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.
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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
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.
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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.
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
In the world of historical preservation, when it comes to restoring a building, there is often the difficult question to answer of when does history begin and end? So many of our significant elderly structures have undergone numerous renovations and additions, such that stakeholders can easily come to loggerheads when deciding exactly what to protect and what to discard. Just such a drama has recently played out in Hondo, Texas—a little town west of San Antonio—where county commissioners have decided to not restore their courthouse to its original 1893 condition. While the project, which was to receive funding from the Texas Historical Commission (THC), would have restored an 1893 clock tower, it also required demolishing two wings of the building that were added in 1938-40 by the Works Projects Administration (WPA).