A City Architect for Austin

A 28 July 2010 job posting at City of Austin Public Works for "City Architect" unintentionally launched an avalanche of emails within our Committee pondering what a "City Architect" should be:  What would the impact be of a staff architect point person for design issues?

Within the context of the Comprehensive Planning process, it would appear that changes are coming which, if adopted, will prompt revisions of a whole host of ordinances and design standards.  What would it be like to have a consistent, central architectural voice within City staff that could identify certain policy items that need more careful consideration? 

There are, in fact, a number of architects on staff at the City of Austin.  Not only are they present in Public Works, they are also on staff within Urban Design and Planning and in Austin Energy.  The role of architects within Public Works was discussed by the AIA and the City's Design Commission way back in 1997, and briefly appeared in the Austin Chronicle (attached).

The relevant point for our commitee is whether the City has an architect empowered to speak with authority on design issues that would arise from the adoption of the Comprehensive Plan, and if creating or refining such a role would be advisable.

After a thoughtful and well-attended meeting of our AIA Austin Urban Design and Government Affairs Committee, we have decided to take a look at what some other Cities are up to in this area.  Below we will attempt to gather some relevant comments and links.

Our research volunteers: Larry (looking into Fort Worth), Steve (Denver and Savannah), Emily (San Francisco), Paul (Seattle, Munich), and Richard (Portland)