The Waller Creek Conservancy Design Competition Final Four

MVVA’s plan for Waller Creek, Austin, Texas. From

I recently found my way to the website for the final four proposals for the redevelopment of Waller Creek in Austin, Texas. First of all, wow, there are just some really lovely renderings from this competition. I always like MVVA‘s renderings, but the other four competitors have really given them a run for their money. Take a look, they are wonderful. However, I can’t help but feel that they are just different approaches to the same thing: a big landscape urbanist-style river park. Now I don’t know a lot about Austin, or really anything about the Waller Creek, so if anyone from the area reads this, please comment, and do so extensively and critically. But as nice as all of these proposals are, I wonder why there isn’t one this far in the process for a true urban riverfront. There are of course classic examples from the Netherlands, Denmark, Germany, and Britain, but in Austin, you don’t even have to go that far: possibly the best riverfront in the United States is just up the road in San Antonio. This sort of urban amenity right on the water is fairly rare in America, I would love to see more of it, and I think the fact that it isn’t even on the table is a missed opportunity for Waller Creek.


About Dave Munson
This blog is about architecture, cities, and myself.

One Response to The Waller Creek Conservancy Design Competition Final Four

  1. Andy says:

    It’s a bit old, but I just read your article about landscape urbanism. I raised the sme questions while studying landscape architecture at FIU, which is really pushing the landscape urbanism thing. I also used the “bullshit generator” to generate some principles- the joke didn’t seem to sit well with some of the faculty, but who cares. A lot of the landscape urbanists love to hate on Seaside, but it’s a remarkably different place in person, and the landscape is what really makes the place. The framework seems to be right out of the landscape urbanist playbook. The dune system is preserved and used as the linear framework. You can drive along the main road (30A) which is just a few hundred feet from the gulf, but you will only see the water once you get over the massive dune system. The tidal creeks on the north side of the town are left intact. In Rosemary Beach (another neighboring new urbanist town) the tidal creeks are used as a greenway/trail network which links neighborhoods together. The overriding feeling that you get is one of being in a nature preserve. The feeling of the town is that it is struggling to pop out of the Florida pine scrubland. Check out some of the google streetviews of the residential streets. A little known fact is that the strictly adhered to plant palette was designed by landscape architect Douglas Duany- Andres Duany’s brother. The story is that Doug was meeting with the developer Robert Davis, and when he asked what sort of feel he wanted for the landscape, Davis pointed to the dunes and pine scrub and said “I kind of like what’s there already.” Also, Seaside’s architectural guidelines are not that struct, but the material pallette is. There is a limit to how many buildings an architect can design there, as a result there is quite a bit of variety, even some pretty neat modernist commercial buildings.

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