New Central Library – “Austin’s front porch” – boasts rooftop garden and more


Austin is head over heels in love with our new Central Library, a marvelous civic structure by Lake|Flato that is much more than a library. It’s a community space for all of Austin in a prime location on Cesar Chavez Street near Austin City Hall and across from Lady Bird Lake.

Since its grand opening in October, I’ve visited several times, and I’m excited to be on the team bringing Garden Bloggers Fling attendees here for our welcome reception in a private event space next May.


The library is one of the first places in Austin that our bloggers will visit, and the beautiful native-plant landscaping at street level will make a strong first impression.


This public patio along Cesar Chavez, screened from the busy street by massive block-style benches and native trees, grasses, and perennials, is adjacent to our event space — nice!


Doubles as a bouldering structure?


Inside — shazam! Floating steel stairs and wooden walkways dizzyingly change direction, Hogwarts-style, as they rise through an airy atrium.


Everywhere, an eye-candy assortment of colorful, modern chairs beckons visitors to get comfy and read.


Booths are designed for working with others, with a downtown view to boot.


Light and bright


A red “lip” chair, and beyond the red porthole window is a children’s area.


Continuing the red theme, a gigantic cuckoo clock silhouette hangs in the atrium, but instead of cuckoos the birds represent Austin’s oft-unloved grackles.


It’s accompanied by a video installation of an oversized grackle silhouette in a window-like frame. The bird’s head occasionally flicks around in a lifelike way, creating a moment of surprise.


Climbing up all 6 floors, you pass airy book stacks, meeting rooms, and reading spaces…


…like this open reading room furnished with inviting chairs and tables.


The room’s windows overlook one of the coolest spaces in the library, at least for garden lovers — the rooftop native-plant garden. Look — there’s an oak tree up there!


Yuccas, flowering perennials, and grasses flow across a mounded central planting bed, with seating all around and an L-shaped arbor for shade.


One side looks south over Lady Bird Lake and east toward downtown, offering a beautiful view.


Lady Bird Lake, with the Long Center and Palmer Events Center on the other side


Relaxing and reading in the garden


I love this space.


From the east side of the rooftop garden, you get a great view of the new 2nd Street Bridge, aka the Butterfly Bridge, which spans Shoal Creek.


Circling back around to the atrium stairs, you get another glimpse of the rooftop garden. And more lip chairs!


Another incredible space, and one that epitomizes Lake|Flato’s style, is the reading porch, just past the children’s area. An open-air space that invites readers to get out of the air conditioning and enjoy Austin’s weather, the screened porch has an enticing mix of seating, fascinating geodesic dome lights, and child-friendly valve wheels on the walls that you can spin, plus Big Ass Fans (real name) to keep readers comfortable.


Those colorful sofas. Those woven ottomans. Those lights!


This little cutie found some pinwheels.


The exterior is wonderful too, and includes a steel shade panel with laser-cut quotes about reading and books. Below that, facing pedestrian-friendly 2nd Street, is where a soon-to-open cafe, Cookbook, will offer cookbook-inspired dishes and drinks (including alcoholic beverages).


The landscaping was still being planted in late November, but the bones are in place. Update: Lake|Flato tells me that the landscape architecture firm behind the design is Coleman & Associates.


Limestone slabs create raised planting beds — and new buildings are sprouting up behind the new plants.


I like the naturalistic planting of native plants along the Shoal Creek ravine, with a nice view of the Butterfly Bridge beyond.


At dusk, the “wings” are washed with softly colored lights that segue from yellow to green to red.


A wide pedestrian sidewalk floats along the side of the bridge.


It’s a lovely, human-scaled bridge that echoes Austin’s arched Pennybacker Bridge on Loop 360.


Austin is lucky to have this magnificent public library in such a scenic part of downtown. I look forward to spending many pleasant hours here.

