Facades+ AM

Austin is changing, but where’s it headed to next?

Architecture Facades+ Southwest
Austin is changing, but where's it headed to next? Seen here: Andersson-Wise Architects' Block 21 project in Austin. (Courtesy Andersson-Wise Architects)
Austin is changing, but where's it headed to next? Seen here: Andersson-Wise Architects' Block 21 project in Austin. (Courtesy Andersson-Wise Architects)

Anyone who keeps tabs on Austin, Texas’s built environment on Twitter will be familiar with “#ATXrising.” If its presence and frequency tell us anything, it’s that Austin is on the up—literally.

Is this a good thing? Tall buildings mean more density, which potentially means a more pedestrian-friendly city. In the 1970s, however, one man had other ideas about how to achieve this. Lauded as “Austin’s grandfather of New Urbanism,” Sinclair Black envisioned a dense city populated by buildings no taller than six stories.

Sinclair didn’t like cars then, and he doesn’t today. Interstate-35, which still carves up Austin’s Downtown, is something Sinclair wants re-routed in order to reconnect the city. This is yet to happen and, likewise, his mid-rise dream has not been realized, as Arthur Andersson, principal at Austin-based Andersson-Wise Architects (the firm behind the 37-story mixed use hotel known as Block 21) can attest. Another Austin architect, Brett Rhode, principal at Austin-based Rhode Partners (the firm behind The Independent, a 58-story high-rise that will be Austin’s tallest) also concurs.

That said, density, or rather, faux-density, has emerged. Zoning requirements at Main Street, for example, stipulate that buildings wider than 150 feet should be made to appear like multiple buildings, each no wider than 100 feet. Often, this appearance is achieved through the building’s massing or the facade.

Black, Andersson, and Rhode will be talking in depth about Austin’s changing skyline and touching on topics such as density and pedestrianization at Facades+AM Austin on July 18th.

Also on hand at Facades+ will be Heath May, director of HKS LINE; Kory Bieg, principal at OTA+; and Anthony Birchler, vice president of engineering at Zahner. They will be engaging in a panel discussion on new techniques for facade fabrication.

And because all the best things come in threes, a final panel will look at the constantly evolving relationship between engineers and architects. On hand to weigh in on the subject will be Chuck Naeve, founding principal of Architectural Engineers Collaborative, Gordon B. Bingaman, an associate principal at Antenora Architects, and Ken Jones, principal at Miró Rivera Architects.

Seating is limited. To find out more, please visit am.facadesplus.com.

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