Goldsmith Hall

Urban designer Jana McCann has worked on projects around Austin such as Mueller Park, downtown Austin and the Waller Creek District.

Photo Credit: Marshall Tidrick | Daily Texan Staff

Urban designer Jana McCann spoke at a forum in Goldsmith Hall on Friday about the development projects she has worked on in the Austin area.

At the event hosted by the School of Architecture, McCann, CEO of McCann Adams Studio, said her work has predominantly been in Austin, but she has completed projects in the United Kingdom and France as well. 

According to McCann, there is a huge difference between Europe and the U.S. when it comes to participation attitude on urban development. She said her time working on the Paris Metro service helped her realize these differences. 

“During the project, there was no public engagement,” McCann said. “Plans were figured out by engineers, and there was a high trust of government on this project. The only public interaction was informing citizens on the project’s progress.” 

She said, when she was there for the opening of the station, it was strange to see citizens so proud of something in which they had no involvement. 

Since being back in Austin, McCann has been involved with planning the Mueller subdivision. The city decided to develop the former site of the Robert Mueller Municipal Airport in 2004 by adding a market center, park and bike trails. 

In 2013, McCann helped design the newest addition to Mueller, a gathering and hangout spot called Paggi Square. The square includes an attraction called pétanque, which is a lawn bowling game created in France. Another development McCann said she was proud of was the Waller Creek project. The first part of the project dealt with addressing the major flood problems that come to downtown and other areas in the district.

Thomas Rowlinson, community and regional planning graduate student, said he appreciated McCann pointing out the difference in cultures.

“I really liked that she showed the European practice versus the way practitioners do it now in the U.S.,” Rowlinson said.  “So much of public participation in other parts of the world is unheard of. Here in America, participation, in ways, feels like a town hall meeting.”

City Forum hosted the event, along with architectural graduate students within the community and regional planning program, to educate students and faculty on public engagement within urban development. 

Junior Communications and Sciences disorder major, Samantha Sheppard, admires the junk mail sculptures that are displayed on tables in the School of Architecture.

Photo Credit: Shila Farahani | Daily Texan Staff

More than 1,000 sculptures made out of credit cards, brochures, tops of Bluebell Ice Cream containers and paper towel rolls are displayed on a table in Goldsmith Hall.

Architecture professor emeritus Richard Swallow began cutting, folding and creating sculptures in January 2011 as a way to occupy his time after the loss of his wife. Swallow said he spent around a year completing the sculpture project, working on about three sculptures per day. He said people encouraged him to put the sculptures on display, and the exhibit launched in the School of Architecture gallery April 4. It will remain there until April 28.

“My wife passed away in December 2010, and I started to cut up credit cards that we had gathered for about 50 years,” he said. “My fingers started folding them and making little sculptural pieces, and I just kept doing this.”

Swallow didn’t stop at credit cards. He proceeded to conform his daily junk mail into elaborate designs to add to the collection.

“It kept me occupied for a year, and some of my colleagues said, you ought to exhibit those,” he said.

The project expanded until Swallow had created more than 1,000 unique sculptures, which he said are all distinct and individually designed.

“My goal was to make every single one of them different, and I think I accomplished that,” he said. “Each one of them has some thought behind it, but they weren’t preconceived. It was more spontaneous.”

The gallery is split between Swallow’s work and the drawings of a former colleague in the School of Architecture, John Blood.

“Richard was my instructor a long time ago,” Blood said. “The sculptures [he did] are pretty fabulous. The gallery is a nice combination of work that we’ve done.”

For Swallow, an interest in architecture molded at an early age, and being a professor wasn’t a field he thought he’d enter, he said.

“I wanted just the opposite. I wanted to be an architect, and I dreamed of designing everything as a teenager,” he said. “It started with automobiles and grew into buildings.”

Upon graduating from Rhode Island School of Design, he went on to graduate school at MIT but said the New England area didn’t offer much opportunity for building.

“I was looking for greener pastures,” he said, “and Austin turned out to be perfect.”

School of Architecture lecturer Allison Gaskins said Swallow’s unique approach to the project reflects his gifts and approach to life.

“Richard is of a generation of architects who know how to make things,” she said. “He does a lot of that through his hands, through drawing or sculpting, and for me the exhibit is a clear depiction of how he is and how he thinks.”

Swallow said the project served as a way to release his emotions during a tough time in his life.

“It turned into a way to fill up my time, and I’ve referred to it as my relief from grief project,” he said. “I don’t know where it’s going to go now, but it was fun.”

Beside the displays Swallow crafted is a table, several bags of junk mail and a few pairs of scissors, inviting others to cultivate their own imaginations using Swallow’s unique idea.