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.
This year, the Europe-based New Cities Foundation is bringing its annual New Cities Summit to the Dallas Arts District, from June 17 to 19. Eight hundred global thought leaders will convene at the Winspear Opera House to listen to speakers, engage in workshops, and take advantage of world-class networking opportunities. The Architect’s Newspaper is one of the summit media partners. AN Southwest editor Aaron Seward recently spoke to Mathieu Lefevre, the Executive Director of the New Cities Foundation, about what the organization has on tap for this year’s summit, whose theme is Re-imagining Cities: Transforming the 21st Century Metropolis.
Aaron Seward: Let’s start by getting some background on the New Cities Summit. What is it? Why did it start? And what does it hope to achieve?
Mathieu Lefevre: The New Cities Summit started when the New Cities Foundation was set up, in 2010. It’s a non-profit whose mission is to make cities better. The event is aimed at shaping the global conversation and adding to the creative thought leadership surrounding how to shape what we are calling the Century of Cities. We held the first summit in 2012 in Paris; then we went to São Paulo, Brazil, in 2013; and this year we’re coming to Texas.
President Obama will reportedly nominate San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro to lead the Department of Housing and Urban Development. If confirmed by the senate, Castro will succeed Shaun Donovan, a trained architect, who has been at the agency since 2009. Donovan is expected to head the Office of Management and Budget.