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Rich Terrain

Hawaiian sugar mill–inspired building remediates depleted soils
The Los Angeles offices of Perkins+Will and Hawaii-based KYA Design Group have completed work on a new health-focused administrative complex at the University of Hawaii, West Oahu, that, among other things, works to replenish and nurture the site’s depleted, post-agricultural soils. The multi-gabled, masonry-clad complex is inspired by vernacular sugar mill structures and stretches across an open site that was once used to grow sugar cane. The site’s rich soils became depleted after a century of aggressive cane farming, a process that leeched nutrients, organic matter, and topsoil from the site. In response to these conditions, the design team has created a low-impact building that hugs one edge of the site while leaving the overall grounds open to remediation. According to a press release, landscape designs by Belt Collins Hawaii aspire to restore and rebuild the site’s topsoil through nitrogen-fixing planting and by implementing onsite water and nutrient management practices in conjunction with native plantings and other strategies. The building itself will house administrative offices as well as wet and dry lab spaces for the university’s Microbiology, Cellular and Molecular, Anatomy and Physiology, and Organic Chemistry departments. The two-story, roughly L-shaped complex is wrapped on one side by an arcade that provides a covered walkway between the building and the surrounding site. The single-loaded corridor creates a series of deep-set, open-air lanais—Hawaiian outdoor gathering spaces—that extend classroom areas outside the building and frame views of the site. The corridor's use of wide masonry piers echoes the rest of the building, which is wrapped in a monolithic concrete masonry unit (CMU) skin whose pattern is based on traditional Hawaiian kapa cloth. Mark Tagawa, associate principal at Perkins+Will’s L.A. studio said, “The challenge [for the project] was how to best consolidate the distinct functions of teaching labs and classrooms within the same building as office space for the campus administration. We wanted to create a facility that interacted with the landscape in a sympathetic way, through water management, landscaping, and materiality. Cultural and ecological appropriateness was our filter for all design decisions.”
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Grounds for Democracy

It’s high time to memorialize the South’s history of lynching
Next Tuesday, Republican Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith will go head to head in a runoff election against Democrat Mike Espy for Mississippi’s remaining U.S. Senate seat. Since the midterm election in which no candidate received over 50 percent of the vote, her campaign has been under major threat, and she’s been laying low due to an off-hand comment she recently made at a rally. In praise of a local supporter in Tupelo, Mississippi, she laughingly said:
“If he invited me to a public hanging, I’d be on the front row.”
After a video of the moment went viral on Twitter, her challenger, Espy, called the remark “tone deaf.” The incumbent senator is defending it now as “an exaggerated expression of regard,” claiming it was taken out of context. She'll face Espy in a debate tonight without outside press or an audience present, reported the Jackson Free Press earlier today. Hyde-Smith’s poor choice of words, whether meant as a joke or not, represents the irreverent and ignorant way many Americans look back on the horrific lynchings that took place in the Jim Crow South. What makes this even more deeply inappropriate is that Hyde-Smith said this in her native Mississippi, the state that notoriously conducted the most amount of public hangings on record. President Trump is set to a hold rally in support of Hyde-Smith next Monday ahead of Tuesday’s election, but Democrats appear to be reinvigorated and could pull off another upset in the South.    While we as a country have worked to acknowledge our harsh history of racial tension and inequality through monuments and museums dedicated to slavery, black culture, and the civil rights movement, we’ve barely begun to take the much-needed step toward memorializing the thousands of victims tortured, murdered, and hung in 12 U.S. states from 1877 to 1950. According to a new report by The Cultural Landscape Foundation (TCLF) entitled, Landslide 2018: Grounds for Democracy, numerous lynching sites in Shelby County, Tennessee, are virtually unmarked for their historical significance. Walking by these nondescript places, no one would know that hundreds of spectators once gathered there in carnival-like fashion to