[Editor’s Note: The following are reader-submitted responses to the editorial “Acceptable if not Noble” (AN 03_04.30.2014_SW), which considered the imminent demolition of John Johansen’s Mummer’s Theater in Oklahoma City and the renovation of Ulrich Franzen’s Alley Theatre in Houston. Opinions expressed in letters to the editor do not necessarily reflect the opinions or sentiments of the newspaper. AN welcomes reader letters, which could appear in our regional print editions. To share your opinion, please email email@example.com. ]
There were local groups working hard to preserve and repurpose the Mummers Theater and conceptual plans put forth that incorporated the existing theater into a larger cultural and commercial mixed-use complex. My father supported and encouraged these efforts as an important and necessary evolution of this building, and architecture in general, to reinvent itself by adapting and embracing new ideas and technology.
Since arriving in North Texas to take up the job of Dallas Morning News architecture critic, Mark Lamster has been under a trial by fire, suffering scrutiny and criticism for everything from his Yankee origin to his unsympathetic take on the city’s built environment. Well, local opinions seem to be warming a bit to the sharp-tongued scribe. In a recent piece in the Dallas Observer, Charles Schultz went so far as to praise how quickly Lamster has come to understand Big D’s development landscape and the insider track around its so-called zoning regulations. Schultz even showed a little contrition for a previous quip: “I apologize for calling him ‘Mark Lamster, New York Pinhead’ when he first showed up.”
Nearly a month has passed now since the more than 800 people from all of the globe who attended this year’s New Cities Summit in Dallas, Texas, packed up their bags, and returned home. Each is now equipped—if the Summit proved its purpose—with a slew of practical ideas on how to positively transform the urban environment, or at least a more robust list of contacts in the fields of government, business, and urban design. For those of you who missed it, the New Cities Foundation has just released an ebook recapitulating what was discussed in its many keynote speeches, workshops, and panel discussions. The foundation has also produced a four-minute highlights movie (embedded below), which captures some of the enthusiastic spirit of this international gathering of urban thinkers and doers, which is now in its third year.
Amarillo, Texas philanthropist Stanley Marsh—a major figure on creating two of the most iconic art works in America—considered himself an “artist and a prankster.” The patron of both Cadillac Ranch and Robert Smithson’s Amarillo Ramp (1973), the third in a trilogy a trilogy of spirals that also included Spiral Jetty (1970) and Broken Circle/Spiral Hill (1971), Marsh was an heir to his family’s oil-and-gas fortune.
As part of continuing efforts in the Southwest to develop and improve transit systems, the City of Austin has announced its intention to build an urban rail system known as UltraRail that will run through the city’s eastern downtown.
A 4,000-square-foot home in Whitney, Texas is currently on fire, and this, apparently, is a good thing. The luxury home sits atop a collapsing cliff and was perilously close of dropping into Lake Whitney, 75-feet below. Authorities said it would have been quite costly to remove pieces of the home from the water, so fire crews lit it ablaze instead. According to NBC 5 in Dallas-Fort Worth the home was purchased for $700,000 in January, but the unstable property was recently condemned and the homeowners moved out two weeks ago. The fire can be watched via NBC’s Live Feed.
Although Houston has been expanding outward for decades, its bus system has hardly kept up. This is not surprising given the track record for many American cities where cars take precedence over public transit. But what is unexpected—to the point of being radical—is a proposal that will grant greater, more efficient access to Houston’s commuters for not a penny more than its current cost.
Buckle up: the gap between commercial space travel and the present moment is rapidly narrowing. Virgin Galactic and Spaceport America (designed by Foster + Partners) recently signed an agreement with the Federal Aviation Administration granting access to airspace in New Mexico, with designs to turn the ground beneath into a commercial spaceflight center.
Dunlavey Street in central Houston typifies the image of a Southwestern city street. It’s a sprawling, four lane affair that is approximately 50 percent usable, 80 percent pedestrian unsafe, and, in this case, 100 percent in need of an update. Transportation officials are evening out the numbers for a proposed road diet that would reduce the four-lane street to two and using the outer lane space for parking, improved sidewalks, and bike lanes.
Soto: The Houston Penetrable
Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
Through September 1, 2014
The final installation in Jesús Rafael Soto’s Penetrables series—Houston Penetrable—will be on view at The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, as of May 8. An interactive display of 24,000 PVC tubes, each hand painted and tied, will hang from the second story of the museum’s Cullinan Hall.