Seeing the Weird in a Rapidly Changing Austin
This winter break, I crossed another city/state off my bucket list by visiting Austin, Texas.
Known for its unique flair (“Keep Austin Weird” is the city’s marketing slogan), music, barbeque, and other fried foods, the city’s rapid change in population over the last couple of decades has transformed its physical landscape. The US Census estimates that from 2000 to 2016, Austin’s population has increased nearly 45 percent, from 656,562 to 947,890 residents.
With this rapid growth, Austin, quite visibly, is a city that looks to balance its increasing levels of development with its reputation as an outdoorsy and creative urban area. Below are some photos I took while perusing the capital of our nation’s second most populous state:
Austin has an extensive network for pedestrians and people riding bicycles. These separated bicycle lanes are in the residential neighborhood of Barton Hills. The Ann and Roy Butler Hike and Bike Trail feeds into Zilker Metropolitan Park.
Texas, as a confederate state during the Civil War, still memorializes Robert E. Lee through naming a street after him. Recently, many have advocated to change the name of this street.
Take from the edge of Zilker Memorial Park, the downtown skyline is developing as a result of many businesses and residents move to Austin. Pictured in between is Lady Bird Lake (technically the Colorado River), named after this country’s former first lady. A champion for conservation and the environment, Lady Bird Johnson advocated for planting the trees seen alongside the lake and the 10-mile-long Ann and Roy Butler Hike and Bike Trail.
Seen while on a bike tour, this Ai Weiwei sculpture, known as “Forever Bicycles”, consists of 1,254 bicycles.
My bike tour made a stop at the Baylor Street Art Wall on Castle Hill (see the castle at the top?). Originally planned for condos in the 1980s which were never constructed, passersby can spray paint virtually anything they would like on the formerly planned development’s foundation. Holding itself as a creative and cultural icon for Austin, I was told that this wall will soon be demolished to make way for new condos.
Austin just opened its new downtown public library in October 2017. The library has a rooftop garden where people can study and socialize.
On a much drearier day, I visited the LBJ Presidential Library on the campus at the University of Texas at Austin. The building, like many of the buildings at the university, has brutalist architecture.
About the Author: Nate Seeskin is a second-year Master’s student in the Department of City and Regional Planning, where he concentrates in transportation, land use, and environmental planning. Hailing from the midwest originally, Nate can often be found perusing around Carrboro on his bicycle.
Editor: Katy Lang