It’s a bad year to be an Art Barn. Only two weeks after Rice University demolished its beloved structure, UT Dallas announced plans to close down its own Art Barn, with its exact fate remaining unclear. Architecture critic Mark Lamster, among others, voiced speculation over the building’s shutdown and possible removal from UT Dallas’ campus.
Mark Lamster, Dallas Morning News architecture critic and responsible citizen, chastised the Dallas community for its poor attendance at an April 9 James Carpenter lecture. The 2004 MacArthur Fellow, who was speaking at the Dallas Center for Architecture about his newest installation at the Cotton Bowl, shed light on his genius to a paltry audience of 10. Ten, that is, if Carpenter included himself in the head count.
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.
As AN reported in our recent Southwest edition, Michael Van Valkenburgh is hard at work on plans for a massive park in Tulsa, Oklahoma. According to the article, “The community expressed a strong need for the park to accommodate not just children, but the whole family unit. Having a variety of activities for a wide age range became a primary factor in the development of the design.” The $300 million waterfront plan is expected to be complete by 2017. MVVA shared this set of renderings with AN to keep us excited in the meantime.
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.
The evening of April 14th was a big one for the East Austin community, when developers met with residents to unveil the master plan for the 208-acre lot of land known as Colony Park. Plans for the development were rolled out onto a community center floor as a giant map that enabled attendees to walk, step-by-step, through the five-year-plus initiative. The project hopes to bring commerce, parks, new residences, into a sustainable community.
The historic Niels Esperson Building has lit up the Houston skyline since 1927, but far below the tower’s neo-Classical cupola, a basement space connecting to a series of tunnels meandering underneath the city has remained out of the spotlight. Now, the building’s basement gets to play catch up in the fame game with a $2.5 million renovation spearheaded by architectural firm Page.
[Editor's Note: The following are reader-submitted comments in response to a back-page comment written by Lawrence W. Speck (“Togetherness” AN 01_11.06.2013_SW), which called on the architecture profession to regard its creations as collaborative efforts, rather than the products of solo geniuses. 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. ]
I am sorry to say that architects do NOT make buildings! To identify the field of architecture as an Industry leads to the inevitable subordination of architecture not as an intellectual pursuit capable of a transformative role in society to one of simply propping up the Status Quo.
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.
Never mind! After all that fuss to preserve the iconic Texas tin structure, Rice University’s Art Barn met the Grim Reaper on Wednesday, April 16. While a group was able to salvage the building’s corrugated metal siding, wrecking crews tore away at the Martel Center’s structure, marking a definitive end to efforts of preservationists to move the building to another site in Houston. Andy Warhol’s famous oak tree planted in front of the former structure will remain intact, but once the dust clears only a grass lawn will serve as tombstone. A rogue power line temporarily stalled the demolition, thereby buying a commemorative moment for the Art Barn’s historical and cultural import. The building’s spirit will live on through the Menil Collection it once housed, as well as its legacy with other tin houses.
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.]”
Leaving campus the way it came in—amid a swirl of shifting plans and controversy—seems to be the modus operandi for Rice University’s Martel Center, more colloquially known as “the Art Barn.” After reports last month that the building would be demolished, Rice University changed its mind and announced that it would, instead, relocate the historic structure to the Fourth Ward area of Houston, just west of downtown.
The Art Barn has graced Rice University’s campus since 1969. Originally conceived by John and Dominique de Menil as what was meant to be a quick-fix housing solution for their prestigious private art collection, the squatter became father to a generation of its kind, and established itself as a cultural mainstay not just within the university, but the community as a whole.