Two Polls Indicate the Disposition of Harris County Voters Regarding $217 Million Astrodome Bond Fund
The Houston Chronicle is reporting that two recent polls have given clues as to how the denizens of Harris County will vote in the matter of approving $217 million in bonds to fund the reuse of the Astrodome. Previously, the Harris County Commissioners Court set the matter of the bond fund to a November 5 referendum. If voters approve the fund, the Harris County Sports and Convention Corporation will be able to proceed with its plans to create a New Dome Experience in time for Superbowl LI in 2017. Harris County property tax will also experience a slight hike to pay for it all. If voters oppose the issue, the Astrodome will in all likelihood meet the wrecking ball. Either way, entrants to AN and YKK AP‘s Reimagine The Astrodome competition will be watching with bated breath.
As enthusiasm continues to build for The Architect Newspaper and YKK AP’s Reimagine The Astrodome design ideas competition, which accompanies the launch of the forthcoming AN Southwest edition as well as YKK AP‘s expansion into the region, we thought we’d take the opportunity to share a collection of excellent black and white photographs of the Astrodome from the Library of Congress. These pictures document the dome as it looked in 2004, after its last tenant, the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, had moved out in 2003, before it was used to house refugees from Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and well before it was declared unfit for occupancy in 2008. Take this opportunity to subscribe to AN Southwest and sign up for the Reimaging The Astrodome competition.
During construction on the Buffalo Bayou Partnership‘s (BBP) Buffalo Bayou Park Shepherd to Sabine project—which began in 2010 and is seeking to transform the downtown park into a catalyst for making Houston a more livable city—workers rediscovered an underground concrete cistern that had been built in 1927 as the city’s first drinking water reservoir. It performed decades of service before springing a leak that couldn’t be located or contained, at which point the 87,500-square-foot subterranean chamber was sealed up and forgotten. Today, the old piece of infrastructure is an inspiring, if somewhat erie space. Accessed through manholes and 14-foot ladders, the man-made cavern features row upon row of cathedral-like 25-foot-tall columns standing in several inches of still water. BBP would like to see the space adaptively reused, but such an endeavor currently lies outside the scope of its Shepherd to Sabine project. So to drum up interest in renovating the space, the organization commissioned Houston company SmartGeoMetrics to create a 3D fly-through of the cistern.
To launch the forthcoming Southwest edition of the Architect’s Newspaper, and to kick-off YKK AP‘s expansion into the region, AN and YKK AP have teamed up to host Reimagine The Astrodome, an Astrodome Reuse Design Ideas Competition. The competition is open to anyone who wishes to participate, whether it be professional architects and engineers or students and artists. Registration opened yesterday afternoon and will close on September 17. Entrants who register by September 6 will get $10 off the registration fee, which is $50 for professionals and $20 for students. The top five proposals, which will be selected by a jury of prominent architects and educators in Houston on October 4, will receive cash prizes and be published in the first issue of AN Southwest, cover date November 6, which will be distributed at the Texas Society of Architect’s 2013 design expo and convention in Fort Worth. Register today!
The City of Austin Parks and Recreation Department recently hosted a competition (ended July 12) to attract concepts for the adaptive reuse of the Seaholm Intake Facility, the pump house of the decommissioned Seaholm Power Plant (the turbine hall of which is undergoing another adaptive reuse project). The Seaholm complex is located prominently on Lady Bird Lake in downtown, not far from Waller Creek, whose landscape is being redesigned by Michael Van Valkenburgh, and adjacent to the Ann and Roy Butler Hike and Bike Trail.
Some of its buildings, including the intake, are solid examples of the heroic period of American cast-in-place concrete Art-Deco municipal architecture and stand as civic icons in Austin. Competition entrants were asked to envision a new use for the structure and the surrounding land that would engage park users, the trail, and the water.
Austin Parks received 76 proposals and is displaying its favorite 10 entries at Austin City Hall from now until August 2. The top three will be announced on August 9. The ideas from the top three proposals will “help inspire subsequent design phases of the project,” according to Austin Parks’ website. Following this competition, Austin Parks will release a request for proposals for public-private partnerships with ideas of how to reuse the facility.
Oklahoma City investment company Kestrel Investments has purchased recently deceased architect John Johansen‘s Mummers Theater for $4.275 million and plans to demolish the revolutionary building to construct a 20-plus story mixed use tower in its place. The news came as a blow to local and national preservation groups who worked unsuccessfully to save the groundbreaking architectural work by finding a new tenant and use for the idiosyncratic structure.
Tomorrow, June 21, is the summer solstice. On the occasion, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum will open the doors on a major solo show of the work of James Turrell, called simply James Turrell. It’s a fitting day to open an exhibition on the American artist. Since the 1960s, Turrell has developed a diverse body of work that uses light as material and medium. The centerpiece of the show is Aten Reign, a site-specific installation that fills Frank Lloyd Wright’s famous rotunda. Made from a series of interlocking fabric cones that relate to the Guggenheim’s interior ramps, Aten Reign interlaces the prevailing daylight with subtly changing color fields produced by concealed LED fixtures. Viewed from below, on reclining benches or lying flat on the floor, with the gentle bubbling of the Guggenheim’s fountain providing aural accompaniment, the installation provides a meditative, perception altering experience.
Yesterday, the New York City Council approved a 32-story tower designed by TEN Arquitectos that is set to rise on an empty parcel adjacent to the Brooklyn Academy of Music. As AN reported last November, the site is the last undeveloped city-owned lot in the district. The mixed-use project will include 300 residential units (60 which will be “affordable”); 50,000 square feet of cultural space to be shared by BAM Cinema, performance groups connected with 651 Arts, and a new branch of the Brooklyn Public Library; a 10,000-square-foot public plaza; and 15,000 square feet of ground-level retail.
“Two Trees is grateful to the City Council for its support and proud to partner with the city and some of Brooklyn’s most innovative cultural institutions to advance the growth of downtown Brooklyn’s world-class cultural district,” said Jed Walentas, a principal at Two Trees Management, in a statement. “With cultural space, much-needed affordable housing, and a new public plaza, we will be transforming a parking lot into an iconic building with many public benefits.”
New York City Department of Transportation (NYC DOT) Commissioner Janette Sadik-Kahn unveiled Blotto today, a temporary installation by Atlanta/New York City-based artist John Morse meant to raise awareness about the dangers of drinking and driving. The artwork, which was inspired by ink-blot tests and depicts two cars crashing into a martini glass, has been placed in more than 100 phone kiosks in locations in Queens, Brooklyn, and the Bronx with high concentrations of drunk driving collisions. The installation is part of NYC DOT’s ongoing campaign to curb instances of driving while intoxicated, which has contributed to at least 46 deaths in New York City streets and led to more than 19,000 arrests in the past two years alone. “We’re using creative imagery to help motorists recognize there is no room for interpretation when it comes to drinking and driving,” said commissioner Sadik-Kahn in a statement. “Drunken driving is reckless driving and when motorists raise a glass, it’s the lives of other New Yorkers they have in their hands.” The installation will be on view until June 17. AN publisher Diana Darling lost her sister, Teresa Wallace (age 36), nephew, Rhea Wallace (age 6), and niece, Kenzi Wallace (age 3 months), when they were killed by a drunk driver in July 1996 in Dallas, Texas. Ms. Darling supports Mothers Against Drunk Driving and any other initiative that seeks to stop drunk drivers.