According to a very confidential source, engineers currently working on the Waller Creek tunnel believe that Austin sits on top of some of the most optimal conditions for tunneling in the entire U.S. These number-crunching problem solvers claimed that a subway tunnel beneath the Texas State Capital’s downtown would cost 1/10th of the amount it would in most places in the country. However, the brainiacs also said that there are those in high places who do not want that knowledge spread around (read TxDOT) because the construction of more freeways is making certain people a great deal of money.
“New York City?!? Get a rope.” That sums up the feelings of some North Texans upon learning the origin and reading the prejudices of the Dallas Morning News’ new architecture critic, Mark Lamster. The Brooklyn-based scribbler—who also happens to be a professor in the architecture school of the University of Texas at Arlington—recently tweeted a love letter he received from one such offended reader. “You’re a carpetbagger reporter with no knowledge of—or sensitivity to—Dallas, our suburbs, or our incorporated cities and towns,” it said. To which Lamster replied, “Thanks!”
Yesterday, Houston voters killed a $200 million ballot initiative to renovate the unused Astrodome. Fifty-three percent opposed the measure and 47 percent supported it. The plan would have turned the stadium—the first domed and air-conditioned professional stadium—into a multi-use event and convention space. Houston’s professional sports teams now play in Reliant Stadium next door and Minute Made Park in downtown Houston. Without funding for renovation, the dome appears destined for demolition.
Tomorrow, AN will release the results of the “Re-imagine the Astrodome” competition, which includes both pragmatic and visionary ideas for re-using the Space Age structure. To celebrate, join us for coffee and refreshments at the Texas Society of Architects in the Grand Lobby of Fort Worth Convention Center from 10:00-11:00 a.m. We’ll also be launching the inaugural issue of the Southwest edition. Stop by meet AN‘s new Southwest Aaron Seward.
Austin, Texas–based architects Dan Cheetham and Michelle Tarsney have given a new face to some of the city’s underutilized spaces: alleyways. Their one-of-a-kind community art installation, 20ft WIDE, seeks to resolve conflict between architecture, art, and humanism in order to create places of lasting value. The once forgotten alley between Ninth and Tenth streets, which connects Congress Avenue and Brazos Street in Downtown Austin, has been transformed into a collaborative space to bring attention to public urban places and foster discussion about the new possibilities for their uses
Austin’s new temporary art installation, THIRST, is inspired by Texas’ ongoing periods of severe drought since 2011. According to studies conducted by Texas A&M Forest Services, over 300 million trees have succumbed to the state’s extremely dry conditions over the past three years. Located between the Pfluger Pedestrian Crossway and the Lamar Boulevard Bridge, a white-ghostly tree now hovers over Lady Bird Lake and is surrounded by a floating barrier.
As Harris County voters prepare to make their decision on the fate of Houston’s iconic Astrodome, some lucky locals will have an opportunity to bring home a piece of the historic stadium this Saturday. In preparation for the stadium’s pending rebirth as the “New Dome Experience” (or its possible destruction), the building’s managers are tearing a page out of Minneapolis’ playbook as they put sections of the stadium up for sale.
A limited quantity of seats, genuine sections of AstroTurf, furnishings, concessions equipment, and various memorabilia—including the space helmets worn by the grounds crew for the stadium’s opening 48 years ago—are up for sale at the Astrodome Yard Sale and Live Auction at Houston’s Reliant Center on November 2.
[Editor's Note: Tracey Zeeck is an Oklahoma native and resident who has been leading the effort to save and preserve John Johansen's classic Mummers Theater in that city. She responds here to a letter to the editor in the Oklahoma Gazette. ]
In 2012, armed with good intentions and a passionate group of friends and family, Farooq Karim of REES Associates and I decided to respond to an RFP and save John Johansen’s Oklahoma City masterpiece, Stage Center (Mummers Theater) from the wrecking ball. We would turn this vestige of 1970s brutalism into a children’s museum and light up downtown with joyful sounds of creative play. We had two months to create the plan, submit the RFP and raise $30,000,000. We didn’t make it.
For eight years, Prada Marfa, a pop-art installation depicting a small luxury retail store, has stood alone in the barren plains of West Texas, 37 miles outside the city of Marfa. But now, the Texas Department of Transportation has declared that the Prada “store” is an illegal roadside advertisement.
The artists of the installation, Michael Elmgreen and Ingar Dragset, designed the installation as “a critique of the luxury goods industry,” claiming there is no commercial relationship between themselves and Prada. According to the Houston Chronicle, the piece was privately funded and therefore can not be defined as advertising. Boyd Elder, a local artist and Prada Marfa site representative told the Chronicle, “It’s not advertisement, it’s not a store, no one is selling anything there. It’s an art installation.”
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A Dallas pavilion’s exposed structure demanded extremely tight tolerances of Irving, Texas–based fabricator, CT&S.
Ten years ago, the Dallas Parks & Recreation Department launched a revitalization project to update 39 decrepit pavilions throughout its park system. One of them—which was to be designed by the New York office of Norwegian architecture firm Snøhetta in partnership with local practice Architexas—sat at the mouth of a meadow lined by old pecan and oak trees on the southern side of College Park. Speaking about the site, Snøhetta director Elaine Molinar said, “You’re aware you’ve left the surrounding neighborhood and entered a more rural setting.” This is the feeling that the team wished to encourage in its design for a new pavilion.
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.
Artists Dan Havel and Dean Ruck of Havel Ruck Projects have garnered attention for some interesting installation pieces in Houston, blurring the lines between art and architecture. Over the last eight years, the collaboration has constructed temporary artworks using old, wooden homes, bizarre shows of simultaneous deconstruction and reconstruction of architecture.
Inversion from 2005 recreates two wood bungalows, donated to the artists by Art League Houston, into a vortex of white wooden planks. In 2010, the Houston Art Alliance sponsored Havel Ruck Projects’s creation of Fifth Ward Jam. A wooden home doomed for refuse in Houston’s 5th Ward became an imaginative community stage of vertically spewed boards.
On September 9th, New Orleans unveiled an innovative proposal for flood management: the New Orleans Greater Water Plan. Designed by Dutch engineers and led by chief architect and planner David Waggonner of locally-based firm Waggonner & Ball Architects, the plan seeks to mitigate the damages caused during heavy rainfalls. The concept is simple: keeping water in pumps and canals instead of draining and pumping it out. The idea is to retain the water in order to increase the city’s groundwater, thereby slowing down the subsidence of soft land as it dries and shrinks.