Developing Austin for the Future

Triangle Blueprint

(Image Credit:

This is most likely my last post of the semester, and I thought I spend it writing about development trends in Austin. Anyone who has lived here for more than a few years should be keenly aware of just how quickly this city is changing. Even my landlord is complaining. Well, he’s not technically complaining, but as soon as he has a vacancy to fill, it’s taken, and I think part of the game has been lost for him. But I digress. One of the things about expansive growth in Austin is that it tends to not coincide with urban planning, as I noted in a previous post about the Texas Capital Building. This lack of planning can be frustrating to locals because, well…it’s not Paris. But there’s charm in the city’s architectural idiosyncrasies, and these things do give the city a sense of character. Austin’s a lot like the grimy sci-fi of the original Terminator film, especially when compared to the forensic cleanliness of Star Trek’s sci-fi. So, anyway, there’s a weird thing happening throughout Austin’s current growth spurt, in which planned communities are popping up in the middle of old non-planned neighborhoods. Two questions come to mind: Does it really matter that these communities are planned given the irregular historical zoning beauty that surrounds them? And, secondly, what’s the appeal of these antiseptic neighborhoods, when Austinites could have…well, Austin?

Consuming Images of Black Friday

 A line of people wait outside of Best Buy for the store to open 

Image Credit: Huffington Post


This past Thanksgiving/Black Friday combo gave me some time to reflect on (read: be befuddled about) some of the paradoxical impulses these distinctly American holidays encourage. On Thanksgiving day, as I finished cobbling together the world's simplest casserole to take over to a friend's, my partner was snoring the next room, trying to catch a few proverbial Z's before heading in to work for a midnight shift. I muttered my frustrations into gravy that stubbornly insisted on being lumpy, desperately trying to mobilize holiday vibes and feel thankful about the jobs my partner and I are lucky to have. No dice, though. The fact that someone I love had to miss out on dinner with friends in order to be awake for a middle-of-the-night work day made me all sorts of spiteful. Increasingly, more and more people are in this terrible boat.

Staring at Shoppers Staring

Two elderly people shopping

Image Credit: Brian Ulrich, Elkhart, IL 2003

Over the holidays I stumbled across Copia, a series of photos by Brian Ulrich. Throughout them he resists the packaged narratives we have for our consumerism. In both critique and support it seems that the act of shopping is pushed toward two extremes. There’s shopping as glitzy exuberance and shopping as a soul crushing slog. In Copia we can see a different perspective. He writes that the project “began as a response to the heated environment of 2001.” In the aftershock of September 11th any possible community driven healing process “was quickly outpaced as the government encouraged citizens to take to the malls to boost the U.S. economy thereby equating consumerism with patriotism.” His photographs show, more than anything else, a deadening sense of resignation. The people in his photos are grimfaced; they are doing their duty as they move through the various middleclass shopscapes. In these photographs we see shoppers as the products experience them.

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