I welcome your comments; please scroll to the end of this post to leave one. If you’re reading this in a subscription email, click here to visit Digging and find the comment box at the end of each post.
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Digging Deeper: News and Upcoming Events

Calling all garden bloggers! You’re invited to register for the annual Garden Bloggers Fling tour and meetup, which will be held in Austin next May 3-6, 2018! Click this link for information about registering, and you can see our itinerary here. Space is limited, so don’t delay. The 2018 Fling will be the event’s 10th anniversary, which started in Austin in 2008.

Join the mailing list for Garden Spark Talks! Inspired by the idea of house concerts, I’m hosting a series of garden talks by inspiring designers and authors out of my home. Talks are limited-attendance events and generally sell out within just a few days, so join the Garden Spark email list for early notifications. Simply click this link and ask to be added.

All material © 2006-2017 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

Creek Show 2017 lights up Waller Creek, ends tonight


I’m into public art and especially enjoy the annual Waller Creek Conservancy-sponsored Creek Show, a 9-night run of light installations along a scruffy downtown waterway that’s being redeveloped into a chain of urban parks. This is Creek Show’s 4th year, and it ends tonight (November 18), so if you’d like to see it, go between sundown and 10 pm.

This blue-light gateway near always-popular Easy Tiger Beer Garden is Fotan Fable. Words from a modern fairy tale zigzag up and down the beams, starting down along the creek, going vertical over the bridge, and then back down.


I found it intriguing but impossible to read in the crush of people last night.


I liked Submerge better, with ripple-like rings of light blinking overhead and reflecting in the creek below.


I also liked Blind Spot, a video installation with mirrored posts along the creek, but it was too crowded to get a photo. Moving on, then, into one of the Waller Creek tunnels…


…this is Ephemeral Suspension, stalactite-like dripping lights suspended from the tunnel ceiling. It was a pretty effect but mostly resembled a Christmas light display.


Night Garden was the most popular installation, based on the number of selfies being taken here. Hillocks of 80,000 fluorescent pink survey flags massed together, with audio of crickets chirping, makes for a surreal landscape. The artists call it “an inhabitable reverie.”


But my fave was No Lifeguard on Duty, a poolside-evoking set-up along the creek with depth-marking paint, pool stairs, fluorescent-painted potted plants and deck chairs, pool floats in the water, and a cursive neon sign (which I’d love to have in my home or garden) that reads “No Lifeguard on Duty.”


The irony is that Waller Creek is particularly unsuitable for swimming, being shallow, trash-strewn, rubbly, and in every other way not like Barton Springs, our city’s beloved spring-fed swimming hole near downtown.


No diving! The depth is marked as 7 inches, appearing alongside Creek Show’s mascot monster-fish.


In addition to the art installations, the people-watching is quite good, so go if you can. And stop by the Creek Show Lounge at 700 E. Sixth Street to see the eventual parks in virtual reality and perhaps join Waller Creek Conservancy to help make those parks a reality.

I welcome your comments; please scroll to the end of this post to leave one. If you’re reading this in a subscription email, click here to visit Digging and find the comment box at the end of each post.
_______________________

Digging Deeper: News and Upcoming Events

Calling all garden bloggers! You’re invited to register for the annual Garden Bloggers Fling tour and meetup, which will be held in Austin next May 3-6, 2018! Click this link for information about registering, and you can see our itinerary here. Space is limited, so don’t delay. The 2018 Fling will be the event’s 10th anniversary, which started in Austin in 2008.

Join the mailing list for Garden Spark Talks! Inspired by the idea of house concerts, I’m hosting a series of garden talks by inspiring designers and authors out of my home. Talks are limited-attendance events and generally sell out within just a few days, so join the Garden Spark email list for early notifications. Simply click this link and ask to be added.

All material © 2006-2017 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

Sunny day at Portland Japanese Garden


A trip to Portland, Oregon, wouldn’t be complete without seeing the city’s luminous Japanese garden. During our mid-August visit, we had to try twice because the first time, on a Sunday afternoon, we simply could not find any parking, even after circling for a half hour. Even on Monday at midday we waited in line 25 minutes at the admission booth to get in. This is a popular garden, y’all. (And at $14.95 a ticket, it isn’t cheap either, plus no reciprocal admissions.)


