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What urbanist UT visionary’s $5M donation could mean for Austin

Gift could enhance and continue architect and professor’s significant impact on local planning

A $5 million donation to the UT architecture school from wildly influential urbanist and Professor Emeritus Sinclair Black is meant to help transform urban design—a process Black has been practicing in Austin for decades.

The UT School of Architecture’s longest-serving faculty member to date, Black taught there for 50 years. With his innovative work at the school and his architectural firm, Black + Vernoy, Black has also had a large influence in Austin’s urban design, with projects including the Great Streets Master Plan, the Second Street District, and the Cedar Street Courtyard.

Black is also the force behind of a proposal-turned-grassroots-campaign called Reconnect Austin, a plan to cap the part IH-35 that runs through Downtown, moving car traffic underground and reclaiming the corridor as walkable, mixed-use public space. Black has been called a “visionary” for contributions to urban planning in a rapidly growing Austin, and he continues to influence both his field and the city.

When he retired in 2017, Black donated $1 million to the school establish the Sinclair Black Endowed Chair in the Architecture of Urbanism. He recently committed an additional $4 million to “further transform teaching in urban design and to advance the School of Architecture’s partnerships with the City of Austin and other community-serving organizations,” according to a statement from the school.

Funds will be used to support faculty with distinction and expertise in urban design, pay for visiting critics and lecturers, recruit graduate students, sponsor outreach events and activities, and support students with an interest in the field, according to the statement.

“This gift will enable us to position the school as a leader in urban design and will further strengthen our connections with and contributions to the development of Austin,” said Dean Michelle Addington. “The transformative possibilities of Sinclair’s generosity will provide unprecedented opportunities for the school to define a more integrative and collaborative approach to urban design that should serve as a model for others to emulate.”

The school and city recently partnered to produce the 2018 East Regional Session of the Mayors’ Institute on City Design and a study on the physical and economic implications of different scenarios for the Austin Convention Center expansion.