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.
AN recently profiled the emerging architectural typology of spaceports across the country, and now there’s news from the Houston site that helped launch the dream of space travel decades ago. Independence Shuttle, a full-scale replica of NASA’s iconic Space Shuttle, recently was moved from the Johnson Space Center (JSC) to its next-door neighbor, Space Center Houston.
To some people, the relocation was a matter of mere logistics. To others, however, the transfer symbolized not just a lessening of power and precedence associated with Johnson Space Center, but with NASA’s space program as a whole.
Houston is set to double the amount of tax breaks it gives to developers for downtown apartments and condos to try to lure people to the city’s sleepy business district. The City Council unanimously agreed to expand the Downtown Living Initiative, which first launched a year and a half ago, to offer tax breaks for 5,000 residential units, up from a previous cap of 2,500.
Crescent Real Estate Group is making a play to bring high-end business tenants to Uptown Dallas—an area better known for twenty somethings living above their means than big-name office tenants. In order to attract this kind of clientele, the developer has hired architect Cesar Pelli to design a dramatic new building that is promising to change the face of the neighborhood.
Joshua Prince-Ramus, principal at REX, has a bone to pick with modernism and its legacy. “For the last 100 years, architecture’s been involved in a silly tension between form and function,” he said. While high modernism privileged function over form, some of today’s top designers argue that architecture is about aesthetics and not much else. REX has a different take: architecture, the firm claims, is both function and form. “We really believe that architecture can do things. It’s not just a representational art form,” said Prince-Ramus. “We talk about performance. Aesthetics are part of performance [as is function.]”
Big spaces, big cities, big freeways. This equation has held ground since the boom of major road developments in the 1970s. But a Dallas group lead by urban designer Patrick Kennedy is fighting that conception. He and his initiative, A New Dallas, are pushing a proposal that has been steadily gaining support since it began two years ago. Interstate 345 is an eight lane, 1.4 mile stretch of elevated highway that serves roughly 200,000 commuters weekly. Kennedy wishes to demolish the structure completely, replacing it with a major surface street, four new parks, $4 billion in new private investment, and homes for 25,000 Dallas residents.
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A room-filling parametric design makes its way from the classroom to Austin’s famous music festival.
When Kory Bieg and his students at The University of Texas at Austin School of Architecture began working on Caret 6, they had no idea that it would wind up at this year’s South by Southwest (SXSW) music and arts festival. But the rippling, room-filling installation soon took on a life of its own. Within months, Bieg’s undergraduates—who had little previous exposure to digital design—had designed and fabricated Caret 6, and assembled and disassembled it twice, first at the TEX-FAB SKIN: Digital Assemblies Symposium in February, and then at Austin’s most famous annual gathering in March. Read More
Speaking of rumors, Texas Monthly spread the word that Silicon Valley billionaire visionary Elon Musk may be locating facilities for two of his future-looking companies in the Lone Star State. Musk’s SpaceX has been buying up land in Cameron County in South Texas with the implicit purpose of building a space facility on the site to launch an expedition to Mars. In more terrestrial affairs, the South Africa native is also considering building a battery factory in the state for his electric car company, Tesla Motors.
The Contemporary Austin
700 Congress Avenue, Austin, Texas
Through April 20th
Charles Long’s latest exhibition CATALIN—aptly named after a toxic plastic material fabricated in the 1930s—uses a multi-media approach to simulate a feeling of impending doom. In this Gesamtkunstwerk, Long combines sculpture, film, music, fragrance, theater, performance, and grand spectacle to create a mystical and magical Wagnerian world.
It’s no secret that Houston is going through a growth spurt. The city currently has four central business districts that, if separated, would each be among the country’s top 15 employment centers. In the next 30 years, 3.5 million people are projected to move to the 8-county region, with two million of those concentrated in Harris County.
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Austin’s Circuit of the Americas gets an iconic observation tower using 350 tons of steel.
The Circuit of the Americas (COTA) in Austin, Texas, will host the United States Grand Prix from 2012 to 2021. While German Formula 1 specialist Hermann Tilke designed the racecourse and technical facilities, COTA’s owners hired local firm Miró Rivera Architects to turn out a main grandstand and amenities for the 9,000 fans expected to attend the races. In addition to imbuing the project with a variety of programmatic functions that go beyond racing, Miró Rivera created a sleek observation tower that gives spectators unrestricted views across the racetrack’s twisting expanse.
“Our idea for the tower was to be able to go way up and see the track from one focal point in a structure that was an iconographic symbol for the track,” said Miguel Rivera, founder and principal of the architecture firm. “Our inspiration came from Formula 1 cars, where speed and efficiency are so important.” Just like the track’s feature attractions, the tower’s design didn’t feature any excesses. Structural engineers at Walter P Moore helped ensure every piece of steel did some kind of work so the tower was as efficient as possible. Read More
Roads of Arabia: Archaeology and History of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
The Museum of Fine Arts Houston
5601 Main Street
December 19 through March 9, 2014
The Museum of Fine Arts Houston (MFAH) is hosting an eye-opening exhibition this winter that will uncover the rich history of the ancient trade routes of the Arabian Peninsula. Organized by the Smithsonian’s Arthur M. Sackler Gallery in Washington, D.C., in association with the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA), Roads of Arabia will feature objects recently excavated from more than 10 archaeological sites, and give insight into the culture and economy of this ancient civilization. Recently discovered objects along the trade routes include alabaster bowls and fragile glassware as well as heavy gold earrings and monumental statues. All of the artifacts are testament to the lively exchange between Arabs and their neighbors, including the Egyptians, Syrians, Babylonians, and Greco-Romans.