But for all that, Portland Japanese Garden is lovely indeed and well worth a visit.


Once you get past the entry hassles, you can relax and enjoy the serenity of the ponds, moss and gravel gardens, and light-filtering leaves overhead.


A zigzagging wooden bridge across a koi pond is a popular spot for visitors.


Colorful koi make their own fishy paths alongside the bridge.


We always make a game of trying to pick our favorite color patterns.


Spanning a larger pond, a gently arching bridge offers pretty views — and becomes one itself.


Nearby, a roofed gate leads from the sunny pond area into…


…a shady tea garden, framed here by a window on the tea house terrace.


The Natural Garden may be my favorite area. It’s tranquil and shady, and narrow winding paths lead you past ponds…


…and down a magical stone stair…


…through a glowing mossy hillside.


At the base of the stair, a diamond-in-a-square stone basin gracefully accepts a trickle from a bamboo fountain.


I love this.


Backlit maple leaves make a green canopy.


A board-and-slat fence opens under a rectangular arbor to invite you along a streamside stone path.


At the garden’s lowest point, a sheltered bench beckons…


…and frames a view.


A stone lantern leads the eye toward another stair.


Time to climb back up.


Midway up the hill, a karesansui garden appears, with stones set in rippled gravel that represent the Buddha (the tall stone) and a starving tigress and her cubs, for whom he sacrifices himself in an act of compassion.


Stone pagoda and luminescent trees


Another gravel garden, called the Flat Garden, extends just off the veranda of a large pavilion. Gravel waves ripple against mossy islands while carefully clipped trees and shrubs across the “sea” represent a distant shoreline.


The glare from all that white gravel reminds me that I’d love to see Portland Japanese Garden, and especially this space, in the gentler light of a different season. I’ve visited three times, always on a bright summer’s day. I long to visit on a misty autumn morning — check out Scott’s extraordinary photos from October 2013. Travel goals! And, heck, photography goals.


Inside the pavilion, an exhibit of Kabuki costumes was on view. Kabuki is classical Japanese dance-drama with all-male performers who wear elaborate makeup and costumes.


The exhibit, which ended earlier this month, “explore[d] the flamboyant and fanciful traditional performing art of Kabuki through an exhibition of seven authentic costumes on loan from Japan.”


Ironically, although Kabuki was created and popularized by a woman in the early 1600s, the shogunate later banned women from the stage to “protect the public morality,” leaving the stage to men — a tradition that continues to this day.


I wish I’d taken pictures of the new Cultural Village buildings near the entry, which opened this spring. But for some reason I didn’t, even though we admired the acclaimed contemporary architecture. I did take a couple of photos of the bonsai displayed outside, including this Ezo spruce…


…and Japanese maple. Lovely!


As is the whole garden. One day, though, I’m going to have to see this garden in the fall.

Up next: Sunset over the Pacific at Cannon Beach, my final post from our CA/OR road trip. For a look back at Portland’s boutique nursery Thicket, click here.

I welcome your comments; please scroll to the end of this post to leave one. If you’re reading this in a subscription email, click here to visit Digging and find the comment box at the end of each post.
_______________________

Digging Deeper: News and Upcoming Events

Get ready for fall garden tours in Texas! The Garden Conservancy is sponsoring Open Days tours in Fort Worth on Oct. 8th, San Antonio on Oct. 14th, and Austin on Nov. 4th.

Get on the mailing list for Garden Spark Talks. Inspired by the idea of house concerts, I’m hosting a series of garden talks by talented designers and authors out of my home. Talks are limited-attendance events and generally sell out within just a few days, so join the Garden Spark email list for early notifications. Simply click this link and ask to be added.

All material © 2006-2017 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

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