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Public Works and Extravagant Architecture‏

Al Billings

We bustle through downtown Austin and never look down at the sidewalks. Manhole covers and lamp posts that reflect an Art Moderne sensibility, rusted grates designed by someone who wanted us to appreciate their high quality, a cooling fan attached to the back of the south side of the Austin History Center, Modernist stairways and hand rails.

Translucent high-rises jut towards the sky, enthralled with their own majestic presence, finally a handful of beautiful skyscrapers that ignore the dowdy Victorian facades of 6th Street and compel us to look forward into the future.

Waller Creek, clogged with paper and crumbled foam cups, the ghostly blue graffiti beaming through someone’s failed attempts at removing it. A fantastic bridge that might have been built by the WPA left shamefully coated with pigeon shit and algae.

At the intersection of Red River and 10th Street, two drunken bums, rumpled, destitute, claim their tiny portion of the city’s infrastructure by hollering across the street at each other, one of them directly into my left ear, so involved with their verbal exchanges that they didn’t realize I was standing next to one of them. If I had been standing atop one of those high-rises, I would have been able to clearly distinguish their conversation, conflating the soaring space between my lofty view and the two drunks, Modernity reduced to two beer cans and a piece of string.

February 1, 2012 10:48 pm

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