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 But zoning, particularly if it is outdated, may pit the needs of the public against the rights of owners to maximize the value of their land.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.

Matt Menzenski, a graduate student in Slavic languages & literatures, took this photo during President Obama’s speech at KU Thursday. Menzenski says he was struck by how relaxed the president was in his delivery. He missed a chance to hear former President Bill Clinton speak in his hometown in 2004, but finally got to see a sitting president this week at KU. “The opportunity to hear the president speak is just one of many great opportunities I've had at KU. So many interesting talks and events happen here all the time. I try to attend at least one a week-- it's never hard to find something interesting to go to.” Tags: University of Kansas College of Liberal Arts and Sciences KU School of Languages, Literatures & Cultures KU Dept of Slavic Languages - Friends & Alumni Barack Obama The White House #exploreKU #POTUSatKU

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Explore KU: The Bells of Mount Oread KU’s Campanile, a 120-foot-tall timepiece that tolls automatically on the hour and quarter-hour, not only sounded in the 2015 New Year at midnight with 12 mighty gongs, but also regularly rings up memories for many Jayhawks – the 277 faculty and students who gave their lives during World War II, the graduates who walk through its doors at commencement, and aspiring students who have strolled through the Lawrence campus. (See For nearly 60 years, KU’s 53-bell carillon has been tolling the sounds of peace and serenity across Mount Oread since it was installed in June 1955 inside the landmark World War II Memorial Campanile, which was dedicated in 1951. (See The carillon is also a four-octave musical instrument, which is played with a giant keyboard and foot pedals. University Carillonneur Elizabeth Egber-Berghout (, associate professor of carillon and organ, climbs 77 steps up a spiral staircase in the bell tower to perform recitals several times a month.

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