Goals for 2011: Mobilizing for 2011
Our committee has ambitious plans for 2011. More community events, more educational efforts, and more advocacy than ever before.

THEMES: Raise the profile of architecture within the AIA Austin region. / Cosponsor events other groups.

OUTREACH EVENTS: January – Architects at Capitol Day / February – Quarterly meeting with City council and aides. / March – Code Session with City of Austin Plan Review / April – Candidate Forum / October- Affordable Housing Summit

ADVOCACY TOPICS: Revise Commercial Design Standards with regard to sustainability (audience is City Council) / Integration of Art with Open Space and Transit Corridors (Audience is Design Commission, Capital Metro, etc) / Transit Second Bond (Audience is Voters and AIA membership)

RESEARCH AND EDUCATION EFFORTS: Form Based Codes and Compatibility / Comprehensive Plan

Please comment on the areas where you want to get involved and the areas that you think need to be refined. Please note that this DRAFT will be coordinated with our incoming President, Taylor, and we will also coordinate ideas and resources with the other chairs and commissioners.

Year in Review: Urban Design / Government Affairs Team

It has been an outstanding, ambitious, and deeply rewarding year to be your Chair. I am honored to be associated with such a diverse, experienced, and passionate group of professionals. Let’s recap where we are relative to our goals:

#1 “Identify and Fill Visible Leadership Roles Architects can occupy to enrich the community and profession.” Cochair Bart Whatley, AIA hosted a Candidate Forum for City Council Candidates. To further promote the leadership role of architects, Bart brought in partners CNU, DAA, and DANA.

#2 “Foster environments for idea sharing and development.” Cochair Paul Detke, AIA, planned, initiated, and executed a process to revise the Commercial Design Standards. Working with ASLA Austin Chapter, CNU Nodes & Corridors, RECA, Civil engineers, and others through happy hours and a Forum, recommendations were drafted, approved by AIA Austin board, and presented to City prior to the start of a public input process. Big thanks to Commercial Liason Michael Hsu, AIA, Girard Kinney, AIA, Kit Johnson, AIA, and all the other members and partners that pitched in for this effort.

#3 “Elevate Profile and Quality of Design.” Cochair Gonzalo Camacho launched an inquiry into the role of beauty and public art in a healthy transit system that, with commissioner Jana McCann, AIA, landed us upon a generous grant from DAA for the Old Bakery Ideathon. Thanks to AIA leaders Robert Mueller, Bart Whatley, Betty Trent, Larry Halford, Jeff Needles, Jim Adams, Paul Detke, Emily Layton, Larry Whitlock, Girard Kinney, Brian Miller, Brant Moore, and staff for putting in the extra mile. Thanks to DAA, Austin Foundation for Architecture, AIPP, Public Workshop, Parks Foundation, PARD, and the State of Texas for creating fertile soil. We also celebrate our growing online community http://www.oldbakeryideathon.org/ We look forward to continuing this 6-month festival of ideas as we head toward a design competition in the spring.

#4 “Develop and promote public programs to raise public awareness of the value of architecture”. Join us again 9AM tomorrow, Saturday, for the Old Bakery Volunteer work day courtesy of the Parks Foundation.

Meeting Recap: Placemaking Case Studies

What are some exciting place/destinations that provide connectivity to cultural infrastructure? At our June monthly meeting, our members introduced case studies showing multidisciplinary collaborations (architects, artists, etc).

Emily Layton presented Uplift Austin’s work at the Garza outdoor classroom and trail, and the South 1st entry into Williamson Creek green belt.

Matthew Ames presented 16th St Mall in Denver (I.M. Pei) and Austin’s Mueller solar sunflowers.

Roger Mueller briefed us on AIA Boston placemaking expert Christina Lanzl from Boston, and we reviewed her powerpoint regarding AIPP projects and typologies from many cities. We discussed inviting her to Austin for a future educational event.

(not present) John Cameron sent updates from Town Lake Trail Foundation (TTF) work along Lady Bird Lake. Also thanks to Kit Johnson for an update on City of Austin coordination items.

