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R e v i e w B o o k

Central Texas by the Book CNU’s Emergent Urbanism explores the region’s past, present, and potential for a well-managed future The complex development issues affecting Austin and the surrounding region are best understood when viewed as interwoven layers of culture and history suffused with equal amounts of enlightened leadership, misguided policies, good fortune, and poor planning. The challenges facing the burgeoning populace of Central Texas are essentially the same as those in most urban regions across the American Southwest—sprawl, environmental degradation, and traffic congestion being just a few of the common denominators. But as everyone knows by now, Austin is weird and widely appreciated for remaining so. To help explain the experience of living in Austin and Central Texas, and to grasp the region’s g rowing pains and its potential for learning f r om p a s t m i s t a k e s , there may be no better EVOLUTION IN URBAN FORM, TEXAS tool than Emergent Urbanism: Evolution in Urban Form, Texas, published under the imprimatur of the Congress for the New Urbanism. To educate out-oftowners attending CNU XVI in Austin last April, lo c a l a r c h i t e c t s a n d urban planners assembled 39 brief articles that methodically bring into focus the region’s past and present, and bestcase scen ar ios for its future. The book is the latest in a series published in conjunction with CNU’s annual conferences to spotlight that year’s regional host. With support from the CNU,



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Emergent Urbanism: Evolution in Urban Form, Texas was produced by the University of Texas at Austin’s School of Architecture and the Austin design firm of Black + Vernooy Architecture (including the firm’s newly launched subsidiary, the Placemaking Studio, that specializes in urban design and planning). The soft-bound compendium is bookended by essays written or co-written by Black + Vernooy principal Sinclair Black, FAIA, a longtime advocate for progressive urban planning in the region. At this year’s conference, Black, who continues to be deeply involved in the civic, cultural, and community affairs of Austin, received the CNU’s highest award, the Athena Medal, that recognizes the legacy of pioneers who laid the groundwork for New Urbanism. Other notable authors include UT Austin School of Architecture Dean Frederick Steiner, Austin Mayor Will Wynn, CNU co-founder Stefanos Polyzoides, and co-directors of the Austin-based Center for Maximum Potential Building Systems, Gail Vittori and Pliny Fisk, FAIA. Divided into five chapters, the book ranges across the information spectrum to paint a multi-dimensional portrait of a region that has undergone a paradigm shift over the last 50 years. Among the highlights are a history of Austin’s music scene, a lesson on the geography of Central Texas, and a vision for the Colorado River Corridor. As the region’s epicenter, Austin receives the most attention, and readers familiar with the city are likely to feel at turns nostalgic for the laid-back place it used to be and anxious about its ongoing mutation into a “worldclass” city. Fortunately, no ink is wasted in rehashing the emotional turmoil that fuels every old-time Austinite’s barrage of complaints. Instead, the writers and editors stick to the fascinating facts. And to put Central Texas into a statewide perspective, Emergent Urbanism reaches beyond the region to illuminate urban development issues taking form in other major cities. Individual articles spotlight ongoing urban design projects in San Antonio, Dallas, Fort Worth, and HousContinued on page 75

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