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Will an Art Wall Determine the Future of Downtown's Seaholm Redevelopment?

A rendering of the Seaholm substation wall, at Second Street and West Avenue.
Image courtesy NADAAA, City of Austin
A rendering of the Seaholm substation wall, at Second Street and West Avenue.

When is a wall more than a wall?

A presentation on an outdoor wall this morning turned into a broader discussion of the emerging Seaholm District downtown this morning.

Boston-based design firm NADAAAdelivered a briefing to the Austin City Council this morning regarding their proposals for a wall near the Seaholm Power Plant – the iconic, Art Deco-style building along west Cesar Chavez slated for redevelopment.  The wall, an Art in Public Places project, is meant to obscure electrical devices at an electrical substation in the heart of the Seaholm district.

NADAAA unveiled schematics for the wall, but also pointed noted the development of the surrounding area: with the substation sitting in the midst of the Seaholm area, its design has the potential to inform the entire redevelopment.

The wall itself was posited as a piece of interactive art itself. An NADAAA presenter, describing the spacing in the wall, offered it would have a “Moiré effect”-style optical illusion for people biking by.

The presentation was an update to a previous briefing the team delivered back in October. Since then, the city has called for improvements to nighttime lighting, and pedestrian engagement.

When the art wall proposal first came to City Council, member Chris Riley caused something of a stir by moving the project be awarded to NADAAA instead of a staff-recommended firm. Riley noted the importance of the wall in determining the character of the nascent district – a property the design team certainly dwelt upon today.

Council unanimously voted to proceed with the firm’s design development services. You can view the presentation from NADAAA online.

Wells has been a part of KUT News since 2012, when he was hired as the station's first online reporter. He's currently the social media host and producer for Texas Standard, KUT's flagship news program. In between those gigs, he served as online editor for KUT, covering news in Austin, Central Texas and beyond.
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