[ Editor's Note: The following story, "Il Duomo," first appeared in Texas Architect's May/June 1990 issue. It was written by the late Douglas Pegues Harvey, an architect who graduated from Rice University and worked for Marmon Mok Architecture in San Antonio. It was written on the occasion of the Houston Astrodome's 25th anniversary as a sort of homage as well as a protest for the fact that the building was not chosen for the AIA Twenty-Five Year Award. Eero Saarinen's Gateway Arch was. (Incidentally, another Houston project was chosen for the 2013 25-Year Award.) We are rerunning this story, with permission, because today, September 17, is the registration deadline for Reimagine the Astrodome, AN and YKK AP's Astrodome Reuse Design Ideas Competition. Due to the overwhelming enthusiasm surrounding the competition, we've decided to extend the registration dealing to Monday, September 23. So if you were sleeping, wake up! Sign up today! (Also, if you have the chops to write articles like "Il Duomo" and want to contribute to AN Southwest, please contact Aaron Seward, firstname.lastname@example.org.) ]
It’s not every building that gets to be known as The Eighth Wonder Of The World. Texas’ nominee, the Astrodome, opened 25 years ago as the world’s finest interior landscape. On Apr. 9,1965, a time when the hegemony of television and the standing of the Sunbelt in American life were not yet secure, the Astrodome opening struck a telling blow on their behalf. The occasion was a Houston Astro’s exhibition baseball game against the New York Yankees. With President Lyndon Johnson watching, Mickey Mantle (naturally) hit the first home run, but the Astro’s (necessarily) won.
With less then 8 weeks remaining before Harris County voters cast their ballots to decide the fate of the “Eighth Wonder of the World,” a group of prominent Houstonians has established a political action committee with which they hope to raise public support for the ailing Astrodome. Launched at a press conference on Thursday, The New Dome PAC has begun efforts to raise upwards of $200,000 for a media campaign intended to persuade the public to vote in favor of Proposition 2, the $217 million project that aims to preserve, repurpose, and modernize the historic stadium. While no opposing organization has yet been formed, some worry that many donors may be tapped out at this point in the political season, and polls conducted by local stations KHOU 11 News and KUHF Houston Public Radio show that the public is still split, with younger voters who may have never attended an event at the Astrodome showing less enthusiasm for putting down the cash to save it. Meanwhile, don’t forget that the Architect’s Newspaper and YKK AP are hosting an Astrodome Reuse Design Ideas Competition: Reimagine The Astrodome. The registration deadline is September 17, so sign up today!
Last Saturday, the San Antonio community inaugurated the Lake|Flato Architects–designed Urban Ecology Center (UEC). Sited on the West Side of Phil Hardberger Park, the 18,600-square-foot UEC will be home to the Alamo Area Chapter of the Texas Master Naturalists. This latest showpiece in the city’s park system will serve as a functional ecological system, a meeting space, and an urban ecology learning facility. Parks Project Manager Sandy Jenkins explained that the center was built with the intention of informing future generations about environmental concerns and the preservation of ecological systems. Former mayor Phil Hardberger, who recognized the asset of parks in improving the general urban quality of life, originally prompted the construction of the park in 2010. Covering 311 acres on eiter side of the Wurzbach Parkway, it was built as a means to preserve San Antonio’s environmental treasures and natural heritage.
[ Editor's Note: For those of you who are getting excited about The Architect's Newspaper and YKK AP's Reimagine the Astrodome design ideas competition, you have until September 17 to register. Once you've done that, take the time to read the following article, which appeared in the September/October 2013 issue of Texas Architect. Written by Houston-based architect and writer Ben Koush, it covers the current status of the Dome, what it means to Harris County, and Space City's record of not bothering to preserve its architectural heritage. ]
Ever since the Houston Oilers owner Bud Adams, in a snit after being refused a new stadium, took his football team to Nashville in 1997 and renamed it the Tennessee Titans, the fate of the Astrodome has been up in the air. Matters were made worse when, instead of rehabilitating the Astrodome a new, neo-traditionalist baseball stadium, Minute Maid Park, was built down-town for the Astros in 1999, and then in 2002, a hulking new football stadium, Reliant Center, was built uncomfortably close to its predecessor to house the replacement team, the Houston Texans, and the Houston Rodeo.
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.