Duda|Paine’s design of 405 Colorado in Austin, TX is flexible enough to accommodate any type of workspace a tenant would want to create.
Duda|Paine’s design and development of 405 Colorado reflects an exciting addition to the ongoing urban infill of downtown Austin that replaces what was formerly a parking lot. The project’s location—on a prominent corner in an established downtown district of office project, shops, cafes and entertainment venues—presented a unique opportunity for signature architectural design to meet the challenges of the new, progressive urban spirit emerging in the city.
405 Colorado’s sculptural design features glass enclosed office levels atop a strong base of parking. Open entry and upper plaza levels punctuate the form. Multifaceted glass facades fold vertically and horizontally to shape and taper the building’s office levels. Along the south elevation, the folds are oriented toward distant views and reflect an ever-changing sky. This envelope is distinct from the north elevation, which is composed of warm metal elements with glass for views back to the State Capital. The garage acts as a podium for the office tower and is clad in earth-tone metal screening, creating a sense of solidity at the tower’s base. Alternate arrangements of solid and screening elements minimize the visibility of cars, enclosing an open-air garage configuration that eliminates mechanical ventilation. The design’s combination of solid cladding and high performing glass maximizes exterior views, enhances natural day lighting, and provides an energy conscious building envelope. 405 Colorado presents a dynamic image from every direction, yet its focal point is in the two levels of outdoor spaces—the street level entry and the open Sky Lobby of the office tower where the design opens itself to Austin’s new, exciting, and active urban lifestyle.
405 Colorado is the first project under the Great Streets Program to be developed along Fourth Street, setting the precedent for the street’s future development. The site includes lots that are part of the Original City of Austin. The design echoes this original urban system by maintaining the original city grid, expanding sidewalk areas, and maintaining an existing alley.
When was the project completed?
The Project received a TCO from the City of Austin in August of 2021. Tenants began moving into the building in September of 2021.
How many SF per person?
Each floor plate is unique and ranges in size from 16,000 sf to 18,500 sf. The core is offset and the columns are pulled back from the façade to maximize views, useable space and maximize flexibility for tenant build outs. The square footage per person is tenant dependent.
Describe the work space type.
The office design is flexible enough to accommodate any type of workspace a tenant would want to create. The building with its core and services offset to the north, establishes open and panoramic views in three directions and encourages opportunities for an open office layout that responds to the desired work environments of creative companies. Open offices accommodate flexible configurations allowing tenants the opportunity to create unique, boutique spaces.
What kind of meeting spaces are provided?
The amenity level includes reservable conference rooms and a variety and scale of both indoor and outdoor spaces used for meetings and gathering. Columns on office levels are pulled away from the glass to encourage open office layouts with opportunities to develop “neighborhood” collaboration areas for office teams.
What other kinds of support or amenity spaces are provided?
The amenity level includes a sky lobby with café and bar, outdoor terraces, garage doors that create open air lounge spaces, and fitness and conference facilities. These are accessed via glass elevators that move through the garage levels, creating a transparent and connected experience to the rest of the city from entering the building to destination. This multifunction space also includes a café as well as the elevator lobby for the office levels.
The amenity level has glass curtain wall on all three sides, which separates the interior from the exterior, with a wraparound terrace on the east, west, and south sides. The indoor-outdoor connection to the urban context offers many views across the city. At the amenity level, the upper tower’s glass form steps back to provide cover for the outdoor spaces on either side. The client added two NanaWalls on either side of the amenity level, so during good weather the space can be completely open to the outdoors.
Has the project achieved any special certifications (i.e. LEED, WELL, Living Building Challenge)?
405 Colorado received LEED Silver Certification and Austin Energy Green Build (AEGB) 2-Star Rating.
What is the projects location and proximity to public transportation and/or other amenities?
As the first project under Austin’s Great Streets Program to be developed along Fourth Street, 405 Colorado has set a precedent for the street’s future development. The site includes lots that are part of the Original City of Austin, and the design echoes this original urban system by maintaining the original city grid, expanding sidewalk areas, and maintaining an existing alley.
