Thursday, 26 November 2015

Everything is bigger in America, and bigger again in Texas

Texas may have only lasted as its own country for a mere ten years, however a journey through the territory hints towards a state of mind in which the Republic of Texas lives on. Texas represents some of the worst urban planning measures in the world, yet simultaneously, it also represents some of the best. Seemingly endless sprawl in Texas is only further supported by freeways which could be mistaken for roller coasters, sometimes soaring four levels into the sky. These are images which provide the most obvious impression that planning in Texas is anarchy.

Conversely, Steve and Rebecca explained how Austin maintains a more alternative nature in comparison to other Texan cities, largely due to the migration of many ‘hippy’ rock stars to the area during the 1970s. The more liberal ideals of this movement has certainly influenced the way Austin residents interact with the city, and to some extent, the built form of Austin as well. This is especially evident in a strong live-music scene and the presence of associated venues in some surprising places – e.g. former warehouses and residential streets.  Austin has been successful in delivering a range of sustainable developments in inner cities districts, especially due to the city’s ability to operate Tax Increment Financing initiatives – e.g. Midtown and Mueller. However, for the most part, the progressive residents on the left, continue to lose out against the motor-maniacs on the right. Additionally, a faculty member at the University of Texas at Austin explained to us that Texas has no capacity to plan at a larger metropolitan or regional level. In Texas, we saw some great examples of urban planning and Texans were quick to call themselves innovative, especially regarding their role in the tech industry. Although Texas is eager to integrate its many cities via the automobile, it lacks broader integration at a governance level.

Rainey Street Historic District: A residential, inner city neighbourhood reimagined with shipping container bars.

Harry Bell