Texas Architects Announces 2012 Keynote Speakers

One is an activist and innovator who helped create the High Line — a public park built atop an abandoned, elevated rail line in New York; the other is the award-winning host and radio producer of 99% Invisible. Attend the convention to hear the unique perspectives of Robert Hammond and Roman Mars.

The High Line, a new public park atop an elevated freight rail structure on Manhattan’s west side, is among the most innovative urban reclamation projects in memory. Robert Hammond will share the story of how two young citizens with no prior experience in planning and development collaborated with their neighbors, elected officials, artists, local business owners, and leaders of burgeoning movements in horticulture and landscape architecture to create a park celebrated worldwide as a model for creatively designed, socially vibrant, and ecologically sound public space.

Hammond is co-founder and co-executive director of Friends of the High Line, the non-profit conservancy that manages the High Line. He co-founded the conservancy with Joshua David in 1999, and together they worked with the City of New York to save the High Line from demolition. Friends of the High Line has raised over $170 million in public and private funding and manages the park in partnership with New York City’s Department of Parks & Recreation.

Before the High Line, Hammond helped start several businesses and consulted with non-profit organizations. In 2010, he was awarded a Rome Prize from the American Academy in Rome, as well as the Rockefeller Foundation’s Jane Jacobs Medal for New Ideas and Activism. He is a self-taught artist and served as an ex-officio member of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Board of Trustees. Hammond graduated from Princeton University in 1993.

Roman Mars is host and producer of 99% Invisible, a radio show about design and architecture. With nearly two million downloads, the 99% Invisible podcast recently reached number two in the iTunes rankings for all podcasts, as well as number one in both the Arts and the Design categories. Mars’ work has been heard on Radiolab, Morning Edition, The Story, Weekend America, and Re:sound. He is also the host, producer, and program director of Public Radio Remix from PRX, a 24-hour, experimental public radio story stream broadcast on XM 123 and public radio stations across the country.

“Awareness of design is at an all-time high,” says Mars. “People are now encouraged to hold strong opinions about the font on a movie poster, or the feel of a smart phone, or the intuitiveness of an email program. Certain people even broadcast these opinions to define themselves to the outside world. This can clearly go too far, but tapping into this awareness of the built world is something that all designers and architects can use to convey the importance of what it is they do and the problems they are tasked to solve.”

He continues, “Whereas consumers are invited to have opinions about the products of graphic and industrial design, discussions about architecture often rely heavily on unnecessary jargon that distances the average person from the art form where they literally live and breathe. It doesn’t have to be so. I don’t think the answer lies in educating the public about history and theory. I think it’s up to the design professions to learn how to inspire mindfulness and wonder in all the things that surround us.”

Join the Texas Society of Architects at the Austin Convention Center on October 19 to hear Roman Mars (2:15 to 3:30 pm) and Robert Hammond (9:30 to 10:45 am) give keynote addresses. Registration opens July 11.