Love it or hate it, you’ve got to admit that the Independent, perhaps better known as Austin’s “Jenga Tower,” is boldly designed. This 58-story building currently under construction in what’s now known as downtown’s Market District will be the tallest tower in the city — at least for a few years until the 850-foot tower planned at 600 Guadalupe gets off the ground. Things just don’t sit still around here.
Apparently the tower’s off-kilter design wooed the judges at the 2017 American Architecture Prize, a Los Angeles-based organization with a stated mission of expanding the appreciation of international architecture by granting design awards to new buildings all over the world. The Independent and its lead designer, architect Brett Rhode of local firm Rhode Partners, received recognition as a winner in the Tall Buildings / Architectural Design category of the awards.
The Independent addresses the region’s need for increased urban density by providing 370 units and 1,002,000 SF on 1.76 acres and is the tallest residential tower west of the Mississippi River. Rhode Partners rejected the cookie-cutter feeling of identical inset balconies and window mullions typical of residential high rises for a facade inspired by Austin’s bold and dynamic spirit.
The movement between the building’s tiers represents life and action, an outward reflection of the lifestyle the team is creating in the interior of the building as well as with the surrounding community. A refined material palette and sleek detailing throughout steps away from the standard condo project and into an upscale museum-influenced design.
— 2017 American Architecture Prize
This is the first time in recent memory that an Austin residential tower has found this kind of recognition on an international level — other buildings like the W Hotel & Residences, the Four Seasons Residences, and AMLI on 2nd have received various awards from local and state organizations, but here the Independent is recognized in its category alongside award-winning towers in Austria, Australia, China, Korea, Portugal, and Turkey.
In fact, the only American building other than the Independent recognized in the “tall towers” category this year is in New York — I guess they’re our local competition!