Downtown Curtain Walls

Downtown Curtain Walls - Austin, Texas

Downtown Curtain Walls – Austin, Texas

You might be able to make it out. There are three distinct curtain wall textures along the wall of glass to the left. Four, if you count the building on the right. It was surprising to see, though not totally unexpected. As the new buildings have infilled lots, the open gaps are filling up.

The building furthest away is the 360 Condos, built ten years ago. Back then, there was nothing around and the 360 stood tall surrounded by low-slung buildings. Here’s a photo of the 360 Condos that I shot seven years ago, though a window of the then un-renovated Seaholm Power Plant.

While ultimately these are still tall glass boxes, it’s nice that the newer skyscrapers have some flourishes that make them distinct. Years ago, office buildings were utterly boring boxes. It appears that some effort is being made to add some personality to the newest developments.


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6 thoughts on “Downtown Curtain Walls

  1. It’s interesting to see examples of harmony and counterpoint arising in new construction. Particularly when new, massive scale buildings are constructed by different people at different times. When they appear to work with rather than against one another, as in your photos, it should be received as a bit of a blessing. Two undesirable alternatives are the heavy-handed brutalism of Soviet era concrete construction with its brain damaging sameness….and the anarchic variety of contemporary London which appears to be some form of architectural vomit.

    1. It would be gratifying to think the architects thought about the surrounding aesthetics, when designing their building. Not sure if they do this or if it was a happy accident.

      As you mentioned, the balance between uniformity and variety is delicate.

      I haven’t visited London in a long time, but aerial photos reveal an odd mix of new buildings. It seems like the stararchitects are competing to see who can outdo each other. It does seem to be upsetting the previously harmonious London architecture.

  2. In NY, we had a fair number of glass-walled buildings with a variety of textures, but you don’t see them much locally. I think it’s the extremes of weather. We also don’t have many supertall buildings, at least compared to New York and other large cities. When they built what was for a long time Boston’s tallest building, the Prudential Tower (52 stories), it took them years to fix it so the windows would stop popping out. A large glass window falling 50 stories was a serious architectural issue. They eventually fixed it, I think by removing the upper stories and replacing them with smaller windows.

    The ONLY place I know where there is an almost all glass building is at UMass Memorial Hospital. The medical school is nearly all glass, but it isn’t terribly tall … maybe 10 stories? It looks taller because it doesn’t have any competition 😀

    1. For all its size and stature as the premier city in the U.S., until recently, I found New York’s architecture to be rather boring. That seems to be changing.

      Chicago, the originator of the skyscraper, always seemed to be more interesting architecturally.

      Boston always seemed rather traditional. The Prudential building just seem to stand out.

      1. You don’t come to Boston for “new.” We are a preserving city, so you get a fair amount of old and even the new architecture looks like it’s intended (and it is) to blend with the old. I don’t mind that one bit, either.

        New York is all about efficiency. I don’t think they’ve ever really cared about architecture. They just happen to have a lot of glass buildings.

      2. That makes sense. Philadelphia has a lot of the historic but with modern buildings, but it is a larger city. I’ve only been to Boston a couple of times, but it is a charming city.

        Well Chicago is the birthplace of the skyscraper, perhaps they care more about that type of architecture.

        NYC, to me, is a large imposing city. The scale of it is significantly larger than Chicago.

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