witness these unforgivable acts of racial terror. TCLF makes its case for the recognition of these places by digging into the lynchings of four African Americans in and around Memphis: Mississippi-laborer Lee Walker who was arrested and hung in 1983 for looking like a man who allegedly tried to sexually assault two white women; People’s Grocery owner Thomas Moss, and his employees Will Stewart and Calvin McDowell who all suffered fateful deaths in 1892 because a white grocer nearby instigated a rumor that the Stewart had injured him; cotton farmer Jesse Lee Bond who was shot, castrated, and drowned in 1939 because he asked for a receipt at a store; and woodcutter Ell Persons who was lynched and burned in 1917 after being accused of decapitating a 15-year-old white girl. While there aren’t any grave markers for these victims, their deaths have continued to echo through America’s development as a 21st-century country. TCLF noted that, according to Dr. Jacova Williams of Clemson University’s Department of Economics, southern counties that held more historical lynchings have lower voter registration rates among African Americans today. This sad reality must be altered, and TCLF argues the only way to do it is by shining a light on such sites and their jarring stories. It’s key to our country's ability to heal and move forward as a collective society, they say.  “Our shared and fragile landscape legacy has a powerful role to play in helping us understand where we come from,” said Charles A. Birnbaum, TCLF President and CEO, in a statement, “especially in the current debates, conversations, and analyses of our national identity.” These Shelby County sites are listed among 10 other at-risk historic sites and landscapes associated with human and civil rights in the U.S. Laid out in TCLF's Landslide 2018 report, every site is currently in danger of being redeveloped or demolished altogether. Some simply suffer from a lack of resources, an equally foreboding issue that plagues communities and organizations trying to bring recognition to near-forgotten places around the country. Other sites, like those found in Tennessee, have long been suppressed. But things are changing. This summer, The National Memorial for Peace and Justice opened in Montgomery, Alabama, and was dedicated to the more than 4,440 African American men, women, and children who were hanged in the South. The memorial, built by the Equal Justice Initiative and designed by MASS Design Group, has been praised by visitors and design critics alike for its beauty, timeliness, and national importance.  Architect and speaker John Cary, who authored the 2017 book Design for Good, has toured public projects around the world. He described the National Memorial as “one of the most extraordinary memorial buildings" he's ever seen anywhere. Others agree and are calling it the most significant memorial on U.S. soil since Maya Lin’s Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, D.C.   While a massive work honoring those lynched in the South is an incredible step forward, it’s still important to preserve the other places where the lynchings actually happened. TCLF placed these sites in its Landslide 2018 program to call attention to their fading history and to urge Americans and preservation groups to help keep them intact. The other at-risk sites include: Blair Mountain Battlefield in Logan County, West Virginia, the site of a four-day uprising by over 10,000 armed coal miners fighting for basic workers’ rights; Druid Heights in Marin County, California, a bohemian enclave north of San Francisco where poet and lesbian feminist Elsa Gidlow lived among a group of LGBTQ activists; The Hall of Fame for Great Americans at Bronx Community College, a monument featuring 96 busts that honor high-achieving individuals across various fields; Hog Hammock on Georgia’s Sapelo Island, home to the last descendants of the enslaved Saltwater Geechee community; Japanese American Confinement Sites located across the West Coast where over 120,000 people were held during World War II; Lincoln Memorial Park in Miami, Florida, a 20-acre African American cemetery in Dade County housing soldiers from the Civil War to the Iraq War; Lions Municipal Golf Course in Austin, Texas, the first desegregated course in the South; Princeville, North Carolina, the first U.S. town incorporated by African Americans; and Susan B. Anthony’s Childhood Home in Battenville, New York. All of these landscapes have played a critical role in America’s growth and continue to shape how we interact with one another, as well as how we fight and vote for a less violent, more equitable future. Get the full story behind these historic sites and why they’re in danger here.
