Austin, Texas is consistently ranked as the fastest growing city in the United States, and now developer Congress Development Partners Ltd. wants to build a car-free micro-unit residence downtown. The proposed mixed-use 30-story tower, dubbed "The Avenue" and designed by Nelson Partners, includes 135 residences, 25,000 square feet of office space, a theater, a restaurant, and a bar on the ground floor. But it will not have onsite parking or a parking garage. Following in part on the heels of on-demand and car sharing services like Uber and Car2Go, the Austin Planning and Zoning Department no longer requires parking for downtown projects. "Residents and visitors to the building’s shops and offices will be asked to use alternative transportation, or park somewhere else, when using the building’s facilities," says Green Building Elements. "Apartments in the development will be smaller than usual, 420 to 970 square feet, with efficient designs to help occupants use the space well. Rents will also be lower, about 15% less than the going rate in downtown." Austin is a top magnet for millennials, so it comes as no surprise that the city and developers are looking to cater to the generation that drives less. The building is slated for 721 Congress, at the southeast corner of Eighth Street and Congress Avenue, about a six minute walk south from the Texas Capitol. It is also next to the Paramount Theater and close to the annual South by Southwest music, film, and interactive media festival staged a few blocks south along Sixth Street. Today 721 Congress (a .15 acre site) holds a vacant one-story structure. "There are a lot of people living downtown now that don’t have a car. The downtown workforce is getting younger, and the younger generation is moving away from having to have a car. There is a (bike rental) facility adjacent to this site, and it will probably expand," said Richard Suttle Jr., the developer's city review attorney. The project is expected to break ground by May 2017 and open by spring 2019. The developer is currently seeking funding. The project could cost up to $60 million.
Posts tagged with "Austin":
As many baby boomers are reaching retirement, many think we need to have more of those important end-of-life discussions. There’s The Conversation Project, and as of this year, Medicare is now reimbursing discussions about near-death medical care. But what about the permanence of our cemeteries? How will urban areas—with increasing land shortages and rising urban populations—address, preserve, maintain, finance, update, and develop these spaces? Our cemeteries were some of the first public urban green spaces in the United States, serving as refuges from city life. But perhaps more so than other urban public parks, they are layered with a complex web of social, political, cultural, and environmental issues. “As the meeting point between the living and the dead, cemeteries are peculiarly fraught ground. That makes them easy for cities to ignore,” writes Next City. “Crime, environmental problems, historic preservation, social class, religious traditions, and the thorny legacy of who is included in cities, and who is not, all come crashing together in urban cemeteries.” Beyond traditional land burials, cremation is popular. Some are proposing vertical or skyscraper cemeteries. And then there are eternal reefs, cryonics, and composting. But in Austin, Texas—a city with one of the highest concentrations of millennials in America—urban planners and city officials are attempting to tackle the issues of future cemetery planning and historic preservation head-on. The city is proposing a top-down approach with its first-ever cemetery master plan that spans five urban cemeteries. The report outlines maintenance plans—a key part is improving drainage to prevent flooding–as well as developing outreach services to local residents. One idea Austin is proposing is columbariums: vertical funeral niches that would hold funeral urns. Voters approved a $2 million bond to begin the cemeteries' capital improvements in 2012, but the city will need to further address funding. Up for some historical reading? Here’s a 1950 report on city cemeteries from the American Planning Association’s Planning Advisory Committee.
