Marathon Boulevard might not ring your bell. It runs parallel to North Lamar Boulevard, just one block west — which is right on the edge but still inside the area I’m led to believe is okay to call Rosedale, near Medical Drive and the excellent Draught House Pub that’s been brewing beer since before it was cool in 1995. I should just show you on the map, shouldn’t I?
The .26-acre site at 4009 Marathon Boulevard seen on the map above, owned by a corporate entity associated with local real estate investor David Kahn, will soon be home to a five-story office building designed by OLA Architects.
The project, which appears to simply go by Marathon, is in a fairly advanced stage of construction as we speak.
Kahn hasn’t responded to our requests for comment at this time, so we don’t know anything about the building’s future office tenants for now, but that doesn’t really matter — what we’re here for is the design, so this is how the building’s gonna look:
To call this design “warehouse-inspired” doesn’t do it justice. Lots of architects in town recognize the current popularity of industrial interior design cues, particularly in new office projects, but this building’s really committing to the bit by replicating the specific usage of reinforced concrete framing, masonry, and steel-framed casement windows present in the design of many American warehouses and factories built around the early 1900s by companies like Turner Construction.
Building a brand-new office intentionally designed to look like an older factory building, which to the casual observer might appear to have only been adapted after decades of industrial use, is certainly fascinating — not to mention more than a little postmodern. To me, it indicates that the common signifiers of historical context and gritty authenticity usually supplied by adaptive reuse projects of actual industrial properties can be successfully reverse-engineered, creating buildings that grant their surrounding an increased sense of place compared to more common, and arguably generic designs.
Other interior design fads for homes and offices come and go, but until Brooklyn loft conversions stop being so cool we’re going to keep seeing popular demand for industrial-style materials and fixtures. Why bother hunting down an old space to adapt when you can just buy caged pendant lamps and factory windows online?
It’s obnoxious to care too much about authenticity in this case. Sure, we can get excited about historical context, but I think people just like this stuff because it looks cool, not because they’re necessarily familiar with early 20th century industrial vernacular architecture or whatever — either way, I’ll take this over another bland glass office or stucco mid-rise any day of the week. Plus, if Austin experiences another industrial revolution a few hundred years down the line, we can easily adapt the Marathon building into a factory.