- TBG Partners (2016)
Running east-to-west from the First Street Bridge to a railway viaduct, Auditorium Shores is divided into three program areas: a sloping amphitheater and landscaped lawn divided by a tree-lined walkway and a fenced-in dog park.
Set against the backdrop of the ever-changing downtown skyline, Auditorium Shores exemplifies the type of urban green space that consistently keeps Austin atop rankings of the country’s most livable cities. The park provides dedicated areas for a multitude of activities: joggers and bikers zip by on the trail, dogs frolic in a leash-free field, and music aficionados pay homage to one of the city’s greats—all within a 0.4-mile-long stretch of parkland on the southern shores of Lady Bird Lake.
The development of this park began following the completion of the Longhorn Dam, which created a constantly level stretch of water (modestly dubbed Town Lake before being christened Lady Bird Lake in 2007). Prior to the dam’s construction, the banks of the Colorado River that ran through downtown were eroded and left barren from frequent flash floods. Once the river was tamed, the Town Lake Beautification Committee quickly laid out a vision to enhance the lakeshore with a trail and park so that residents and visitors could enjoy nature in an urban setting for years to come.
In 1969, the construction of the gazebo at the northeast corner of the park kicked off a decade of improvements at Auditorium Shores. The sloping east lawn was developed into a series of wide terraces to be used for outdoor gatherings and performances, while trees and shrubs were planted in the park and along the waterfront. A trailhead was built near the gazebo, with rest points added along the trail itself.
During the 1980s, Auditorium Shores became the site of Austin Aqua Festival, an annual music celebration that was a forerunner of events like Austin City Limits and South by Southwest. The park’s affiliation with live music events, which continues to this day, made it a natural choice for a statue commemorating Austin music legend Stevie Ray Vaughan following his tragic death in 1990. Located prominently at the end of a tree-lined path, Vaughan’s statue was unveiled in 1993 and has become a popular pilgrimage site. Intentionally set atop a low podium to emphasize the guitarist’s approachable personality, the bronze figure of Vaughan sports a wide-brimmed hat, trademark poncho, and contemplative gaze, while his guitar-wielding shadow alludes to his electric stage persona.
In 2014, the east lawn was renamed in honor of Vic Mathias, the former CEO of the Austin Chamber of Commerce who advocated for Austin’s parks and natural spaces, founded the Austin Aqua Fest, and recruited many of the high-tech businesses that, for better or worse, have fueled the city’s exponential growth into the twenty-first century. Most recently, the park has undergone a renovation that included improvement to the trail, additional plantings, and the creation of a small plaza just south of the gazebo. – Bud Franck
Atelier Wong Photography