Shots fired! Fritz Steiner, the University of Texas at Austin's architecture dean, says that he is leaving his post because of the state's new campus carry laws. Under Steiner, the UT-Austin architecture school has ranked among the best in the country. According to The Texas Tribune, Steiner said that "I would have never applied for another job if not for campus carry. I felt that I was going to be responsible for managing a law I didn't believe in." What's Texas's loss is Pennsylvania's gain: When the University of Pennsylvania School of Design approached him last semester about an opening, Steiner was receptive. On July 1, Steiner will become dean of University of Pennsylvania School of Design. For the past 20 years, it's been perfectly legal to carry concealed guns onto campus, but not into campus buildings. Although new campus carry laws were ratified last year, the laws don't go into effect until the first of August. In a state with some of the nation's most liberal gun laws, it's worth noting that the new law does not allow open carry on campus; students, faculty, staff, or visitors must have a handgun license; and the gun owner must be 21 or older. Public universities are allowed to create some limited "gun-free zones," but those zones can't include classrooms. Students for Concealed Carry, a campus group that supports gun rights, criticized Steiner, stating that, essentially, the only thing to fear is fear [of the law] itself. For his part, Steiner is looking forward to returning to the institution from which he earned three degrees: "Penn is a great institution and I am very happy to go to Penn, but I was approached ... and, if it wouldn't have been for campus carry, I wouldn't have considered it."
In November, Field Constructs Design Competition presented site-specific installations by emerging architects and landscape architects at the Circle Acres Nature Preserve in East Austin. AN recently reported on the winners, but check out the full set of imagery for each project below. As AN's Nick Cecchi reported,
Each of these projects is a diverse and unique response to the competition brief, yet all are united in a search for the latent possibilities in this unique site and the confluence of historical, social, and economic concerns it brings together. As social commentary and landscape art, they provide critical fodder not only for architecture and design professionals, but for the public as well. Competitions and proposals of this scale are not only opportunities for emerging voices to have a dialogue with each other and the distinguished members of the jury, but also demonstrate to the public that architects and designers are constantly reimagining how we interact with our natural and built environments.2015 FCDC Winners 99 WHITE BALLOONS INVIVIA — Cambridge, Mass. USA BLURRED BODIES StudioRoland Snooks — Melbourne, Australia DUCK BLIND IN PLAIN SITE OP.AL + And-Either-Or — New York, NY USA HYBROOT OTA+ — Austin, Texas USA For more FCDC, check out AN's original article.
The so-called Speedway in Austin, Texas, is being slowed to the pace of the pedestrian, thanks to a redesign by PWP Landscape Architecture. The road is not a racetrack as its name implies, but a street used heavily by cyclists and motorists as it cuts through the University of Texas at Austin. The project, called the "Speedway Mall," is a move by the university to improve the area and boost its usage. Construction on the mall, to be located between Jester Circle and Dean Keeton Street, will be carried out by the university starting soon on October 26 with the project set to cost $36 million. The project will convert the predominantly urban area into one that is made up of 70 percent green space, a move that will transform the space making it a social hub complete with trees, tables, study areas, and Wi-Fi access. According to the Daily Texan, Pat Clubb, the university operations vice president, stated that the scheme should free up the space for university and educational needs with outdoor learning, campus festivities, performances among other student enterprises. “[Speedway] is a wonderful asset that is not being used, and this project allows us to turn a dull, ugly — this place that students just walk past — into a true activity center,” Clubb said. “I think it will transform the student experience. It will become a place of learning, become a place of social activity. All of the things that will be possible are going to enhance the students’ experience.” “The idea is to transform it to make it safer, to make it more environmentally hospital, to make it more accessible and more usable to students,” Frederick Steiner, dean of the School of Architecture, told the Daily Texan. Steiner has confidence that the Speedway Mall, when finished in 2017, will evolve into an area that students, faculty, staff, and alumni will love about campus. “Where 30 years ago, the Main Mall was sort of the center of campus, now Speedway is sort of the center of campus and it should change to reflect that. There’s an old Joni Mitchell song about tearing up paradise and putting in a parking lot,” Steiner continued. “Well, we’re going to be tearing up parking lots and putting in paradise.”