BREAKING NEWS: AIPP‘s “Sustainability Symposium” featuring Alex Gilliam is Saturday, October 8th, concluding at 3:30PM. The intent is that AIA/UDGA would NOT be working on the Symposium, but would request funding from DAA to have a companion event immediately after, using the same Alex Gilliam. This narrows our role to maybe 3-6PM that evening, where we would be technical facilitators for some kind of community planning/visualizing activity regarding placemaking. We only need grant funding for Alex Gilliam’s efforts/supplies after 3:30 PM. Alex will send us the costs and options next week. We are working on securing permission to use a downtown site. We should also use this opportunity as a teaser and/or trial run for the themes of our transit/placemaking Design Competition that would occur in 2012.

Meeting Recap: Commerical Design Standards Forum

Commercial Design Standards Forum
Last week, AIA members packed the room to offer professional insights into the problems and opportunities of the Commercial Design Standards ordinance, “Subchapter E”

One of AIA Austin’s core missions, in alignment with national AIA policies, is to promote exceptional, sustainable design in terms of the community, the site and the building. It is important for us to be involved in helping the City of Austin formulate policies and codes affecting the built environment. One of the central ordinances that shape commercial development in Austin is Subchapter E: Commercial Design Standards.

City Staff will be considering amendments to Subchapter E in the next few months. The design community has an opportunity to shape this upcoming amendment to five specific portions of the code:

  1. Applicability
  2. Glazing on Building Facades
  3. Exterior Lighting
  4. Large Site Standards
  5. Neighborhood Side Standards

AIA Austin Member Paul Detke’s work through the Urban Design/Government Affairs (UDGA) Committee has compiled a draft of Meeting Notes and Reports from multiple organizations and presented this draft at our Commercial Design Standards Forum. These recommendations have not been approved, so this is the time to submit your input. Our goal is for AIA Austin, as a stakeholder organization, to present an advocacy document for City staff’s consideration.

If you were not able to attend the Forum, please contact Paul Detke to get added to the list for future meetings. His contact info is on our Urban Design and Government Affairs committee home page. AIA Austin Advocacy Committee and AIA Austin Urban Design and Government Affairs Committee

(adapted from letter by Michael Hsu)

Meeting Recap: Destination Spaces

Why would someone want to go THERE? What makes an amazing space? At our monthly meeting, we began workshopping our first Educational Building Block toward a Art/Space Design Competition that would “Elevate the Profile and Quality of Design” in our community.

We have been meeting with local cultural leaders (schools, universities, museums, artists) to try and understand the state of the Cultural Master Plan, as a part our ongoing involvement with the Comprehensive Plan. We wish to study the Cultural Plan “action” statements, such as “Define Austin’s sense of place through high standards for architecture and urban design, public art, public spaces and public parks, and arts education” Then we can investigate what these cultural actions would look like if we can give it a physical presence at a real site.

Before we try and solicit designs, we first want to make sure we identify the opportunities. We are assembling case studies that can be unveiled (October is both Design Month and Art Month…) in a joint event with Art in Public Places and/or other local cultural entities. Ultimately, we wish to see “Public art as a catalyst of creating a sense of place and connecting neighborhoods with cultural infrastructure”.

We need case studies showing multidisciplinary collaborations (architects, artists, etc), both in Austin and elsewhere, that create an exciting place/destination that (for bonus points) also provides connectivity to cultural infrastructure.

  • Emily will research Parks
  • Larry H will research Bus Shelters
  • Cameron will research Rail Stations and also Town Lake
  • Leslie/Betty will look into Austin Energy Substations and Dick Nichols Pool
  • Gonzalo will research Plazas Matthew will research Retail/Shopping Centers
  • Please bring two examples next time. I will send out a sample format.

