Teaching with a view

Lake|Flato Architects designing a new home for the Holdsworth Center in Austin

Architecture Southwest
The proposed Holdsworth Center in Austin will be a scenic shelter for teachers. (Courtesy Lake Flato Architects)

In West Austin along the Colorado River, a 44-acre site has been suggested as a home for the Holdsworth Center—a non-profit organization that aims to improve the quality of state school education in Texas. The center will invite staff from six districts and work with Texas school district superintendents, principals, and administrators as part of the program.

At the time of writing, the project is currently going through planning, and a Planned Unit Development (PUD) application was submitted earlier this month to the city of Austin. Speaking to The Architect’s Newspaper, Justin Garrison of Lake|Flato Architects, the San Antonio firm behind the scheme, said they were trying to “change the current zoning of single-family residential to make this project feasible in the future.”

Holdsworth Center Austin

Site plan. (Courtesy Lake | Flato Architects)

Of the large site, only half the land will be developed on while the rest of the natural landscape will be preserved. “The master plan aims to create an innovative retreat and educational center where users will be exposed to various collaborative learning and research opportunities within the facilities, as well as the freedom to engage the outdoors and surrounding landscape,” said Garrison who added the design will “strive to be light on the land…. The Holdsworth Center aims to maintain the existing ecological zones on the site including the riparian and wetland edge along Lake Austin.”

Along the waterfront is a thicket of cypress trees which visually separate the development from the water. Garrison explained further, describing how a few structures such as pavilions, day docks, and boat docks will protrude from the wooded riparian and upper bluff edges to give users 180 plus degrees of views overlooking the Pennybacker “360” bridge and surrounding hill country. “Within the project boundaries, the various buildings are located and oriented to frame various types and scales of open space, provide vistas across the natural meadow, allow a sense of the landscape, natural ecology, and water collection and treatment flow through the site, as well as provide optimal natural daylight within the buildings and solar energy collection,” said Garrison.

Programmatically, the center will include an: educational learning center with classrooms and event spaces; administration offices for Holdsworth Center staff and visiting researchers; an academic village where users will be housed on site with a few casitas for extended stay users and various pavilions and day/boat docks (as mentioned above) to be used for educational, recreational and event purposes.

Austin-based Ten Eyck Landscape Architects are also working on the project. So far no dates for completion can be confirmed as the city is yet to vote on the PUD process. Lake|Flato also said they could not determine the project’s cost. 

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