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Thanks for the Memories

Design editors reflect on architecture journalism in the 21st century
Julie V. Iovine Executive Editor 2006–2013 My years as editor of The Architect’s Newspaper, between 2006 and 2013, were exciting, of course, but eye-opening too, in ways I had not expected. There I was, sitting in the catbird seat with many of the world’s most talented and prominent architects working within a few blocks (at least, no farther away than 13.4 miles), ready and willing to answer emails, give tours of their offices, and reveal their latest projects and agendas—with more from abroad checking in as they passed through town. How could that not be fun? After a decade as a New York Times reporter, where every encounter with an architect was fraught and slightly adversarial—with both sides trying to extract something, whether quote, coverage, or exclusive image—at The Architect’s Newspaper, I was tracking shared interests. Instead of asking “What have you done for the public lately?” I wanted to know about the compelling and relevant issues important to architects right now. Anyone passionately interested in architecture was free to chime in, and often did, including artists, engineers, software developers, and many more. In the short years since its founding as a nimble observer and attentive commentator, The Architect’s Newspaper became thoroughly embedded in the community it covered. It was a time when architecture was taken seriously across the land, but especially in New York City under Mayor Michael Bloomberg. So much so that it took just a few phone calls in the fall of 2009 to convene four NYC commissioners—transportation commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, design and construction commissioner David Burney, planning commissioner Amanda Burden, and parks and recreation commissioner Adrian Benepe—for a roundtable conversation on the record about what was succeeding, failing, and in the works for the city over the coming years. I cannot imagine the press today so easily being given that level and quality of access. Across New York City, cultural, architectural, and urban institutions were taking advantage of this moment of being heard by the city’s policy leaders and decision makers. There were forums, exhibitions, and commissioned works of the highest caliber that could realistically hope to have an impact on the urban environment. Of course, the entire population was also watching every progressive—and regressive—move around rebuilding at the World Trade Center site. AN was there too. In 2010, I recall tagging along with a crew from City Hall trailing behind Barry Bergdoll, then MoMA’s chief curator of architecture and design and engineer Guy Nordenson as they explained the innovations for dealing with climate change offered up by an extraordinary roster of architects, landscape designers, engineers, and more in the exhibition Rising Currents: Projects for New York’s Waterfront. Many public servants at that time probably still believed the way to cope with flooding was with concrete barriers. Rising Currents changed that idea, for good. In 2013, the Architectural League took on the city’s intractable housing problem by sponsoring architects to develop solutions, including micro-units for single adults. By 2016, people were moving into the first micro-loft buildings. But for me, it was actually when the Great Recession hit that I witnessed what members of this profession are truly made of. As offices closed and shrank—including ours—and people of great talent found themselves unemployed and unmoored from even the possibility of designing much in the near future, I beheld an extraordinary resilience. Many times I would hear from principals of offices once 20-plus strong, forced down to one architect and a part-time draughtsperson, saying it was great to be a hands-on designer again. Others entirely reinvented themselves and developed new expertise in health care or the suddenly relevant field of security design. Turning a personal mission into a public mandate, Jonathan Kirschenfeld founded the Institute for Public Architecture in 2009, championing integrity and quality for building types—childcare facilities, low-income housing, prefab—too often churned out on the cheap. The speed and ingenuity with which architects showed they could halt, pivot, and charge in a new direction was astonishing. The old cliché that designing is problem-solving finally made real sense to me: Whatever the economy threw at them, architects could figure it out. Especially gratifying and illuminating for me were a series of interviews we conducted, called “Recession Tales.” We talked to architects from different generations, professional backgrounds, and experiences about how they had handled personal or professional setbacks in the past: Harry Cobb, James Polshek, Rob Rogers, and David Adjaye among them. Whether it was Cobb describing being blacklisted in the 1970s after curtain wall failures at the John Hancock Tower in Boston, or Adjaye admitting his severe financial woes, every architect we spoke to drew intimately vivid pictures of tough times endured with courage, revealing impressive strengths and an extraordinary ability to pull together. I suppose the profession has never been for the faint of heart. The expand-and-contract nature of the building trades is always rolling through cycles. Still, as editor of The Architect’s Newspaper during one of the toughest roller-coaster rides in recent memory, I was buckled into a front row seat, and the ride was unforgettable. Sam Lubell West Editor 2007–2015 I arrived at The Architect’s Newspaper at just the right time. It was fall 2006, and I was a West Coast newbie. Little did I know that the region was undergoing fundamental shifts that I would get to record, experience, and even influence, over the next nine years. In my head, L.A. was still a single-family, concrete, and car-dominated place. But it was quickly shifting to a much denser one full of new subway lines, high-speed rail, corridors of mixed-use development, new parks, and anti-sprawl legislation. Its