The 18 winning projects shortlisted in the Field Constructs Design Competition flag a range of pressing socio-environmental issues through whimsical takes on interactive public art. The exhibits will occupy an old landfill and brownfield in Austin within the Circle Acres nature reserve, turning the site into a bizarre outdoor museum teeming with site-responsive sculptures and unforeseen creatures. Here, we take a look at some of the winning proposals to be displayed from November 14–22. Cloudfill by Blake Smith, John Cunningham, Seth Brunner (New York) This three-part installation is made of plastic bottles stuffed in bags. Each piece is specifically designed for either forestland, wetlands, or dry land, and references a different environmental issue, from deforestation to strip mining and microplastics in the ocean, to advance the educational mission of the Ecology Action of Texas. A floating bridge is planned for the park’s wetland area, which used to be a quarry.
Commpost by Daniel Gillen, Colby Suter, Gustav Fagerstrom (Beijing)These disorienting camel humps rising in the middle of a field are an educational commentary about composting. Visitors scan QR codes or use the on-site WiFi to learn about ecological food disposal. Like a LEGO set, it comes with a step-by-step assembly manual and can still function with minimal component parts. Visitors can throw scraps and water into pits within the sculpture and watch them turn into dirt. Dis-Figure by Aptum Architecture (Syracuse) This vaguely equestrian sculpture looms out of the swampy shadows like a guardian angel. Built from a wood frame covered in latex, the sculpture reportedly “glows” and changes appearance throughout the day. “Through the intertwining of skeleton and mutilated skin, a digitally enhanced structure and its biodegradable latex ornamentation disfigures the form and, in turn, alludes to a new reading of ‘form meets nature’ as the grotesque, the uncanny, and the unexpected,” said the architects. Las Piñatas by Goujon Design (Austin) This exhibition bespeaks the proverbial tension between development and preservation. The giant piñatas pay homage to a local family-owned piñata store that was razed in early 2015 by a pair of transplanted property developers in the city’s rapidly gentrifying East Austin neighborhoods. “The low-income and predominantly Hispanic neighborhood of Montopolis”—where the park is located—“will inevitably become another friction point between the development of a ‘new’ Austin and the preservation of ‘old’ Austin,” according to Field Constructs. Meat Church Field Kitchen by Jordan Bartelt, Scrap Marshall (Los Angeles) The design for this short-lived smokehouse riffs on a lone church standing in the Texas barrens, where seasoned grill-masters prepare juicy meats to be consumed with others like at a church picnic. However, folks of all faiths are welcome at this non-denominational gathering.
SoftLAB 3D prints a kaleidoscopic pavilion for 3M at SXSW 2015 that showcases colorful dichroic film
A household name in resilient scotch tape and self-adhesive velcro, 3M wowed the crowd at South by Southwest 2015 (SXSW) with a 3D-printed pavilion awash in kaleidoscopic colors, with every inch of the structure designed to showcase a 3M product at work. SOFTlab collaborated with 3M and BBDO to create the pavilion, a continuous modular structure made from powder-coated aluminum pipes, which assembled within minutes. The easy-build structure was composed of over 1,200 unique 3D-printed joints and sockets with a rotating snap, so that even the proverbial monkey could rise to the occasion. Overhead, more than 3,000 3M cable ties were used to construct the display and bar elements, as well as the complex dichroic ceiling. Responsible for the phosphorescent glow of shifting color, like the inside of a soapy bubble, was the exterior clad in custom Scotchlite fabric held together with zippers—one of the only times the retroreflective material has been deployed on an architectural scale. These panels of material reflected the highly saturated colors generated by 3M’s dichroic film-a-thin-filter, which creates saturated hues from light. An all-white interior played up the colors even more, coated in a glossy white di-noc laminate, an architectural finish by 3M. Meanwhile, a dichroic film laminate on the acrylic cladding of each crystalline-shaped column added to the glimmering quality of the interior, and flooded the visitors in color. The clever intricacies of the structure plunged visitors into the world of material science, a domain in which the multinational conglomerate predominates.
