations on the property includes its location in Shoal Creek’s 100-year floodplain, four separate zoning categories across the tract, compatibility restrictions on building height triggered by the proximity of single-family homes on the eastern edge of the site, and a number of significant heritage trees.
But these constraints don’t add up to an unsatisfying building. Victory Plaza’s office structure, its three levels each hosting expansive 30,000-square-foot floorplates, is elevated on piers to avoid the area’s floodplain, effectively floating above its site. Perhaps you’ve noticed curves are the architectural trend of the moment these days, from the smooth facades of future towers like the Perennial to the elegant concrete casts of Springdale Green — but Victory Plaza, with razor-sharp right angles offset by the shifting rectangular volumes of each level, instead embraces the timeless geometric modernism of the site’s surrounding midcentury neighborhoods. The 3D rendering below allows you to step inside the building, and it’s always a treat to get such a detailed view:
In fact, the architects at Runa are brave enough to evoke the work of legendary modernist architect Mies van der Rohe when describing the project, which ought to perk up the ears of any local design enthusiast — the building’s two main inspirations are van der Rohe’s Bacardi headquarters in Cuba and S.R. Crown Hall in Chicago, respectively completed in 1962 and 1956. The structure’s visual connection to its surrounding natural environment, particularly the site’s preserved trees and the added greenery of each level’s landscaped terraces, also draws inspiration from van der Rohe’s iconic Farnsworth House, which upon its completion in 1951 became possibly the most critically significant modern residence this side of Fallingwater.
This is admittedly some pretty heady architecture to name-check, but we admire a design willing to wear these inspirations on its sleeve — it also helps that the building just plain looks good, even if you don’t care one bit about the history of modernism. With enough new office buildings in this city to make your head spin, Victory Plaza hopes to stand out as a structure pulling double duty as a work of art — and while there’s obviously no accounting for taste, we think it succeeds. We’ll know for sure when the project reaches its scheduled completion by the end of 2023.