architects were taking advantage of a magical mix of schools, creative energy, and technical capability to create some of the best work in the world. And the rest of the region—from San Diego up to Seattle—was steadily churning out similar innovation, and, thanks largely to booming tech giants, growing like never before, welcoming some of the world’s most famous architects while developing an impressive new garde (despite a major lull during the Great Recession). Of course, they were facing darker issues as well, like booms and busts, gentrification, affordability crises, gridlock, and mushrooming homeless populations. Through it all, I drove my beat-up Hyundai to offices, meetings, classrooms, and building sites, making friends, and getting the scoop. My role as AN’s West Coast editor helped me become—despite my outsider-ness—embraced by a coast, and a design community that I learned favors innovation, creativity, and sheer will over status and hierarchy. It started with our first launch events, which drew hundreds of designers eager for a publication to help pull them all together. And AN encouraged me to pursue new features and investigations, promote competitions, find my voice through editorials, and build community one event at a time. The Architect’s Newspaper, for me, represented much more than a publication. It represented a home. That’s what it’s done for writers, and of course, architects, around the country. I no longer have that Hyundai, but the many design circles AN has helped nurture and connect are still as strong as ever. Aaron Seward Executive Editor 2014–2015 I started working at The Architect’s Newspaper in September 2005 when it was still being run out of the Menking loft on Lispenard Street in New York’s Chinatown. My title was Projects Editor and my primary task was producing a custom publication for the Steel Institute of New York called Metals in Construction. It was one of the many sidelines that the publisher, Diana Darling, would initiate over the years to keep the paper in the black. Her frenetic energy and torrent of business ideas put a fine point on just how audacious an endeavor it was to launch a newspaper in an era in which every pundit with half a platform was declaiming the death of print, not to mention the death of the authoritative publication itself, which was prophesied to wither away under the “democratizing” glare of the internet. Well, here we are. AN is 15 years old and flourishing, doing a better job than ever of presenting just how exciting and essential architecture is to society. Meanwhile, the internet gave us Twitter, Facebook, and Donald Trump. Thank you very much. My tenure at AN lasted a decade before I left to edit Texas Architect. There were many highs and lows during that time, but nothing sticks in my mind quite so much as those early days in the loft, which was an education in itself, full of books and art, emanating an edgy, downtown vibe. It was a family business, and we were all part of the family. The editors worked in an office at the front of the loft, Diana had her space at the back, and the rest of us—the production team, the grunts—were piled cheek by jowl into a separate apartment at the rear corner—the loft’s Siberia, if you will. Bill and Diana’s daughter, Halle, eight at the time, was around. She would swipe our scissors right off our desks. And there was a puppy, Coco, who would lope into Siberia, dashing in and out. The work was intense and focused, but there was no shortage of fun. A certain sense of wry humor, which found its way into the editorial (an enduring legacy of the paper), bound us together, as did the awareness that we were part of the larger cultural phenomenon called architecture, whether it wanted us or not. At this point, it seems to have wanted us. Long Live AN! Matt Shaw Current Executive Editor It is always fun to go back to the very first issues of AN for inspiration. I noticed a small box on the back page of those issues marked “Punchlist,” a section that named websites for reference. Many were unfamiliar, as we might expect, but what struck me was the prescience of anticipating the digital-analog media conundrum in 2003. Since the beginning, AN has been attempting to build bridges between print and the internet. How do they relate? Is the paper a legacy print publication that has a website? Or is it two entirely different beasts? The speed of the web (and thus the news cycle in general) is always increasing, while print stays relatively the same. This means that at AN we are constantly trying to rethink the relationship between print and digital. In January 2018, we debuted a new section in the paper called “In Case You Missed It,” a roundup of all the things that happened online while we were making the issue. It not only serves as a curated briefing for those who don’t troll Twitter all day, but it also sequesters the news into a neat area, leaving the rest of the paper to entertain longer, more insightful articles: in-depth follow-ups, expert takes, off-the-wall stories, and historical ruminations that don’t need to fit into the ebbs and flows of the 24-hour news cycle. The strategy seems to be working: We have published some high-impact articles that have shifted the discussion on a number of topics, as well as news stories that have gotten hundreds of thousands of views and exposed us to new reaches of the internet. In an era of Instagram and memes, it is imperative that we keep rethinking what the media is today and how architectural news and discourse are affected by current shifts in technology, information dissemination, and the degradation of our attention spans. On the website, this battle will take place as we begin to put print content online in a way that starts to mimic the curated and cohesive feel of a print publication. For instance, we might put entire features online all at once with a single web page serving as a datum through which other articles can be accessed. In print, we will try to relate back to the speed and timeliness of the web by providing links for reference. We look forward to embracing these challenges and are excited for where they will take us.
