Austin, Texas is the fifteenth largest city in the United States and contains a total of 20 skyscrapers over 300 ft (91m), twenty-first in the country, tying Phoenix and Charlotte. In total, the city encompasses 121 high-rises. The tallest building in Austin is the 683 ft (208m) Austonian. It contains 56 habitable floors and was completed in 2010. The second-tallest building is the 360 Condominiums at 563 ft (171m). It was the tallest building from 2008-2010. The third-tallest building is the Frost Bank Tower, which was Austin's tallest from 2004-2008. The single tallest structure in Austin is a television broadcasting antenna in the west part of the city, which stands 1,308 ft (399m) and is owned by local KXAN-TV.
The history of skyscrapers in Austin began with the construction of the Scarborough Building in 1910, which was Austin's first modern office building. Skyscraper development in Austin was generally slow until the 1960s. In a period of only 30 years, 32 skyscrapers were built admist a shaky economy and recession that affected the U.S. early in the 1980s. Since 2007, Austin has been going through a second construction boom, in which 6 of the 10 tallest buildings in Austin were built.
Of the many projects currently proposed in Austin, the T. Stacy & Assoicates Hotel & Condo Tower, the tallest of a complex of proposed buildings, may become the tallest in Austin if built at 830 ft (253m).
Before the 20th Century, Austin was a small city, with a population yet to reach 20,000. Most of Austin's buildings were houses or cattle ranches, and almost all of Austin's industry and office buildings were located on Congress Ave. Before 1885, no building in Austin reached over 100 ft (30m). This changed when the Texas State Capitol was built.
Texas State CapitolEdit
In 1881, Elijah E. Myers drew out the plans for what would become the Texas State Capitol. The building began construction in 1882 and was completed in 1885. Proclaimed as the "seventh largest building in the world," the capitol building became the tallest structure in Austin and the state at a height of 300 ft (95m). For 84 years the capitol would stand as the tallest building in Austin.
St. Edward's University Main BuildingEdit
St. Edward's University is a private Roman Catholic institution located in South Austin that was established in 1878. Nicholas J. Clayton, an architect from Galveston, designed the 4-story main building, clad in Texas white limestone. Groundbreaking began in 1888 and completed 10 months later.
As Austin moved into the 20th Century, it was largely affected by the Texas Oil Boom which began in 1901. Although oil was never searched for in the Austin area, the large amounts of oil produced across the state gave rise to an oil industry, greatly increasing the economy. This also increased urban development as the petrolium gave huge revenues to Austin. Many buildings in Austin during this time period were built in part with oil revenues.
As with many of Austin's skyscrapers built during the early 1900s, the Scarborough Building had an art deco design. Designed by Sanguinet and Staats, it was built in 1908-1910 by the James Black Construction Company. Many features of the building reflected Sanguinet and Staats's familiarity with Chicago architecture. With a steel frame, the Scarborough Building is considered Austin's first modern skyscraper.
Ollie Osbrun Norwood, a bonds broker, realized the need for more professional office space in Downtown Austin. At first planning a 6-story tower, his architectual partners urged him to build it 10 stories higher. The building was completed in 1929. When built, the building attained a few firsts, including being the first building in Austin with an electric elevator and the first building to be fully air conditioned in the city and second west of the Mississippi River.
Main Building (University of Texas)Edit
Before 1934, nearly all of the university's purpose was located inside the old Victorian Gothic Main Building. However, discussions amongst the faculty and staff arose about the need of more library space in the 1930s. Finally, plans were released in 1932 to raze, or completely destroy, the old building. Deconstruction of the building took 2 years. Admist the deconstruction, construction of another tower, larger and taller, began in 1934. This new main building was designed by Paul Phileppe Cret of France. The tower was completed in 1937. Originally made as a library tower, the university's Regents decided that is should accomadate administrative offices and additional classes as well. The tower is 311 feet (95m).
In addition to the buildings listed above, 6 more high-rises were built in this time period. One of the most famous was the 139 ft (42m) tall Littlefield Building, which was built in 1910 and opened in 1912. When in its planning stages, it competed for the title for the tallest building in downtown Austin with the Scarborough Building. Part of the national resurgence of neo-classicism in architecture, the building established itself as the city's leading financial center. Another famous building was the Stephen F. Austin Hotel, built in 1924 and standing 181 ft (55m) tall. It stood as the tallest hotel in Austin for 57 years.
During this period, Austin saw a slight resurgence in skyscraper development. 11 high-rises were built, and with the increasing heights of the skyline, it seemed possible that a skyscraper would soon surpass the state capitol in height.
Austin would go through its first skyscraper boom in this time period. Due to the city's increasing notability for a high tech industry, Austin got a boost in economy. The increasing music industry also contributed to making the city a major metropolitan area. During these years, multiple office buildings would be built.
In the years after Austin's first downtown development boom, Austin would go through a technological boom and a subsequent bust. The city went through a shaky economy, and the boom ceased somewhat. Downtown development would also shift from office to residential.
Austin would witness its second large construction boom in these years. This resulted from a boost in the housing market and the urge to have more residents living in downtown Austin. As such, most of the buildings built during this time were residential hotel and condos. Even though a recession shook the United States, some parts of Texas, including Austin, were only minimaly affected, allowing for more buildings to go up.