SAH Austin Seminar

2014 Annual Conference in Austin

Austin and the Place of Historic Architecture in Rapidly Growing Cities

SAH Austin Seminar

  • Saturday, April 12, 2014
  • 8:30 a.m.–12:45 p.m. (seminar schedule)
  • Hyatt Regency Austin, 208 Barton Springs, Austin
  • Room: Foothills 1, 17th floor 
  • Cost: Free for registered conference attendees; $10 general public and students
  • Online registration is closed; please pay at the door. Thank you.
This seminar is open to 2014 Annual Conference attendees as well as members of the general public.

Led by Michael Holleran, director of the Graduate Program in Historic Preservation at the University of Texas at Austin, the SAH Austin Seminar will present for discussion and debate the challenges and opportunities facing a region experiencing exponential growth.

Austin and other cities within the Texas Triangle, the megaregion demarcated by Dallas–Fort Worth, Houston, and San Antonio, are growing rapidly in terms of population, urban area, and redevelopment. Rural communities are undergoing urbanization, high-rise buildings are overshadowing low-rise downtowns, and residential neighborhoods are experiencing an increase in population density. 

What is the role of historic architecture in booming cities such as Austin? How do we preserve and interpret individual structures and districts within a historically low-rise city that is undergoing economic, demographic, and physical transformation? 

The SAH Austin Seminar will investigate these questions with a keynote address and two panels of discussion by regional experts who represent diverse perspectives, including the academy, activism, planning, real estate development, and preservation. One panel will examine how changing social and environmental contexts require architectural historians and historic preservationists to adopt new approaches, while the other will look at the fate of old buildings in cities that are newly big.

Seminar Schedule

8:30 a.m.         Check-In

8:45 a.m.         Welcome and Introduction

9:00 a.m.         Keynote Address by Stephen Fox

9:30 a.m.         Panel Discussion One

10:30 a.m.       Break

10:45 a.m.       Panel Discussion Two

12:00 p.m.       Q&A

12:45 p.m.       Closure of Seminar 

  Map of Texas Triangle Megaregion 

SAH Austin Seminar Chair: Michael Holleran
Director, Graduate Program in Historic Preservation, University of Texas at Austin

Keynote Address

Stephen Fox

Stephen Fox
Architectural Historian
Fellow of the Anchorage Foundation of Texas, Houston

"Architectural History, Public Discourse, and Political Action in Texas: Looking Backward and Forward"

Emerging as an instrument of public discourse in Texan cities during the twentieth century, architectural history challenged development projects that involved the destruction of cultural landscapes whose value had not been acknowledged by their proponents. Architectural historians and practitioners used architectural history to formulate counter narratives and promote new consensuses on cultural identity that assimilated threatened landscapes into an expanded view of community cultural identity.

Works by Willard B. Robinson, Paul F. Goeldner, June-Marie F. and Lloyd C. Engelbrecht, Peter C. Papademetriou, David Dillon, and Ellen Beasley in the 1970s and 1980s, and by Mary Carolyn Hollers George, Gerald Moorhead, Mario L Sánchez, Lewis F. Fisher, Richard Ingersoll, Dana Cuff, Diane Ghirardo, Joel Warren Barna, Kenneth Hafertepe, Lonn Taylor, Gwendolyn Wright, Michelangelo Sabatino, and Lars Lerup since 1990 move from documentation to advocacy to speculation as their authors implicitly, or explicitly, theorize cultural identity embodied in works of architecture and landscape.

Architectural history engaged the public sphere in twentieth-century Texas not as a disinterested academic discourse but as what Manfredo Tafuri called "operative criticism," that is, history with an agenda.

As we proceed in the twenty-first century, we benefit from those architectural historians and practitioners who first challenged the status quo and shaped the field of architecture and landscape that we know call architectural history.

Panel One: Changes in Social and Environmental Contexts

This panel will examine how changing contexts require new approaches from architectural historians and preservationists. How does migration and cultural exchange shape the architecture and landscapes of the U.S. and Mexico? How is the availability of affordable housing affected by exponential growth, and by our perceptions of housing history? How do we frame our understanding of the natural and social resources of a rapidly growing city, in order not to consume them unsustainably? 

Respondent: Frederick Steiner, Dean of the School of Architecture and Henry M. Rockwell Chair in Architecture at University of Texas at Austin

Barbara Brown Wilson
Barbara Brown Wilson
Center for Sustainable Development
University of Texas at Austin 

Sarah Lopez
Sarah Lopez
Architectural Historian
University of Texas at Austin

Fred McGhee
Fred L. McGhee
Historical Anthropologist
Fred L. McGhee & Associates

Panel Two: Challenges of Scale, Density, and the Ordinary 

Ordinary lesser-known structures sometimes carry local cultural meaning just as well as high-design landmarks, and may be even more threatened by redevelopment in Austin and other booming cities. Adaptive use is one approach to preserving the architecture of the past while meeting cultural and community needs. This discussion will explore the fate of historic buildings in rapidly growing cities and the challenges and opportunities presented where preservation meets development. 

Respondent: Stephen Fox, Architectural historian and fellow of the Anchorage Foundation of Texas, Houston

Jennifer Minner
Jennifer Minner
Assistant Professor
Department of City and
Regional Planning
Cornell University 

David Preziosi
David Preziosi
Executive Director
Preservation Dallas

John Rosato
John Rosato
Southwest Strategies Group