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Limest Pun Ever

Limestone load-bearing exoskeleton spawns outrage in London
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In a time when stone is primarily used in facades as screen walls or purely decorative cladding, London’s 15 Clerkenwell Close by Groupwork + Amin Taha Architects (ATA) brings structure to the fore with a load-bearing masonry exoskeleton. Since construction in November 2017, the mixed-use development, which is the home of Taha and his practice, has proved contentious between critics and local authorities. While the firm was awarded the 2017 RIBA Award, the Islington Council has ordered the architect to demolish the structure for a perceived incongruity with the surrounding historical context—albeit a significant portion of Islington's architectural stock was built in the mid-20th century with half brick facades—a major complaint being the rustic quality of the limestone slabs.
  • Facade Manufacturer & Installer Stonemasonry Company Ltd, Ace Sheet Metal Ltd, Glasstec Ltd
  • Architects Groupwork + Amin Taha Architects
  • Facade Consultants Webb Yates Engineers Ltd
  • Location London, United Kingdom
  • Date of Completion November 2017
  • System Concrete floor slabs fastened to load-bearing masonry with unitized glass-and-wood curtain wall
  • Products Limestone blocks, double glazing bonded through nylon thermal isolators to bronze finished metal curtain wall system
To source the limestone facade, ATA went across the English Channel to a quarry outside of Lyons-la-Forêt in Northern France. According to Project Architect Dominic Kacinskas, "the region is noted for its continued use of strength certificates with a generations-old workforce well trained in extracting stone and splitting it accordingly." In contrast to historic and contemporary stone construction that is polished, chiseled, or hammered into a relatively smooth surface, the project’s columns and lintels are left in their semi-unfinished state. Striped indentations formed from the splitting process and fossilized remains track across the facade along with the smooth faces of bedding planes. Columns and lintels, all roughly measuring 10 feet by 1.5 feet by 1.5 feet, are stacked atop each other in a six-story square grid. Each block is bonded to the next with just under an inch of mortar and gravitational force. In total, the limestone exoskeleton weighs just under 250 tons. The reinforced concrete floor slabs, measuring nearly eight inches thick, are embedded with a series of steel plate casts that are bolted to external metal bosses through thermal isolator nylon plates. The metal bosses are in turn grouted into a system of galvanized steel I-beams placed at the meeting point of horizontal and vertical stone elements. Groupwork + Amin Taha Architects were able to execute a continuous bespoke curtain wall inches behind the load-bearing masonry effectively disengaged from the structure through the use of pinpointed metal fastenings. Window openings, composed of double-glazed units with metal brass finished frames, follow the equal subdivision of the exterior's stone structural grid. The design team placed solid oak timber panels where outward views are not permitted by the columns, which are grafted atop a solid oak sub-frame. Along the side elevations of 15 Clerkenwell Close, the design team elected to keep intact the original red brick party walls abutting adjacent structures. This decision is most apparent on the northwest elevation where a new grid of limestone, and infill grey brick, is cut into the party wall to support the insertion of new floor and roof slabs. Why the controversy? The Islington Council contends that Groupwork + Amin Taha Architects did not accurately display the finish of each stone component of the facade. According to the firm, the rough finish of the limestone, formed by millions of years of fossilized marine organisms, quartz pockets, and other sedimentary products, "is only discoverable weeks before installation on site as the stonemasons sub-divide the extracted stone into sizes set by the structural engineer." An appeal against the motion of demolition will occur in April 2019.