Meeting Recap: Culture in the Urban Plan
Creating a Sense of Place

Regarding our transit subcommittee and the efforts for a Design Competition that partners with an educational or cultural institution:

One of the concrete things that came out of the UDGA meeting Wednesday was to intersect a policy goal from the comprehensive plan with a specific site, nonprofit, or stakeholder. (several specifics were mentioned, but we have not secured a commitment from any one site or partner) That would help ground this project as a physical manifestation of something that we are trying to advocate on an urban design level. Briefly, it sounds like our policy goal is “public art as a catalyst of creating a sense of place and connecting residential neighborhoods with community infrastructure”, but we need to get active in the comp plan task force that deals with Culture and refine our policy goal to the point that it becomes part of the City vision. This comp plan phase wraps up in a few weeks, so we would need to get active at both May 2 and May 9 meetings.

Prior to soliciting competition projects based on our policy goal, there was agreement that we could plan a symposium that would show examples of projects, either in Austin or elsewhere, that showcase what we would like to achieve. This might expand the possibilities, by providing education about the range of options for defining public space. This symposium could be a lecture format, a gallery exhibit, a pecha kucha, or whatever you are interested in.

The other thing that came out of our meeting Wednesday was the need to get more concrete about the task to be achieved, so that we can be targeted in who we recruit and what they would be doing. (we mentioned Architecture in Schools committee, Young Professionals committee, Uplift Austin, Art in Public Places, etc as possible resources for advice or assistance) To get volunteers/approval/advertising from AIA members or grant sponsors, we need to be very clear about what we would like to do and why.

Meeting Recap: Candidate Forum; Design; Public Art

We had a packed room for presentations from our three subcommittees.

Bart Whatley has expanded our City Council Candidate Forum to partner with CNU, DAA, and DANA. Please join us Monday, 4 April, 5:30PM-7:30PM in Central Presbyterian Church on 200 E 8th street. Eight City Council candidates are confirmed so far. We will get to ask design and planning questions that will help inform both our City leadership and our voters. rsvp@aiaaustin.org

Paul Detke has rounded up representatives from CNU, RECA, ASLA, and beyond to listen to ideas, problems, and opportunities regarding the Commercial Design Standards. The City is on the brink of an update and a new public comment period. This is an excellent test of our advocacy efforts as we work to define the problem and offer solutions in a manner that can be not only educational but also implementable. As the meeting notes and analysis become available, I can post it here.

Gonzalo Camacho has organized a 17 May gathering of transportation and nonprofit leadership to talk about the relationship of public art and a healthy transit network. We look forward to seeing how this may unfold into a symposium, competition, or other effort to build community connections through art.

We also were fortunate to have Betty Trent join us for an update on some residential permitting concerns and a follow-up meeting at the Design Center Monday 4 April 1PM. She is also in touch with Stuart Sampley.

I want to commend our team for the ongoing work and to thank all of you for turning out and offering your insight and assistance in planning our ambitious calendar. I also want to note that this level of outside partnerships is new to us and I want to thank you for pushing me beyond what I expected when I initially got involved in this committee.

Meeting Recap: City Council Candidate Questions

The UDGA group had a great discussion February 23rd on the upcoming AIA candidate forum. Thanks to all for the input and interest in helping with the event. Past candidate forums have been a solid success drawing approximately 60 people.

The election this year for council members is May 14. Candidates include Chris Riley, Josia Ingalls, Randi Shade, Kris Bailey, Chris Nielsen, Laura Morrison, Eric Rangel, and Toby Ryan. We will target the very end or March or early April to have the forum.

The forum will run approximately 2 hours. Each candidate will give an introduction, then questions will be asked by a moderator, next the audience will be able to ask questions, and finally candidates will be given a chance to make a short closing statement.

The group discussed teaming with another prominent local group with a focus on the built environment such as CNU or ULI. Next tasks for the sub-committee are to pin down the exact logistics of the event, contact all candidates and work on a press release/advertising, and formulate questions.

I WOULD LIKE FOR YOU TO EMAIL ME A QUESTION FOR THE CANDIDATES. I will compile these questions for the group to review over the next couple of weeks. Here are questions from a previous AIA Candidate Forum to get you thinking. Thanks for everyone’s continued input on this.

