Blues and Greens in New Exo Residential Towers Designed to Make a Statement

by Fatimah Waseem August 3, 2018 at 1:30 pm 45 Comments

The deep blue and green colors of the EXO at Excelsior Park, which houses two 16-story residential towers, has attracted some attention from passersby, including some raised eyebrows.

At R2L:Architects, the design firm behind the 457-unit apartment building on the Oracle campus, wanted exactly that distinguishing quality from other nearby projects.

“We wanted to come up with something that isn’t boring and that has a lot of variety,” said Lee Rubenstein, a principal with R2L:Architects.

The building includes a glass facade that automatically tints based on the direction of the sun. Tenants can also control how tinted they want the glass to be. The EXO is also LEED gold.

The color, which shifts from green to deep blue depending on the viewer’s perspective, was intentionally selected to help make the building standout.

“It makes a statement for sure, in addition to just having actual color. There are so many buildings out there and they don’t have much chroma at all. This punctuates the landscape,” Rubenstein said. 

Because the site plan was already approved, the architecture firm was charged with doing something creative with a limited framework, he said.

The EXO rests on a landscaped parking plinth. The space between the two towers contains outdoor seating, dining areas, a swimming pool and landscaping. It also has 642 parking spaces.

Readers, we’d love to hear what you think of the color and design of the building in the comments below.

Photos by Fatimah Waseem and vantagehill

  • cRAzy

    The statement is: BLEECH!

  • Reggie

    It’s definitely striking. Something to break the monotonous greys, tans, and browns of every other building in the area.

    • Mike M

      A fart can be striking. A strike to the jaw can be striking. See JoeInReston’s post above.

  • Capt. Tom Obvious (USAF-Ret.)

    For the longest time I assumed this was some kind of substrate they were adding under the actual facade.

    • 30yearsinreston

      Cheap chinese cladding

  • 30yearsinreston

    How did these get past the DRB?
    What next,
    White pickets fences ?

    • South Lakes Curmudgeon

      It didn’t go to the DRB because its not within the RA boundaries and Hudgins hates RA and wants to limit its intrusion on her prerogatives.

      This eyesore should become know as the “Hudgins Memorial Monstrosity”

      • 30yearsinreston

        The. Peasants who oppose her can hold their breaths till they match the buildings color

      • 32yearsinreston

        The Dulles Technology Corridor was originally created by Mr. Simon to help encourage businesses to come to Reston, it has done just that. From the beginning this corridor was exempt from RA with the option to join. I haven’t measured myself but I’m guessing the Exo is within that boundary. Also it looks like an oil spill….

        • Mike M

          St Simon brought us all we know and it’s all good. Right?
          You think some other things maybe had to happen? Like the toll road, the airport, the Metro, massive deficit spending? I mean, did he cause Tysons? We are being Tysoned. It’s the same thing all over again. Did he like Tysons? Doubtful.

    • dick

      the Reston DRB has no purview in the “corridor” and the corridor’s land owners vacated all of their covenants in 2011, allowing them to develop residential projects, but also lost their own Design Review Board in the process…as a result, there is NO overview of any kind except the county which advocates extensive development

      • Paul from Jersey

        Thanks for shedding light on a curious situation. Surely, however, the county applies at least one pair of “designer (or architectural) eyes” on proposed projects?

        • dick

          aside from he normal building plan reviews for conformance with building codes, the site plan submissions go through a lengthy process reviewing everything from Storm Water management to Zoning Ordinance compliance. If it fits the numbers (F.A.R.) parking spaces, lot coverage and so on, it goes through with little (if any) design consideration, leaving us to the whim of the developer’s architect…kind of like the Rosslyn/Ballston corridor from years ago in Arlington where NO cohesive architectural theme was employed at any of the Metro stations…just build as much as you could with no thought of context in your neighborhood…Developers Gone Wild…

  • Chuck Morningwood

    EXO: Putting the “F” in Fugly.

    • Jon May

      I couldn’t agree more. This is certainly a case where I would welcome more development to be approved around this complex to hide it from view.

  • 30yearsinreston

    Wait till the 40 storey monstrosity goes up

  • Scott

    weird. at one point, I could see that the blue film had torn, revealing a silver material underneath. I assumed the blue was a protective cover during construction.
    Some building’s don’t age well. This one was born ugly. This is not going to end well. It will be interesting to see who wants to live or work in these buildings.

    • Mike M

      I am reminded of “Blue U” or “Blue Goose” in Ballston. They recently tore that down. I used to say, well, it looked slick in 1965. Then I thought, nah, probably not. See https://wjla.com/news/business/ballston-s-blue-goose-building-to-be-torn-down-as-neighborhood-modernization-gets-underway-105920 and also https://www.arlnow.com/2017/06/29/fmr-blue-goose-building-in-ballston-memorialized-with-new-sign/. Have you seen the building owners are really competing now along Sunset with lights on the sides of their building. It’s very odd, if not tacky. Drive down Sunset at 9!

    • The Original Drive By Critic

      Well, at least it is not just another “VY” on Sunrise Valley Drive, but I may be damning with faint praise. I originally thought it looked “unfinished”.

