To truly love Austin means to give to its culture, and not simply take from its advantages. It means not blindly supporting expansion, especially given its mindlessness at times—for more opportunity, more money, and growth for growth’s sake—but rather, the thoughtful and conscientious expansion that would benefit all Austinites regardless of their economic distinction. This purer love, of humanity, of art and its relationship to urbanization and a city’s occupants, and of course architecture, is at the heart of University of Texas Professor in Architecture David Heymann’s short-story collection, My Beautiful City Austin (John M Hardy Publishing Company, 2014).
In the book, which consists of seven sometimes absurd, yet painfully real short stories told by a protagonist/architect named David, the narrator recounts different experiences with various dimwitted clients around Austin. The thought process and decisions of his clients always baffle him, perhaps most notably an elderly couple whose main goal is to build a home that will entice their grandchildren to visit, so they essentially try to model it after a theme park. For anyone who knows Austin, the landmarks will hit home and these stories will resonate with that “I’ve always thought this, but didn’t know how to put it into words” feeling. You will read it with a smile on your face, shaking your head in equal parts befuddlement and identification.
As acerbic as this book is, Heymann clearly loves this city that he calls home. The way he describes landmarks such as Barton Springs and Lake Travis, and this city’s quirky residents, it’s clear that he has a sincere admiration for Austin, and seeks only a gentler, more sustainable future. This book is a charming and funny warning sign that Austin’s future is up for grabs, and it’s up to us to push it in the right direction.
By: David Plick