We learned a couple of weeks ago that after years of indecision, Travis County had finally settled on a site for a new civil and family courthouse facility in the downtown Austin area, to be built atop the parking lot at the northwest corner of West 17th and Guadalupe Streets — part of which used to be occupied by much-loved pub the Dog and Duck, may it rest in peace.
Real estate group Hunt Companies announced last week that the Travis County Commissioners Court had selected its affiliate firm, Hunt Development Group, as the developer of the 430,000-square-foot courthouse project, with architecture mega-firm Gensler as the facility’s lead designer. With the press release announcing the partnership, we received a single rendering of the prospective building, so let’s climb all up in that and see what we’re getting:
Hey, that’s certainly a building! I count 13 floors, and the whole thing actually looks pretty nice, especially considering some of the county’s other sparkling examples of civic architecture blighting the urban core — for example, I got married inside the Blackwell-Thurman Criminal Justice Center, and that old battle-axe ain’t winning any beauty pageants:
With the bar this low, I’m kind of excited about the new design, at least if the rendering is an accurate representation of its looks. Since they always seem to do these things with weird lighting for artistic purposes (Hey, here’s a rendering of the building at sunset, which means it will only look like this for an hour every day!), it’s hard to tell exactly what colors and materials we’re looking at, but what we see here looks a little similar to the United States Federal Courthouse designed by Mack Scogin Merrill Elam Architects over by Republic Square:
I happen to think that building looks great, so a little imitation is a good thing in this case. It might actually be a stretch to say they look similar — are they both just square courthouses? I can’t decide, but it also doesn’t matter.
Just to be sure there weren’t more exciting details available regarding plans for the facility, I got in touch with the folks at Gensler, who kindly reassured me that this rendering was all that they had for the time being. Though the project has been announced, it’s still in the midst of contractual negotiations — so once that’s settled, we’ll probably learn more about the building. Until then, just imagine going to jury duty in a building that isn’t horribly depressing! The mind reels.