Beneath 405 Colorado’s signature profile, generous sidewalks shape an inviting and active pedestrian zone, where natural elements, including wood and earth-tone metal, and features such as public art, ample seating areas and shade trees welcome street life into the building. The character of the neighboring warehouse district inspired a more modern approach to materiality, which reflects the new urban purposes of commercial, residential and retail.
The building’s street-level retail storefront of glass and rain screen elements faces Fourth Street. A floor-to-ceiling glass façade turns the corner to a setback lobby facing Colorado Street and merges the experience of outside and inside for occupants and passersby. A metal canopy with incorporated lighting extends over a generous sidewalk and shapes a sheltered zone that enhances visibility into interior spaces and protects pedestrians from sun and rain on the east and west facades. The rich interplay between sustainable materials such as glass and metal mediate the building’s scale and add architectural character and visual diversity. Glass lobby elevators offer panoramic views to the south, serve the garage levels and the Sky Lobby, and provide physical and visual connection along Fourth Street. Visible along the exterior façade, the elevators are lit by color-changing LED lights every night. A street level garage entrance provides easy access for retail and lobby level activities.
How is the space changing/adapting as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic?
When COVID-19 hit, the project was 14 months into construction, so options to adapt were constrained to creating touch-free areas, especially at the ground floor lobby. Instead of having a push plate, users wave a hand in front of a sensor and the door opens. All the elevators are destination dispatch, with ports instead of push buttons that call the elevators. An app is currently in development so people can call the building’s elevators from their phones. That technology was incorporated into the building.
The amenity level’s connection to outdoor space, including the addition of NanaWalls, was part of the pre-COVID design. This emphasis on indoor/outdoor connection, especially with all the doors open, allows occupants to get as much fresh air into that sky lobby space as possible.
Any other information or project metrics?
The building size of 405 Colorado is 465,210 square feet, including 221,113 square feet of rentable space and 3,665 square feet of retail area. The double helix concrete parking structure includes 231,465 square feet of space and 509 total parking spaces—1 space per 434 square feet of rentable space. The office tower has 25 total levels: 11 office levels, 1 amenity level and 13 garage levels.
What kind of programming or visioning activities were used to create the space?
We established design sessions with the client and reviewed market outdoor amenity spaces to determine how to identify 405 Colorado as unique and different to the Austin market. The design of the building was also presented to the Austin Design Commission to gain more community feedback.
Were any change management initiatives employed?
As a response to COVID-19, we implemented touchless entry at the ground level lobby, destination dispatch elevators, Nanawalls at the amenity level to allow for fresh air/natural ventilation and touchless parking kiosks for users of the garage.
Please describe any program requirements that were unique or required any special research or design requirements.
Covid-19 elements as mentioned above as well as mosaic glass art walls in the lobby. The ground level lobby was conceived as an art gallery which reflects the long culture and history of Austin’s Art Scene. The implementation of these art walls required coordination, research, detailing, and collaboration with the manufacturer in Italy and New York. The installation was completed by a highly skilled artisan.
Was there any emphasis or requirements on programming for health and wellbeing initiatives for employees?
The client wanted to provide a healthy and sustainable office environment and included several amenities to encourage wellbeing. The gym/fitness space on the amenity level includes locker rooms and eight showers. Daylight and views are maximized on the office levels as well as the amenity level. The outdoor terrace and amenity level lounge areas allow people to relax and unwind.
Other features include enclosed bike storage for 40 bikes.
Were there any special or unusual construction materials or techniques employed in the project?
The design offset the building’s structural core from the typical location at the building’s center. This asymmetrical configuration, with the core on the north side, allows the south, east and west building elevations to be completely open to views of the city. The building’s structural columns are set back from the glass façade to further enhance panoramic vistas.
