Texas limestone reflects Austin culture

April 1, 2005
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The winter of 2004 marked the end of a three-phased renovation for the new Austin City Hall and public plaza in Austin, TX. The 118,000-square-foot building encompasses a 750-car parking garage as well as a public plaza featuring Lueders limestone supplied by Mezger Enterprises Ltd. of Lampasas, TX.

Designed by the prestigious architectural firm, Antoine Predock Architect, PC, of Albuquerque, NM, in association with Cotera, Kolar, Negrete and Reed of Austin, TX, the building reflects the warm informality that characterizes the city.

“The goal was to create a building about Austin, reflecting Austin's deep history -- from its formative geography to its dynamic participatory democracy,” said Paul Fehlau, associate-in-charge and project manager from Antoine Predock's office.

The base of the building -- mostly the lower two floors -- is clad in Lueders limestone as both an interior and exterior finish material. The public plaza has limestone benches, and the planters and planting beds contain large fragments of limestone as well, according to the architect. In addition, there is a three-story limestone wall leading from the public plaza to the parking garage, which was built out of large-scale Lueders limestone boulders.

According to Wayne Harbin, sales manager for Mezger Enterprises, over 31,300 cubic feet of Lueders limestone was used for the project. Of this amount, 48,000 square feet is a natural finish Lueders Roughback limestone used as a veneer on the exterior and interior of the building. The architectural cut stone portions of the building are comprised of a combination of Buff and Antique Lueders limestone. Harbin added that over 1,180 tons of stone and boulders were used for landscape features as well.

Every piece of stone on the building was drawn and detailed by Mezger Enterprises' drafting department, approved by the architect, and then each piece was custom cut and finished, according to Harbin. “The design architect's primary goal from the beginning was to maintain a 12-inch-thick 'cubic' design for the wall thickness,” he said. “In areas where this cubic design was not possible because of construction constraints, all corners and returns were cut as 1-foot-thick

'L'-[shaped] corners, in order to maintain the architect's intent through-out the building.

“There are very few 90-degree [angles] or square corners,” continued Harbin. “Every door and window opening had a specific angled return, most of which were compound angles or acute angles. Each of these pieces had to be cut precisely as solid one-piece returns, while maintaining the natural face finish.” Because of the large scope of the project, some obstacles were faced regarding the stonework. “There were many challenges trying to coordinate such a large volume of stone onto [an area the size of] one city block, in the middle of the busy state capital city,” said Harbin. “Both the design architect, as well as the landscape architect, made multiple trips to Mezger's quarries, hand selecting blocks of stone to be used in specific areas of the project.”

In addition, the public spaces on the first level have limestone flooring in a running bond pattern of 18- x 18-inch tiles. Dal-Tile of Houston, TX, supplied the material.

Fehlau said that the most difficult part of the project was trying to make the stone look like it was not a veneer. In the end, though, he said that an exceptional job was done to achieve the desired look. “Mezger Enterprises made some very convincing quoins at strange angles,” he said.

According to Fehlau, excavation for the parking garage and access tunnel began in 2001, and the entire project was completed in the winter of 2004.

“People have really embraced the completed project, [which is] no surprise because the community got really involved in the design process,” he said.

End Box

Austin City Hall and Public Plaza
Austin, TX

Architect: Antoine Predock Architect, PC, Albuquerque, NM
Associate Architect: Cotera, Kolar, Negrete and Reed, Austin, TX
Landscape Architect: Elanor Mckinney, Austin, TX
Stone Supplier: Mezger Enterprises Ltd., Lampasas, TX (Lueders limestone); Dal-Tile, Houston, TX (limestone flooring)
Stone Installer: Custom Masonry, Boerne, TX

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