For a long time, I ignored the Tyndall. It just didn’t grab my attention. In fact, for several months I thought this Austin condo project, currently in a late stage of construction at 800 Embassy Drive just east of I-35, was destined to be another straightforward mid-rise apartment building like its neighbors, AMLI Eastside and Eleven by Windsor. It certainly looked that way at first.
But watching the Tyndall take shape from the front-row seat of highway gridlock over the last few months, I realized the view was getting a little more interesting. (I also realized it was a condo, not an apartment, but you probably figured that out.) That clubhouse-looking room cantilevered over the highway — which I later discovered was the building’s fitness center — along with that thing out on the pool deck, a shade structure looking something like a wing panel from a highly-classified experimental stealth aircraft, finally got me curious. It turns out that was kind of the point.
At first glance, the 23,000 square feet of amenities for the building’s 182 units seem fairly normal for this sort of property. Here’s a pool, there’s the deck around it, it’s got a dog run, and so forth. But you’ll start to notice little design details here and there that get your attention more than the tons of other residential buildings with pools and decks and dog runs, and I have to figure that’s also part of the plan.
The architecture firm behind the Tyndall is Dallas outfit Humphreys & Partners, and while its portfolio holds plenty of solid work, what truly distinguishes this building in my opinion is its landscape architecture and interior design, handled respectively by firms dwg. and Joel Mozersky Design.
If you’re good about reading this site (hey there!), you’ve likely heard about some dwg. joints around town recently, and though we don’t cover too much interior design on its own, Joel Mozersky is a well-respected local designer known for the shiny insides of spots like Uchi, La Condesa, and Native Hostel.
But who picked the designers? That would be Momark Development, a name you might also recognize as the firm of developer Terry Mitchell, a longtime member of the local real estate universe with big plans to transform East Austin’s RBJ Center complex along with a portfolio of projects including the Austonian, which is probably the easiest one to remember.
Momark’s developments have always been fairly interesting, with its work at Chestnut Commons being a good example — so what’s the plan for the Tyndall? I met with dwg. founder Daniel Woodroffe to learn more about the project, with a specific interest in what shaped the design of the building’s outdoor features that grabbed my attention in the first place.
The Tyndall, for us, is a combination of some really unique moments in time — it’s primarily about Terry Mitchell’s ongoing vision for propagating smart, urban downtown living. One of the first projects I worked on with Terry was the Austonian — and that’s obviously another echelon of luxury and location — but the Tyndall has everything the Austonian has, and I would argue that in many cases, it’s better. It’s certainly not going for $800 per square foot like the Austonian.
— Daniel Woodroffe, dwg.
The view is certainly what you’d call a selling point. Robertson Hill, where the Tyndall is located, has the highest elevation of any point near downtown Austin, and it shows. That view, Woodroffe tells me, is a unique amenity in this case — even if I-35 eventually receives a serious overhaul, there’s almost no chance the building’s skyline vistas will be harmed, and keeping that permanence in mind, the pool deck was designed to showcase them as much as possible.
The deck’s most visible feature is its shade structure, that stealth bomber-looking thing I mentioned earlier. Turns out it’s unofficially-officially known by its designers as Naboo, a name Woodroffe says “may or may not” stem from an all-encompassing obsession with Star Wars — go look at his Twitter bio and draw your own conclusions.
The Naboo structure is a twin to Nimbus, the similar-looking shade structure designed by dwg. for recently-opened downtown food hall Fareground.
With the design of Naboo, we wanted to create shade by the pool without overly shading the pool. Its shape was driven by the wedge outside the Capitol View Corridor that passes through the site — a Capitol View Corridor is a kind of linear box shape, and it misses the corner of the building, so we were given a triangular shape to work with — a kind of eyebrow for the skyline. Its shape is dynamic, and the seams between the panels are emphasized. The sun shining through it creates a kind of hyperspace pattern on the ground.
— Daniel Woodroffe, dwg.
There was, however, the small matter of the giant cop.
“The parapet around the edge of the deck was purposefully built from solid concrete, with planters in front of it, which bounces away the highway noise better than something like a picket fence,” Woodroffe says. “But more importantly, it also reduces the visibility of the ‘Click It or Ticket’ banner on the side of the police department headquarters, which has this absolutely gigantic police officer just eerily staring at you from across the highway — and for us, distracting people from that was genuinely a very serious design consideration!”
But the skyline’s only half the story. Remember, even though it’s just barely across the highway, this is an East Austin project — and the stillness you’ll find looking east, compared to the view from the pool deck, is honestly kind of shocking.
It feels almost rural back here, and a large part of that impression is due to the three-acre French Legation Historic Site located directly behind the building — another feature that’s likely to stick around for the foreseeable future. It’s just too bad you can’t buy a unit with eastern and western views, because I don’t think I’d want to choose between them.