PAC Formed to Save The Houston Astrodome

Southwest
Friday, September 13, 2013
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The Astrodome had the world's first animated electronic scoreboard. Here it is circa 1986. (Courtesy Gary Hunt/flickr)

The Astrodome had the world’s first animated electronic scoreboard. Here it is circa 1986. (Courtesy Gary Hunt/flickr)

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!

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Urban Ecology Center Finds New Grounds at San Antonio’s Phil Hardberger Park

Southwest
Wednesday, September 11, 2013
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Opening of the new Urban Ecology Center at Phil Hardberger Park in San Antonio, Texas, on September 7, 2013. (Courtesy Lewis McNeel, Lake|Flato Architects)

Opening of the new Urban Ecology Center at Phil Hardberger Park in San Antonio, Texas, on September 7, 2013. (Courtesy Lewis McNeel, Lake|Flato Architects)

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.

Continue reading after the jump.

From The Pages of Texas Architect: Astrodome Update by Ben Koush

Southwest
Wednesday, September 11, 2013
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The Astrodome under construction in 1963. The structure comprises 9,400 tons of steel, 2,900 of which is in the roof alone. (Courtesy University of Houston)

The Astrodome under construction in 1963. The structure is made up of 9,400 tons of steel, 2,900 of which is in the roof alone. (Courtesy University of Houston)

[ 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.

Continue reading after the jump.

Ceilings Plus Soars in Texas

Fabrikator
Friday, August 23, 2013
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Brought to you with support from:
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Brought to you with support from:
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280 custom-fabricated ceilings panels are installed across 18 planes at the University of Houston's Quiet Hall. (Ryan Gobuty/Gensler)

At the University of Houston’s Quiet Hall, 280 custom-fabricated ceiling panels are installed across 18 planes. (Ryan Gobuty/Gensler)

Gensler’s design at the University of Houston is realized in a cloud-inspired, sound-absorptive ceiling solution.

Gensler and Ceilings Plus have brought a touch of the Big Apple to the University of Houston’s recently completed Quiet Hall in the Classroom and Business Building. Gensler drew its design inspiration for a ceiling in the new building from the New York Central Library’s Rose Reading Room. The firm hired the California-based Ceilings Plus to translate its interpretation of this classical interior, which includes perforations and geometric folds, into an affordable, buildable, and installable ceiling solution.

Ceilings Plus used digital software to marry the design architect’s vision with a workable model that offered minimal joint tolerances and maintained compatibility with HVAC systems. “Since the architect was interested in doing something completely new, it was important to realize that process together,” said Michael Chusid, who works in marketing and business development for Ceilings Plus. Gensler produced three conceptual renderings in Revit, then turned them over to project engineer Robert Wochner, who developed sound-absorptive perforations and a suspension system that could support the various angles of the Quiet Hall’s multi-planar ceiling. Read More

Austin Unveils Top 10 Competition Entries for Seaholm Intake

Southwest
Wednesday, July 31, 2013
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SeaholmBuildingWater

The Seaholm Intake, build in the 1950s and decommissioned in 1996, is set to become a hub in park activity around Austin’s Lady Bird Lake. (Courtesy Austin Parks & Recreation)

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.

View the proposals after the jump.

Edmonds International Designing Potential 58-story Mixed-use Tower in Midland, Texas

Southwest
Thursday, July 25, 2013
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At 58 stories, the Energy Tower would be more than twice as tall as Midland’s current tallest building. (Courtesy Edmonds International)

As the business hub of oil and gas operations in the Permian Basin, Midland, Texas, is on the cusp of a growth spurt. With the opening of the Cline Shale oil play, petroleum production in the region has increased 49 percent since 2007 to 1.29 million barrels per day and is expected to reach 2.2 million barrels per day by 2022. Betting on the influx of businesses and workers that will accompany this growth, local developer Energy Related Properties hired New York City–based architectural firm Edmonds International to design a 58-story, mixed-use tower sited on two blocks in downtown Midland that will contain everything a body could need for work, sleep, shopping, and play under one very tall roof.

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Memory Cloud Taps Tradition At Texas A&M

Fabrikator
Friday, May 24, 2013
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Memory Cloud Texas A&M tradition with an active constellation of animated LEDs.

Memory Cloud embodies Texas A&M tradition with an active matrix of animated LEDs. (Courtesy Metalab)

Re:site and Metalab’s site-specific installation for Texas A&M’s 12th Man Memorial Student Center uses 4,000 networked LEDs to create an animated display that speaks to tradition as well as to the future.

