Is Downtown Austin’s Westgate Tower Mid-Century Modern Enough To Be Historic?

I thought it would be timely to highlight a battle over landmarking a MCM tower in downtown Austin.

The Westgate Tower, perhaps the best example of a mid-century high-rise in Austin, has applied for Historic zoning. The Historic Landmark Commission (HLC) voted to approve their application.

The HLC is of the opinion that the Westgate “…is an excellent example of the New Formalism in the modern movement of architecture in the 1960s…”

Landmarking would cut the property tax bill by nearly 2/3. That money is supposed to be reinvested in the property to upkeep its historic nature.

Many Austinites think that’s baloney and the owners will just pocket the money.  HLC’s decision to recommend historic zoning for Westgate Tower to the City set off a public controversy.

Something that is clearly interesting here is the building’s ties to Fehr & Granger.

From the City staff report: “The Westgate Tower was designed by internationally-known New York architect Edward Durell Stone in 1962; the building was completed under the supervision of prominent local architects Fehr and Granger in 1966.”

And continues… “Ed Stone hired the prominent local architectural firm of Fehr and Granger to oversee the construction of the building. Fehr and Granger were locally known for their mid-century modern residential designs, and although Stone designed the exterior, Fehr and Granger were responsible for the details.”

The HLC’s background material is an interesting read (pdf).


2012 AIA Homes Tour – October 6th and 7th

7003 Shoal Creek by Webber + Studio (photography by Atelier Wong)

Checkout the 2012 AIA Homes Tour website

This year’s featured architects include:

  • AlterStudio Architects, LLP
  • Burton Baldridge Architects, Inc.
  • CG&S Design-Build
  • Clayton & Little Architects
  • Cornerstone Architects
  • FAB Architecture
  • Furman + Keil Architects
  • Rick & Cindy Black Architects
  • Heimsath Architects
  • Murray Legge, AIA / LZT Architects Inc.
  • Stephen Zagorski, Architect
  • Tim Cuppett Architects
  • Webber + Studio, Architects

The Edgeland House by Bercy Chen

Located in East Austin on Red Bluff Rd, the Edgeland House is built into the earth.

“…on a rehabilitated brownfield, this project is a modern re-interpretation of one of the oldest housing typologies in North America, the Native American Pit House. Typically sunken, The Pit House takes advantage of the earth’s mass to maintain thermal comfort throughout the year.”

Project info


Just for fun – some blogs focused on building modern in austin

Here are some build blogs I check out pretty regularly.  I particularly like Austin Cubed as it’s a real life couple going through a real life process of building a modern home in central Austin.  Feel free suggest other blogs you know of in the comments section of this entry.

Austin Cubed