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.
_______________________

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.

Austin shines brightly at Trail of Lights and Zilker Tree


Five years have slipped by since we’ve walked Austin’s beloved holiday light display at Zilker Park called Trail of Lights. When our kids were little we went every year, and our last visit was in 2012, but this year it was just me and my husband keeping the family tradition alive. And it is still magical, silly dinosaur displays and all, mainly because of the park’s majestic trees, themselves transformed into brightly lit, many-armed holiday creatures.


Colored green, pink, orange, and blue, Zilker’s pecans and oaks glow festively along the trail.


Photo-op stages are set up here and there, like this one resembling Austin’s Pennybacker Bridge on Loop 360, with a view of Zilker Christmas Tree beyond.


A Ferris wheel and carousel have been added since we last attended, adding a carnival festivity.


The colorful trees seem to embrace the rides too.


Who doesn’t love an old-fashioned carousel?


Well, maybe that one boy. (But I bet he secretly loves it too.)


It was cold, and we didn’t ride. But I enjoyed the colorful scene.


It would be hard to pick a favorite color tree.


Maybe red?


A glowing blue tree messed with my cell phone camera, but I kind of like the effect.


A serape-wearing, jackalope-riding cowboy delivering toys makes a Texas-style version of Santa Claus.


From the Trail of Lights we walked across Barton Springs Road to see the Zilker Holiday Tree, an Austin tradition for 51 years.


Standing 155 feet tall and anchored by a Moon Tower, this tree of light rises high above the trees in Zilker Park and can be seen glowing from afar against the backdrop of downtown Austin.


But just looking is no good. You have to stand under the lights and spin. When you’re dizzy and laughing, you’ll know you’ve done it right.

1, 2, 3 — SPIN!

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.

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.

Follow