The Corps of Cadets. Kyle Field. The 12th Man. Reveille. Texas A&M has more than a few strong traditions, most of which are centered around and given expression by the university’s football games and its alumni’s illustrious history of military service. At the same time, the school is well known for its robust and forward thinking science and engineering departments. Both of these characteristics factored into the conception for a permanent sculpture to inhabit A&M’s new Memorial Student Center (MSC). Created by art collaborative RE:site and design and fabrication studio Metalab (both located in Houston) the sculpture, titled Memory Cloud, is a chandelier of 4,000 white LEDs that are animated by two distinct feeds: one derived from archival footage of the Fightin’ Texas Aggie Band, the other from live infrared cameras that monitor people passing through the center’s atrium.

“To interpret tradition visually we thought of moving patterns of people,” said Norman Lee of RE:site. “A&M has a strong marching band. If you remove the specifics of what the band is wearing and focus on the movements, they’re the same from 1900 to now. Once you reduce the figures from archival footage to silhouette patterns, you can’t identify the different points in time. Time and space collapse and bring together the school’s tradition in visual terms.”

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Adaptive Reuse, Aisle 7: How An Empty Big Box Can Give Rise to Community

Midwest, Newsletter
Friday, July 13, 2012
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THE MCALLEN MAIN LIBRARY, ONCE A WALMART. (IMAGE COURTESY MEYER SCHERER & ROCKCASTLE)

THE MCALLEN MAIN LIBRARY, ONCE A WALMART. (IMAGE COURTESY MEYER SCHERER & ROCKCASTLE)

An average Walmart tops 100,000 square feet. With more than 600 stores nationwide, the company has a mighty footprint. And when a store goes under, it can be somewhat of a crater in the local real estate market.

One Walmart in McAllen, Texas—about 15 miles from the Mexican border—got a major facelift from Minneapolis-based Meyer, Scherer & Rockcastle, who also have an office in Marysville, Md. They won an ALA/IIDA Library Interior Design Award for their work converting the defunct big box store into a library.

Continue reading after the jump.

James Turrell Captures a Slice of the Vast Texas Sky with Twilight Epiphany Pavilion

National, Newsletter
Tuesday, July 10, 2012
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(Courtesy Rice University)

(Courtesy Rice University)

For many, work by American artist James Turrell is instantly recognizable. Using light and basic geometric forms as the material of his compositions, Turrell subtly alters space and perception for visitors, creating weight and depth through visual experience that evokes meditation and contemplation.

Turrell’s work is at its height when gazing skyward. Multiple iterations of his Skyspace series have appeared around the world framing a dramatic slice of the heavens in his pristine geometry. The work is, essentially, a skylight: an opening above a room or pavilion for viewing the sky above, but to reduce the work to its function would disregard the transformative power of a simple yet moving experience. In each installation, a confined aperture begins to decontextualize the sky, featuring the color and texture of what is seen as an element of the art.

Continue reading after the jump.

Calatrava’s First U.S. Vehicular Bridge To Open

National, Newsletter
Thursday, March 1, 2012
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Dallas' Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge. (Marco Becerra)

Dallas' Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge. (Marco Becerra)

The latest bridge from Spanish tension-element guru Santiago Calatrava, renowned architect behind the Milwaukee Art Museum, Puente del Alamillo, and the upcoming World Trade Center Transportation Hub, will be his first vehicular bridge in the United States. Construction has been completed on the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge, the first in a series of Calatrava-designed crossings over Dallas’ Trinity River. It will act as a literal and metaphorical gateway to the city.

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Morphosis’ Museum of Nature & Science Facade: Gate Precast

Fabrikator
Friday, September 30, 2011
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Striated precast panels clad the facade (Bob Borson)

A new cultural focal point takes shape in Dallas

When the Dallas Museum of Nature & Science was created from the 2006 merger of three city museums—the Museum of Natural History, The Science Place, and the Dallas Children’s Museum—the new institution set its sites on expanding programming with a new facility in the city’s Victory Park neighborhood. Now, the 180,000-square-foot Morphosis-designed Perot Museum of Nature & Science is slated for completion in 2013. Located at the northwest corner of Woodall Rodgers Freeway and Field Street, it marks the future crossroads of the city’s Trinity River Corridor Project and the city’s cultural districts. Floating atop an irregularly shaped plinth that will be the base for a one-acre rooftop ecosystem, the museum’s striated concrete facade offers a first glimpse at the dynamic transformation of the site.

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Preservationists Mob Austin for Density, Community, and Tacos

National
Wednesday, November 3, 2010
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View of downtown Austin from the Long Center. (Photography by Alyssa Nordhauser)

The National Preservation Conference landed in Austin, Texas, last week under the banner “Next American City, Next American Landscape.” Exploring preservation’s role in the future of the country’s urban, suburban, and rural landscapes, the 2010 conference showed that preservationists aren’t all stuck in the past. (In fact, they’re pretty savvy when it comes to new media. Check out the NTHP’s Austin Unscripted on their website, Twitter, and YouTube to see how preservation can appeal to a new generation.) The opening plenary was held at the Long Center for the Performing Arts, which is sited to take advantage of the unobstructed views of downtown Austin. Read More

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