A short drive through Austin’s residential neighborhoods reveals that the city is home to a great many talented architects, builders, and designers. Modern structures nestle, for the most part, up to older homes that tell a story of a city at a different time, a time when there were certainly fewer cars to accommodate on narrow lots and even narrower streets.
But what about Austin’s public spaces, civic buildings that are open to the public or buildings that serve public functions?
The design and construction of public buildings is a specialized field of architecture, not only in design, but in the management of relationships at the city and government level. We thought to look at the civic buildings in Austin and the architects, both local and national, responsible for the design.
The monolithic structure that is the Lyndon Baines Johnson Presidential Library and Museum, is situated on The University of Texas at Austin campus. Designed by Pritzker Prize winning architect Gordon Bunshaft of the firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, the building was completed in 1971. Bunshaft was a modernist whose work focused on corporate, educational and institutional buildings.
Completed in 2004, Austin City Hall and Public Plaza was designed by Antoine Predock, in association with the Austin firm Cotera+Reed. Clad in copper and stone, the building offsets the formality of the adjacent neighborhood grid, with distinct angles providing light and shade, both internally and externally and offers unique views towards Lady Bird Lake from a series of terraces.
The Long Center for the Performing Arts, founding home to the Austin Symphony Orchestra, the Austin Lyric Opera, and Ballet Austin, was completed in phases and funded in part by private donations, not least from the benefactors after whom the Center is named, Joe R and Teresa Lozano Long. Located along Lady Bird Lake the original plan, by Chicago-based Skidmore, Owings Merrill, focused on the renovation of the Lester E Palmer Auditorium. Local firm Nelsen Partners (Austin, Phoenix) served as design architects for the project, reusing over 90% of the 44 million pounds of materials removed from the old building.
Located in a park in downtown Austin the Palmer Events Center is the result of a collaborative effort between Centerbrook Architects of Connecticut, and local firms Barnes Gromatzky Kosarek and Alan Y. Taniguchi-Architects. In creating the multi-use 70,000 square foot space which was required to host a wide range of activities, the design teams turned to the shape and perspective of the iconic tent associated with Austin’s many festivals and markets.
The United States Courthouse designed by husband and wife team Mack Scogin Merill Elam Architects of Atlanta, GA was completed in 2012. The cube-shaped building occupies a full city block and is located west of Republic Square, home of the popular Farmer’s Market.
Built by the Town Lake Trail Foundation, in partnership with the Parks and Recreation Department of the City of Austin, The Restroom was the first public restroom built on this popular walking, running and bike trail for 30 years. Local architects Miro Rivera conceived the space as a functional sculpture in the park.