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Amazon Prime Real Estate

Governor Cuomo proposes rezoning in Long Island City as Amazon confirms HQ2 locations
Now that Amazon has officially confirmed that it will split its second headquarters between Long Island City, Queens, and Crystal City in Arlington, Virginia, each city is gearing up to address the logistical concerns of dropping in 25,000 new tech employees. To that end, New York’s Governor Andrew Cuomo is reportedly planning to rezone the 20-acre Anable Basin site in Long Island City (LIC) using a General Project Plan (GPP) to accommodate the online retail giant. Though the area is currently zoned as a light manufacturing district, its owner, the plastic container company Plaxall, had previously tapped WXY for a master plan that would redevelop the industrial zone into a mixed-use redevelopment. Using a GPP, the same process used to rezone Brooklyn’s Pacific Park (neé Atlantic Yards), the state would potentially be able to initiate a rezoning of Anable Basin without the approval of New York’s City Council. As a result, the basin and two adjacent city-owned sites that Amazon has been eyeing could potentially become a mixed-use campus and series of office buildings, zoned at a much higher density than New York’s zoning code would typically allow. The Plaxall draft plan had previously angled to build 5,000 residential units, but as Crain’s noted, the GPP would allow for millions of square feet of office, residential, and mixed-use space. Although the GPP would still require an environmental review and is subject to community input during that phase, all of the recommendations received from the local community board and City Planning Commission would be non-binding. The pushback from New Yorkers against Amazon’s decision was nearly immediate. The backlash was built on a number of factors, including concerns over affordable housing in Queens, transportation issues, fears that Amazon’s influence would price out the borough’s diverse residents, and anger over the amount of state and city money being handed to the company. In Amazon’s official HQ2 press release this morning, the company disclosed that New York State would be giving away $1.525 billion in tax credits. Most of that, $1.2 billion, would be returned through New York State’s Excelsior Program over 10 years, subsidizing each employee to the tune of $48,000. The remaining $325 million will be given to Amazon in the form of a direct grant from Empire State Development, based on the amount of square footage it’s expected to occupy. In return, Amazon has pledged to invest $2.5 billion in each portion of its dual headquarters. A portion of the property taxes from the new Amazon campus will go toward funding transportation improvements in Long Island City, and the tech company has also promised to carve out space for a tech incubator and public primary school. Still, those concessions haven’t mollified critics. As soon as Amazon’s decision to settle in Queens was leaked last week, New York’s incoming, newly-democrat controlled state senate and assembly pledged to stop the flow of taxpayer money to Amazon. Democratic Assemblyman Ron Kim told Capital & Main that he would look into rerouting the state’s economic development money (mainly corporate subsidies) into student debt relief, and called the correlation between tax breaks and corporate incentives unhealthy. On Twitter, western Queens representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez let loose with a thread blasting Albany for giving away over a billion dollars in tax breaks when Amazon hasn’t initiated hiring quotas, protection for workers, or any promise to avoid displacing long-time LIC residents. State Senator Michael Gianaris and Queens Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer also released a joint statement outlining their problems with what they described as a “massive corporate welfare” giveaway. In the release, both offices went on record as calling the Amazon deal a giveaway from the 99 percent to prop up the 1 percent. It remains to be seen how effective these protests will be, or whether state-level legislators will be able to wring any concessions out of either Amazon or the Cuomo administration. In related news, Amazon also announced their intention to bring an “East Coast hub” to Nashville that would employ up to 5,000. The company will be building out one million square feet of energy-efficient efficient office space while investing $230 million in the city and expects to pay $1 billion in taxes over the next ten years. In return, Nashville has promised up to $102 million in tax incentives depending on whether Amazon hits its hiring targets. Amazon will begin hiring for all three of the newly revealed locations sometime in 2019, though it may take up to 15 years for the LIC and Crystal City locations to fully integrate their 25,000 employees.
