UT grad designs sunset crosswalk outside Co-op

Meara Isenberg

Students returning to campus after winter break may be surprised to see a colorful new addition to the Drag.

With a few pails of thermoplastic paint, UT design alumnus Joel Weber and the city of Austin repainted the crosswalk in front of the Co-op colors of the sunset.

“The colors are inspired by an Austin sunset,” designer Weber said. “There are so many meanings in this piece, but at the very least, it’s a beautification project that is actually making the intersection safer because now cars clearly see it.”

Weber said inspiration struck him when he was still a student at the University.

“That intersection looked like it could use an intervention of some kind,” Weber said. “It’s one of the largest crosswalks in Austin, and it was also one of the most desolate and dirty.”

That’s when Weber found out about the Austin Creative Crosswalk program — an opportunity for artists to work with the city to bring their ideas to life.

Christina Tremel, City of Austin engineering associate, worked as Weber’s liaison with the city.

“I was very interested in his project and his idea,” Tremel said. “I think that it is going to show an improvement in safety.”

He received a civic engagement grant from UT’s College of Fine Arts to fund the project, as well as donations from Lowe’s, The Home Depot and Ennis-Flint paint supply.

The road was repainted on Dec. 13 after more than a year of planning.

“It’s a very interesting project,” Weber said. “You learn about working with the city and how to get things through. If I didn’t have passion for this project then there’s no way — I would have stopped three months in.”

The passion Weber felt stemmed from another one of his interests — sustainability. For him, the crosswalk was not only a landmark, but a conversation starter.

“On top of those colors being pretty, they also bring to mind our sight line that we have as pedestrians and as students, and how development in the West Campus community or just urban planning in general affects us,” Weber said.

Weber, who is also known for building and living in a tiny house during his time at the University, said he wanted to bring attention to high rises built alongside the Drag that have blocked the sun from view.

Weber said because the crosswalk is coated with thermoplastic, a powerful pigment that can be power washed, the design could last anywhere from five to 10 years.

“I think (the colors) are pretty because I love sunsets,” linguistics sophomore Helen Salgi said. “It’s a good idea so cars don’t go into the middle of the crosswalk.”

Weber is currently hiking through Peru but said with all the opportunity Austin has to offer, he has plenty of new projects on the horizon.

“It’s really important for smart design and sustainability to be considered, and (that we try) to conserve the culture of the city that actually makes it so wonderful to live in,” Weber said.