      • The Original Drive By Critic

        Upon further reflection, I don’t really care ’cause I am not planning on living there anyway. I think I will remain in my modest covenant-restricted single family home for a little while longer…but there can be no doubt that the BoS is happily turning Reston into another version of Clarendon-Ballston-Tysons Corner.

  • JoeInReston

    In any endeavor, standing out and being different is not the same thing as being well done or of high quality. I think they got lost in the means and forgot about the ends.

  • Greg

    Lee Rubenstein, it’s boring and boxy, It’s also ugly. Vy ugly.

    • Umust B Kidding

      Looks like Chicago’s old southside projects–except for the uglier colors.

      • Ted

        You are a bozo

  • Arielle in NoVA

    We kept hoping they weren’t done with the building yet 🙁 Whatever happened to Reston Association’s color rules? Clearly this building doesn’t fall under those 🙁

    • Reston rule follower

      Reston Association has no say in the design of this. Please educate yourself as to the limits of RA land.

      • Arielle in NoVA

        As I said, “Clearly this building doesn’t fall under those”. Educate yourself.

        PS – had Reston become an actual TOWN years ago, like it should have, it could have prevented all these ugly buildings in the first place.

        • 30yearsinreston

          And fired Hudgins and BO
          Win,win all round

  • Reston Resident

    It sure is ugly. Doesn’t the architecture have to be approved? Isn’t there a design committee? Who serves on it? Can we remove them?

  • Joyce W

    It’s designed to make a statement? What statement? I am a hideous-looking building? That the Reston Association doesn’t know what it’s doing? That Cathy Hudgins will approve anything?

    • 30yearsinreston

      If it has workforce housing, hudgins would approve kennels

      • Anonymouse

        “Workforce housing” is a fun euphemism.

  • R.inReston

    I am in the minority, but I like it. It is eye catching, creative and not the same old brown brick.

    • Wf housing

      If someone offered free housing i would also like it.

  • Big Drop

    I like it: a lot. So much so that as retirees we would consider moving there.

    Hideous is the development at Weihle Avenue’s Metro where the garage of a 20+ story apartment building over the Metro has seven or eight exposed concrete floors to the Toll road. Heartstoppingly, bestially ugly in my opinion.

    Now they’ve broken ground for an office building adjacent which will fill in the open garage floors. They cannot build this fast enough. Great location-they just need to cover up a bad engineering/architectural decision.

    At least they are moving in the right direction.

    Then there is the 34 story checkerboard building at route 7 and the Toll road…

  • Lynne Mulston

    This is my “third” writing of the same post as the two others were much too harsh to post. What were folks thinking that approved this? Reston deserves unique (not garish) architecture that is characteristic of this community.

    • 30yearsinreston

      Bring.back the bunkers and brown tones

      • Greg

        Hush! Don’t give “them” ideas!

        The metro stations are Brutalist-ish enough.

  • Howard Wu

    Ugly. I thought the blue color is from some insulation material and was hoping they would put another layer of veneer. Can we nickname it “The eyesore”?


    My father said something and then my wife said perhaps not mow the lawn and send Carlos back home. And that is how we ended up in this contingent sale for a condo at Lake Anne. Wish we could just rent in the building with sun glasses, for a while.

    Any wife advice appreciated.

  • 10ghp

    The exterior looks like blue gypsum board. It took me way too long to realize the buildings were finished. What an absolute eye sore.

  • nemo

    old people….

  • SupBrah

    This article should be marked as “sponsored content” by RestonNows as the writing is clearly regurgitated/repackaged press releases provided by the developer/builder/architect. It’s appalling that a journalist would put her name on such a clearly article! Even the writing doesn’t sound like Fatimah’s; at least make an effort to try to rewrite in your own words. Sad!

  • Paul from Jersey

    I’m in the tiny minority. R2L’s EXO (as well as Shalom Baranes’ The Signature at Town Center) offers dramatic, eye-catching relief from the dystopian Brutalism of recent Reston construction, like the Metro Center’s “Ministry of Truth,” its ugliness exposed on all four sides. Reston has no “cityscapes” apart from Market Street in Town Center and Lake Anne Plaza. Its buildings are not conjoined at any face, are stand-alone (by zoning? Like Rosslyn, the most hideous patch of urban Earth ever to arise in the latter half of the 20th century?) and, as such, stand out for their attractiveness or hideousness…and mostly the flatly derivative latter. The buildings erected along the Dulles Corridor in the 1980s seem, to the very last one, punched out of the same press, many little being little variations of Johnson and Burgee’s monstrous Brick Shopping Bag in Tysons. None have aged well, all induce ennui. Very little that succeeded them arouse even mild interest. EXO and The Signature at least arrest the eye, although, it seems, with pleasure among only a few. I’m not sure what the haters would prefer in their place: more functional ugliness like the out-of-scale Harrison Apartments that blight Reston Parkway at Temporary Road? Or is it just the blueness of the blue building? (Where was the Reston Palette Gestapo when the building was green-lighted?) Some of us couldn’t care less: there’s of course no accounting for taste. In this case, I like the Blue Building.

    • Umust B Kidding

      Please note that our disgust with EXO’s architecture does not mean we endorse ANY of the recent building designs. VY, right across the DTR from EXO, is just about as ugly. And one could go on….


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