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Obama Comma

Obama Presidential Center takes a step forward, yet obstacles remain
On October 31, the Obama Presidential Center Ordinance cleared the Chicago City Council, giving the city the authorization to put into motion several key components to begin construction on the center. While this is a step forward for the Obama Foundation (OF) towards building the Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects–designed campus that includes a plaza, landscaped open space, and four buildings, the Obama Presidential Center (OPC) is still a long way away from breaking ground. Construction will not begin until the Section 106 review is complete and the federal lawsuit brought on by Protect our Parks is settled or dismissed. While the lawsuit and the federal review still impede construction, the ordinance passed by the City Council clears the remaining municipal hurdles, including several volleys between the OF, the Chicago Park District, and the City. Included in this authorization is the transfer of the land needed for the OPC from the Chicago Park District to the City, then to the OF, one of the most integral components to the project being the right of use granted to the Obama Foundation. The city will then allow the Obama Foundation control of 19.3 acres in Jackson Park for 99 years in exchange for a $10 payment. Also included in the ordinance is the approval of the closure of Cornell Drive, a move that many residents feel will lead to additional infrastructure improvements, and a revision of the 2015 site footprint to accommodate the newest plan outlined by the Obama Foundation released in May of 2017. Additionally, the ordinance calls for an advisory committee of community stakeholders to address the needs of the OPC once it is constructed and that no political fundraisers be held at the site. While the OPC will not be a federal presidential library, the ordinance implies that collection items from the National Archives and Records Administration may be displayed on the OPC site in the future. The ordinance includes a city resident construction worker employment requirement as well as other stipulations on what pools the OPC can hire from, but it does not address a community benefits agreement directly, something that several organizations, many of them consulting parties in the Section 106 process, have called for. Provisions were added to the ordinance saying that when local or state funds are used, 26 percent of contracts must go to black and latino-owned firms, and six percent for firms owned by women. Firms must hire Chicago residents for at least half of the work hours and “project area residents” for an additional 15 percent. On September 28 the Obama Foundation was subpoenaed for documents relating to the bid process per the court case brought on by Protect our Parks, which has accused the OF of pulling an “institutional bait and switch” via the divestiture of the Obama Foundation from the National Archives and Records Administration and the federal presidential library program. As a part of that subpoena, the OF released bids by The University of Hawaii, Columbia University, the University of Illinois at Chicago, and the University of Chicago. Among some of the most substantial reveals of this release were concept drawings offered by the University of Chicago for each of the three sites in their original bid. Charles Renfro, David Adjaye, and Jeanne Gang all presented concepts presented by the University of Chicago. No date has been set for the next Section 106 meeting, which will focus on the potential adverse effects of the OPC on Jackson Park as a historic resource. The National Park Service (NPS) has taken over as the lead agency for the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) review. Over concerns that the removal of trees would be considered a connected action as far as NEPA, the Chicago Park District halted efforts to relocate a track and field in Jackson Park hours before a public meeting on NEPA September 17. The OPC is still anticipated to break ground next year and will open in 2022.
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Back to the Drawing Board

SOM’s proposed megatower on the Chicago Spire site rejected by alderman
Acting on behalf of his Streeterville constituents, Chicago’s 42nd Ward alderman Brendan Reilly has rejected Related Midwest’s current plan to build on the former site of the Chicago Spire. Last spring, the developer announced its intention to construct two stepped towers just west of Lake Shore Drive, one reaching the height of 1,100 feet, with 300 condominium units and 175 luxury hotel rooms, and another 850-foot tower with 550 residential units. Designed by David Childs with Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, the two towers at 400 North Lake Shore Drive would sit on a four-story plinth and would open out at a skewed angle to Lake Michigan. In addition, Related Midwest committed to the long-awaited completion of DuSable Park as well as extending the Riverwalk under Lake Shore Drive and out to the lakefront, with a public esplanade running along the Ogden Slip just north of the site. According to an email sent to his constituents, Alderman Reilly contacted the development team at Related Midwest in August, articulating various concerns voiced by residents during meetings between condominium associations and the developer. Related Midwest responded, but according to Alderman Reilly, failed to address the major concerns about their proposal.  