  1. Commercial Design Standards- What is your assessment of the success of the commercial design standards in terms of production and implementation? What is your commitment to improving both the ordinance and its use?
  2. Infrastructure-Do you support concentrating infrastructure improvements in key prioritized redevelopment zones or “catalyst” infrastructure projects? If so, what should be the determining factors in developing the prioritized list?
  3. Incentives-there has been a lot of controversy about the role of incentives in development. Considering the turmoil of the economy, what role should taxpayer money play to support private sector development that is in line with our larger goals,assuming these developments cannot be achieved otherwise? What mechanisms would you consider to achieve these goals and what do you consider “worthy” of taxpayer dollars.
  4. Density Bonus and TOD’s – Are the density bonuses and development regulations outlined in our TOD’s great enough to support the stated affordable housing goals or the density required to support the transit? If not, then what further steps need to be taken?
  5. Schools and Community – City of Austin and AISD. Some of us are deciding to move out of desirable “urban” neighborhoods in pursuit of the best schools for our children. How do you propose to align the values and goals of the city and its institutions with respect to the basic needs of families like ours? Can we better use our schools as the anchors for community stability, health, and growth?
  6. Comprehensive Plan – Describe your goals and priorities for the Comprehensive Plan with respect to process and outcome
  7. Sustainability – Describe some of the environmental and sustainable initiatives that you will champion on Council.
  8. Connectivity – We talk about congestion, reduction of pollution. Aside from mass transit, how would you propose to implement improved connectivity and open space within our existing infrastructure?
  9. Housing – Discuss your goals to balance growth, density, affordability, community culture and community values and how might it relate to the recommendations outlined in the recently released Housing Market Study Housing Market Study (which includes educating residents, reconsidering the role that many neighborhood groups are playing in development decisions, Increasing density, Developing a strong Comprehensive Plan).
  10. Design Leadership – Design leadership is important in this room, but many times the role of the Architect and the shape of the development are predetermined based upon the complex layers of site permitting regulations, legal constraints, and proven/unproven trends in the real estate market. The Architect is often viewed as a key resource in better defining the public realm. How can the City of Austin empower the local design community in having a greater impact in creating the built environment?

(thanks to Bart Whatley for organizing this event and writing this up!)

Meeting Recap: Council; Design Standards; Transit

I really appreciate everyone’s excitement and interest, and I am floored by the calls and emails from new folks inquiring about joining the committee. Yes, we absolutely do want you involved! In addition to some specific events, there seem to be a few themes that you want explored in 2011 We will discuss important advocacy issues with City Council.

We will have a public event called the “CANDIDATE FORUM” in April where we ask current and prospective council members about design and construction issues important to you. We are also exploring the scheduling opportunities for a lunch with some of the council aides. Bart Whatley is heading up our Candidate Forum subcommitee.

As a longer term goal, we want to provide recommendations regarding the SUBCHAPTER E DESIGN STANDARDS. Paul Detke has offered to lead a subcommittee, rumored to involve happy hours, to solicit input regarding what is working, not working, and what could be improved.

We have some really cool transit questions brewing, especially in regard to the role of Beauty and Public Art along transit corridors. Gonzalo Comacho has offered to lead our TRANSIT subcommitee. He is talking to business and nonprofit leaders and researching two exciting grant opportunities. We are particularly excited about the possibility of an art-within-transit design competition. The winning project could be either funded by grant money or we could lobby to get in included in the next round of transit bonds.

We periodically have questions regarding the role of COMPATIBILITY in the code. What happens, for example, at the edge of a residential zoning district as it hits a commercial arterial? Girard Kinney is working with CNU on this issue, and I will circulate an invite regarding how to learn more about compatibility. (5:30 PM, Speakeasy, Feb 1st)

I am thrilled to have such a great team this year and let me know how I can help you raise the profile of architects through “participating in design, planning and public policy initiatives in the Central Texas Region.”