The lobby, like the tower, was conceived to have two characters or feelings: warm and cool. A faceted, glass mosaic art wall was installed on the cooler side of the lobby; on the warmer side, a woven wood all echoes the skin of garage levels. The mosaic wall uses small tiles and traditional techniques for creating Italian mosaics, following centuries of mural-making in Italy. However, the look is modern, with a linear pixelated esthetic that has an enormous impact the experience of the lobby’s interior and the view into the space for passersby. The design team had to work very closely to ensure the small size of the tiles and the complexity the Italian mosaic makers bring to the process achieved the desired aesthetic. With floor to ceiling glass in the lobby, pedestrians walking by will experience the art. The lobby’s design further reinforces the design’s vision to connect to downtown life.
The building cladding, both the tower skin and the garage skin, was configured using unitized systems. The skin of the glass office levels uses a four-sided SSG unitized curtain wall. Materiality of the building, colors and tones echo the surrounding warehouse district.
Multifaceted glass facades fold vertically and horizontally to shape and taper the building’s office levels. Along the south elevation, the folds are oriented toward distant views. This envelope is distinct from the north elevation, which is composed of solid metal elements with glass for views back to the State Capital.
The garage acts as a podium for the office tower and is clad in warm metal screening, creating a sense of solidity at the tower’s base. Alternate arrangements of solid and screening elements minimize the visibility of cars, enclosing an open-air garage configuration that eliminates mechanical ventilation. The design’s combination of solid cladding and high performing glass maximizes exterior views, enhances natural day lighting, and provides an energy conscious building envelope.
What products or service solutions are making the biggest impact in your space?
In the ground floor lobby, we designed three different zones with furniture selections from Muuto, Bernhardt, Arper, Davis and Smarin. Two Shaw rugs in the same style but different colorways distinguish the seating areas but also tie the spaces together. Local Austin furniture designer MockingBird Made created several statement pieces for the gallery, including three 8’x18”x18” solid white oak timber benches and a custom white oak and black resin coffee table. Smarin colorstones create a seating option in the gallery that is both sculptural and playful.
What kind of branding elements were incorporated into the design?
We worked with Brandywine’s signage consulate to assure the signage package throughout the building reflected the building design and character.
What is the most unique feature of the space?
The building’s geometry is a faceted jewel—inspired by the Romanian artist Constantin Brâncuși—that is placed purposefully on top of a parking podium. Most office towers that sit on a parking structure attempt to blend the office levels and garage into a singular form. 405 Colorado takes an entirely different approach. The design concept emerged from the idea of treating the building as a sculpture. The parking podium’s earth tone metal panels provide a warm colored base that references the warehouse district context. In contrast, the cool-toned, faceted glass facades of the office level create a distinct form in Austin’s skyline.
The design’s solid pedestal and faceted upper levels allowed for a striking 2-story sky terrace/amenity level, which is unique to the city. The transparent street level entry lobby and the open sky terrace open the design to Austin’s dynamic urban culture. Both are connected by the garage’s glass enclosed elevator system and clearly visible from many vantage points.
What kinds of technology products were used?
Destination dispatch elevators, touchless parking kiosks, and EV charging stations were used.
Is there anything else that would help us tell the story of this project?
As is often the case with such a strong architectural design statement, the project presented many challenges. The unique design presented challenges in the city permitting and approvals process as well as in the public eye. From the signature form to the unusual shifting of the building’s core, to celebrating and articulating the parking levels, 405 Colorado presents a very different, perhaps even risky, profile in Austin. The team—designers, client, consultants—stayed focused and committed to making a building that was different and unexpected. The process required courage, but the reward is a unique and deeply engaging building that is exciting the Austin community.
Who else contributed significantly to this project?
Brandywine Reality Trust – Owner
Duda|Paine Architects – Design and Record Architect
Brockette Davis Drake – Structural Engineer
Blum Consulting Engineers – MEP Engineer
Coleman & Associates – Landscape Architects
Stantec – Civil Engineer
Datacom Design Group – Telecom/Security and AV Engineer
JE Dunn – General Contractor
MockingBird Made – Millworker responsible for custom benches and table in lobby
SICIS – Italian Glass Mosaic Manufacturer
Haley Greer – Curtain Wall Contractor
Kovach – Metal Panel Contractor