On the evening of Thursday, November 13, temperatures in Austin, Texas, dropped below freezing. In spite of the fact that most locals are unaccustomed to this degree of frigidity, more than 1,000 people turned out for Creek Show: Light Night 2014. The event, which ran from five in the evening until midnight, celebrated the unveiling of a series of light installations along Waller Creek between 5th and 9th streets. Organized by non-profit group Waller Creek Conservancy, Creek Show is a prelude of sorts to the ongoing plan to transform the flash-flood prone waterway into a chain of public parks designed by Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates and Thomas Phifer and Partners with lighting design by Linnaea Tillett. It features five "illuminating works of art" by local architects and landscape architects, including Baldridge Architects, Design Workshop, Jason Sowell, Legge Lewis Legge, and Thoughtbarn, which turned in High Water Mark (pictured at top). Located under the 7th Street Bridge, High Water Mark is composed of 100-foot-long undulating, electroluminescent wires suspended 20 feet above the waterline. Hidden Measures is by University of Texas landscape architecture professor Jason Sowell. Sowell stenciled messages in photo luminescent paint along the creek that describe the waterway's physical dimensions and hydrologic infrastructure. Baldridge Architects set up a colonnade of sorts of LED tubes called Tracing the Line. The succession of vertical lights rise out of the creek, indicating its path through this segment of downtown Austin. Legge Lewis Legge's Light Bridge is made up of a rope and hanging electroluminescent wire that arc over the water, suggesting a bridge. Flow by Design Workshop (below) is a series of tarps strung across the creek that are illuminated by color changing lights. The tapestries roll and flutter in the wind, emulating the coursing of the water below.
As part of continuing efforts in the Southwest to develop and improve transit systems, the City of Austin has announced its intention to build an urban rail system known as UltraRail that will run through the city’s eastern downtown. Traffic in east downtown Austin is beastly. It is largely made up of drivers who have short commutes, who together create major congestion during rush hour. For this reason UltraRail is being designed as a light rail/streetcar hybrid. It will be built with sharper control sensibilities, allowing for tighter corner turns, and regularly spaced, relatively close stops along the route that will hopefully make it a viable alternative to driving. But the heavy-duty installation is no light matter. Depending on how plans solidify, UltraRail is estimated to cost $1.6 billion. Half of the money will be paid by federal dollars; the other half will come from obligation bonds. Austin is currently working with stakeholders to determine the exact length and placement of the UltraRail system, and how best to phase the project. In addition to ironing out the technical wrinkles, the usual hurdles remain: nailing down the specifics of budget, design, and pushing through the various planning stages in order to begin building. Completion is presently slated for 2020.
The evening of April 14th was a big one for the East Austin community, when developers met with residents to unveil the master plan for the 208-acre lot of land known as Colony Park. Plans for the development were rolled out onto a community center floor as a giant map that enabled attendees to walk, step-by-step, through the five-year-plus initiative. The project hopes to bring commerce, parks, new residences, into a sustainable community. Currently, the land is home to little more than cedar trees, with drifters and litterbugs capitalizing on the vast expanse of space. So in 2012, the Neighborhood Housing and Community Development (NHCD) department applied for a $3 million grant to revitalize the land. It’s a unique opportunity—rarely does the chance to build a neighborhood completely from scratch fall into the hands of developers. With great potential comes great responsibility, however, and the jurisdiction of how to utilize the land has caused friction in the surrounding neighborhoods. Although the initiative's leaders have continually stressed the importance of community involvement, dialogue between the planners and residents got off to a rocky start. The NHCD applied for the grant without notifying the Colony Park community. The competitive and rapid process involved in applying for and winning such grants shortchanged the initiative’s handle on time, explained NHCD’s president, but residents were understandably miffed at the oversight. Their irritation at the communication breakdown spilled over into the planning of the zone. Colony Park, as it stands now, houses many elderly and fixed-income residents. These tenants are fearful of displacement and gentrification that new housing developments often instigate. Others voice trepidation over the idea that this project will contribute to sprawl—that it will be more difficult than planners are acknowledging to account for commerce. As it stands now, the community is removed from commercial space. It’s a difficult area to access, explained residents, bordered as it is by two interstates, with the nearest grocery store over a mile away. But the initiative is actively striving to hear out these concerns and respond to them appropriately. 750 residential units will be built with the mixed-income community to prevent gentrification. Nearby residents from Agave are pulling for inclusion of urban farming opportunities, as well as farmers markets and more local business. Economic considerations are at the forefront of the discussion, and the plan offers an intriguing option of making provisions for a shared-car transportation program that will cut down on the cost of living for families. As far as the initial lack of dialogue, the initiative is trying hard to make it up to Colony Park residents. In September, college students canvassed the area to speak with tenants about what they wanted in their community. A website acts as virtual forum, and the neighborhood has formed a team of leaders who voice their opinions on behalf of the community. So what was featured in the master plan? Parks, 500 single-family ownership units and 250 multi-family rental units, on-site recycling and composting, and a mandate that all buildings meet or exceed SMART Housing Program standards for green development were all presented on Tuesday night. While community reactions were mixed, the tone was ultimately hopeful.
