Huh? What does Austin, TX have to do with our coastal locale and local design?
Well, great local design often occurs in response to the climate, natural environment, history, and culture of a particular place. And during a recent visit to Austin, TX, the city really showed it’s local stripes…influenced by its temperate climate, a young population, live music, and great regional food.
During my visit, I couldn’t help but think of the origins and influences that shaped some of our local places, like Asbury Park.
One of the first things I noticed was the multitude of buildings designed with outdoor spaces, many of which include pergola structures and screening walls that provide shade and privacy, yet allow cooling breezes.
These spaces also seemed to reflect and support the active “outdoor” lifestyle of the youthful population. And what better way to enjoy Texas barbeque and other local cuisine than under the sun and stars of the wide-open southern sky.
Many of the buildings are also constructed using regional materials, such as local Texas limestone and wood from regional tree species, as well as integrating native trees and plantings within the design of outdoor spaces.
This approach reinforced a sense of place that would be hard to replicate elsewhere. It is also quite sustainable, given the use of readily accessible natural materials and shorter transportation distances required to obtain them.
Oh, and the live music!
Home to musicians, such as Willy Nelson and the late Stevie Ray Vaughn, Austin buzzes with live music venues, seemingly at every other downtown building. At night, rooftops, outdoor courtyards, and open storefronts fill the streets with the sweet sounds of live music.
And it’s not only the “country” music you might expect from Texas. There was such a rich diversity, including rock, blues, indie, hip-hop, reggae, and much more.
So, the next time you travel, I encourage you to take note of and embrace those characteristics that make a place unique…a place that can only be “there”.
And perhaps, upon your return home, it will help you to appreciate and embrace the uniqueness of your “homeplace” with fresh eyes.