Charles Linn
School of Architecture, Design & Planning

Architecture students reimagine Austin’s waterfront

Tue, 06/17/2014

LAWRENCE — Last fall Department of Architecture lecturer Josh Shelton, who teaches a graduate-level architectural design studio, made a presentation on urban master plans at an American Institute of Architects conference.  

In the audience was Alan Holt, principal planner for the city of Austin, Texas, who invited Shelton to participate in its South Central Waterfront Initiative, an effort to plan the development of 97 acres, 30 of which front Lady Bird Lake in the city’s center.

As a result seven students enrolled in Shelton’s architectural design studio spent the spring semester studying the site, and in April they traveled to Texas to join an Austin Vision + Design Intensive workshop.

“The city is growing faster than any other city, so this could be one of the most valuable parcels of land in the Southwest,” Shelton said. “Its planning and eventual build-out will have an influence on Austin for generations. Our intent here was to develop great urban spaces for people, not just architecture.”

Cities use zoning regulations to determine what buildings may be built where. But zoning, particularly if it is outdated, may pit the needs of the public against the rights of owners to maximize the value of their land.

The Vision + Design Intensive brought together the central waterfront’s property owners, the public, architects, real estate developers, even an economist to envision what it might become. Currently office buildings and parking lots occupy the land. But this is being replaced by housing not originally anticipated decades ago.

Holt noted that without the planning and infrastructure the D+VI was intended to provide, “The public may lose the opportunity to have better access to the lakeshore, walkable connectivity throughout the district and open spaces.”

He also added that Austin needs more housing; however, “Property owners are economically driven to build for high-income users. That exacerbates the lack of affordable housing.”

Shelton’s students built a large site model, which was moved to Austin. They also came prepared with studies of the current zoning plans and drawings that became a starting point for many of the conversations that took place.

During the V+DI workshop the students drew up alternative schemes in response to conversations in real time.

“For five days the idea of practice and academia being separate things dissolved,” Shelton said.

“These studies were extremely helpful in fostering communication and building trust,” Holt said. “It was satisfying to see the students negotiate all of these complex conversations about a site that’s under an immense amounts of pressure.”

"As architects we want to make an impact on the world in some way. I guess that taking it to this scale, 97 acres in downtown Austin, that’s a huge impact," said Hannah Dale, a student from Olathe.

At the conclusion of the five-day DV+I workshop, more than 150 people came to a public presentation.

“It was amazing to see how much public interest there was in it,” Dale said, adding that working on a large site was a unique educational experience for her. “I never imagined myself going off and having such a large influence on what happened in a city.”

Students participating in the D+VI were Adam Brcic, St. Louis; Hanah Dale, Olathe; Courtney Fels, Cape Girardeau, Mo.; June You, Lawrence; Henry Lennon and Hart Sanders, Branson, Missouri; and Ryan Sudhoff, Maryville, Missouri.

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Wanna Skype? Chancellor gets creative to surprise Truman winner. See it here:
Rock Chalk! Junior Ashlie Koehn named KU's 18th Truman Scholar
Ashlie Koehn, a University of Kansas junior from Burns studying in Kyrgyzstan, interrupted helping her host family prepare dinner to make a Skype call on Monday evening.

.@NYTimes columnist @WCRhoden will speak at a symposium about race and sports April 23.
Wanna Skype? Chancellor gets creative to surprise Truman winner From KU News Service: Ashlie Koehn, a University of Kansas junior from Burns studying in Kyrgyzstan, interrupted helping her host family prepare dinner to make a Skype call on Monday evening. To her surprise, Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little was on the other end of the call letting Koehn know she had been named a 2015 Harry S. Truman Scholar. Koehn is the 18th KU student to be named a Truman Scholar and the only 2015 recipient from the state of Kansas. Earlier this month, she was also named a 2015 Udall Scholar. And in spite of a distance of more than 10,800 kilometers and 11 time zones, Koehn’s thrill from hearing the news from the chancellor came through loud and clear. “Ashlie’s experience at KU epitomizes a quality undergraduate experience. She challenged herself in her coursework, exposed herself to different research opportunities, studied abroad in Germany, Switzerland and Kyrgyzstan, and participated in both student government and community service projects,” Gray-Little said. “This is quite a year for Ashlie. Her hard work is a wonderful reflection on her and also a great reflection on the university, and we all congratulate her.” Each new Truman Scholar receives up to $30,000 for graduate study. Scholars also receive priority admission and supplemental financial aid at some premier graduate institutions, leadership training, career and graduate school counseling, and special internship opportunities within the federal government. Koehn, a member of KU’s nationally recognized University Honors Program, is majoring in environmental studies, economics and international studies. Her goal after earning her KU degree is to pursue a master’s degree in economics at either the London School of Economics or the University of Reading, with a focus on the economics of climate change. In 2014, she received KU’s Newman Civic Engagement Award for her work establishing the Coalition against Slavery and Trafficking. Her involvement with the issue was sparked by Hannah Britton, associate professor of political science and women, gender, and sexuality studies, who hosted national conference on contemporary slavery at KU three years ago. “Ashlie and I met several times to think about what KU students could contribute to the issue of slavery and human trafficking, and the result was her founding of KU CAST,” Britton said. “After a year as president, Ashlie successfully handed the organization over to the next student leader. She demonstrated her strong leadership qualities by setting a unique goal and then pursuing it with her sense of passion, engagement and dedication. No matter the country or context, her leadership strength is evident in her coursework, her public service and her work experiences.” The University Honors Program works with a campus committee to select KU’s nominees for the Truman Scholarship and supports them during the application process. Anne Wallen, assistant director of national fellowships and scholarships, noted it was an amazing ruse to pull off the surprise. Originally, the call was set up to be between Wallen and Koehn. “I was totally not prepared to be greeted by Chancellor Gray-Little, but it was an amazing surprise for sure,” Koehn said. “As a first-generation student, it took time to learn the collegiate system, but my parents taught me to be resourceful and independent from a young age and KU and the Kansas Air National Guard have provided me with the opportunities to drive me into the future, both at graduate school and in my career. I plan to use the Truman Scholarship to pursue a career as an environmental economist helping to shape future trade agreements and leverage action on important international environmental issues, particularly concerning climate change.” Koehn also had a surprise of her own for the chancellor — the meal she was helping to prepare was not exactly typical Kansas dinner fare. On the menu with her host family in Kyrgyzstan on Monday was a traditional Kyrgyz meal called Beshbarmak, or “five fingers,” because you eat it with your hands. The dish is made of horse and sheep and was being prepared as a birthday celebration for Koehn’s host mom. Chancellor Gray-Little, as she signed off from Skype, made sure to encourage Koehn to enjoy her Beshbarmak. Koehn is the daughter of Rodney and Carolyn Koehn of Burns. She graduated from Fredric Remington High School in Moundridge. She is an active member of the Kansas Air National Guard and currently on leave while studying abroad in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. She is a member of the KU Global Scholars Program and a past member of the Student Senate. In addition to being named a 2015 Truman and Udall scholar, she was named a 2014 Boren Scholar and Gilman Scholar and in 2013 was named the Kansas Air National Guard Airman of the Year.

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