CATALIN The Contemporary Austin 700 Congress Avenue, Austin, Texas Through April 20th Charles Long’s latest exhibition CATALIN—aptly named after a toxic plastic material fabricated in the 1930s—uses a multi-media approach to simulate a feeling of impending doom. In this Gesamtkunstwerk, Long combines sculpture, film, music, fragrance, theater, performance, and grand spectacle to create a mystical and magical Wagnerian world. The artist was inspired to create CATALIN by the writings of Timothy Morton, a leading thinker in ecology and philosophy whose canon is focused on the ultimate demise of the environment and art’s reaction to this loss. During the exhibition’s run, Long will interact with local organizations and artists while engaging the Jones Center’s second floor space for films, lectures, theater, and community events. To complement the exhibition in downtown Austin, there will be an outdoor installation of his 2012 work Pet Sounds at Laguna Gloria (3809 West 35th Street). This installation, which takes its name from a 1966 Beach Boys album, contains a multitude of morphed blobs that let out faint murmurs when touched. CATALIN and Pet Sounds walk the thin line between dignity and humor while asking many questions—most of which are left unanswered—concerning the fragility of the human condition.
Since the construction of the twin freeway bridges that carry the MoPac expressway over Barton Creek in 1987, the Austin community has been clamoring for a bike and pedestrian bridge to accompany it. That outcry has now been answered. On February 11, The Texas Department of Transportation approved just such a crossing. The project will cost the state around $7.7 million and will take approximately thirty months to complete. According to the Austin Public works department the construction will be handled in three phases: Phase I includes adding a bicycle/pedestrian bridge over Barton Creek at MoPac. The south bound lanes of MoPac will also be re-striped to lessen traffic congestion and to improve bicycle and pedestrian connections to the Southwest Parkway, Loop 360, and other trails in the area, including the Violet Crown Trail and the Oak Hills Neighborhood Trail System. Phase II will add a bicycle/pedestrian bridge over Loop 360 at MoPac. Phase III entails the creation of a multi-use trail to accommodate bicycles and pedestrians on the west side of MoPac from Loop 360 to Tamarron Boulevard. After the plan is completed there will be approximately two miles of paved bicycle and pedestrian trails running along MoPac. While Austin is no stranger to trails throughout its many greenbelts, there are almost no such trails in the city where it is comfortable to ride a road bike. Construction these trails will improve the travel prospects for those wishing to commute via bicycle. Phases I and II have been funded since late June of 2012. On the February 11, financing was finally put in place for the last section of the plan. Some of the funding comes from the not-for-profit Friends of Barton Creek Bike Bridge, which was started by Solar Winds, Brandywine Realty Trust, and Commercial Texas in an effort to raise funds and awareness for the creation of the new bike path.