The Austonian, a fetching 56-story downtown Austin condo tower standing 683 feet at 200 Congress Avenue, enjoyed its status as the city’s tallest building from its completion in 2010 until the arrival of the Independent in 2019 — but for many of those years, the tower’s original crown lighting was switched off.
Known by the building’s management as “smile lights” due to its curve on the western side of the crown, the 120 LED fixtures lining the top edge of the tower typically glowed blue at night when it first opened, but the unexpectedly premature aging and malfunctioning of a number of these components left “gaps in the smile,” according to the Austonian’s general manager Shawn Bell.
Rather than undergoing a costly replacement process every time one of the units failed, the building elected to shut the lighting system down entirely around late 2015 and pursue options for replacing the whole thing — and years later, the deed is done, with the new lights atop the tower’s crown back online as of the last week of October. Unlike the old system, which basically only allowed one color per side, the new setup allows for a wide variety of multi-colored programming:
The new installation is a Lumenpulse product composed of 118 individually addressable full RGB fixtures each measuring 2’ in length. We’re able to split each fixture into two addressable points giving us a total of 236 individual points in the system. We’ve pre-programmed a number of ‘scenes’ and colors into the system to light up the tower for various holidays and to promote advocacy campaigns. We’re continuing to fine-tune the system now that it’s installed to better take advantage of the installation’s capabilities.
— Shawn Bell, Austonian General Manager
If you were out and about on Halloween weekend, you saw at least one example of what this system can do — it was cranked up pretty high compared to the normal lighting seen in the photos here, and we expect we’ll see more interesting uses of the setup in the future. We’re on the record as huge fans of unique lighting on downtown towers, and it’s frustrating to see cities like Dallas really go wild with this stuff when we’re supposed to be the interesting ones. Anyway, after more than five years of a dark Austonian, we’re ready for the party to start all over again.