The project will need a zoning change and aldermanic approval before it goes to construction. “I always strive to negotiate positive outcomes when considering development proposals,” the alderman noted in the email. “As with any project, my ultimate goal is to strike a fair balance and approve responsible projects that will be successful for the owners, while enhancing the character and vitality of the surrounding neighborhood.” Residents have asked for the complete elimination of the hotel use and a reduction of the podium height and bulk, and have voiced the need for the project to address traffic issues. Of primary concern is access to the site via East North Water Street, a significant aspect of the design that nearby residents have asked to be restricted, effectively requiring a redesign of the primary entrance to the structure. Residents have also asked for the developer to make greater use of the Lake Shore Drive access ramp system and below-grade parking systems to manage deliveries, service vehicles, and pedestrian pick-ups and drop-offs, away from residential development to the west, and tucked under Lake Shore Drive. Constituents have also asked for the project to address the public space components of the project, including the elimination of a public esplanade along the Ogden Slip, a dredged body of water that runs parallel to the north branch of the Chicago River. Related Midwest must also create a security plan for DuSable Park and the Riverwalk connection. Construction of DuSable Park, the promenade at the Ogden Slip and the extension of the Riverwalk to the lakefront are components to the Cityfront Center Master Plan, approved by the City Council in 1985. Cityfront Center would encourage residential and commercial building between Navy Pier and North Michigan Avenue but would leave the developer responsible for public works improvements, many of which have yet to be completed.  The time it has taken to complete the public space components, many of which were promised under Mayor Harold Washington’s administration, raises questions as far as the effectiveness of privatizing public space. While Streeterville includes some of Chicago’s tallest skyscrapers, the blocks immediately surrounding the former Spire site are defined by lower height residential structures, including the Riverview Townhomes at three stories, and the Lofts at River East at six. The rejection of the current plan for 400 North Lake Shore Drive comes at a time where several large developments announced with fanfare this past spring are being examined closely by neighborhood residents and their elected ward leaders, including the 78 in the South Loop, and Lincoln Yards between Lincoln Park and Bucktown. Alderman Reilly recently approved an update of the plans to redevelop Union Station after the first version of the development was lauded by neighbors and preservationists.
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Heading On West

Construction begins on L.A.’s Purple Line extension as adjacent projects take shape
Over 30 years after it was initially planned, the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) has started tunneling the final phases of the Purple Line subway. According to Metro, when completed in 2026, it will be possible to take a one-seat underground ride from Union Station in Downtown Los Angeles to Westwood—an area home to the University of California, Los Angeles campus, the Veterans Administration complex, and other major institutions—in roughly 25 minutes. For comparison, today the trip takes nearly an hour and a half by car or bus. Though its completion is many years away, the pending extension has begun to impact adjacent areas as rezoning efforts get underway in anticipation of the route. The pending Purple Line Transit Neighborhood Plan, for example, will modestly boost densities between the three adjacent stations surrounding the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) campus. As proposed, upper height limits in the densest areas could reach 70-feet, ten feet higher than currently allowed. The prospect of taller buildings on and around Wilshire Boulevard is not a far-off vision, however. The 18-story Vision on Wilshire project by Steinberg Hart and developers UDR, for example, wrapped up construction this summer. The pixelated tower comes with 150 units and joins other new apartment towers recently completed along the corridor. Nearby, a new glass-wrapped tower by MVE + Partners and developers J.H. Snider is slated for a site adjacent to the LACMA campus, and will bring 285 apartments and 250,000 square feet of offices just steps from the transit line. Another project on the boards is a two-tower condominium development slated to join the historic Minoru Yamasaki-designed Plaza Hotel in Century City. Here, Pei, Cobb, Freed & Partners, Gensler, Marmol Radzinger, and RCH Studios will add 290 luxury condominiums behind the historic hotel on a site that will host a new stop on the extension. The project is currently under construction. Not everyone is happy about the coming transit line, however, especially in Beverly Hills, which will see a new subway stop at Wilshire and Rodeo Drive. The City of Beverly Hills has been engaged in a years-long struggle to block the subway from running below its streets. Most recently, the Beverly Hills Unified School District orchestrated what it called a student “walk out” against the proposed metro line. The demonstration occurred last week and was aimed at trying to get the attention of President Trump, who is himself a Beverly Hills homeowner. According to The Los Angeles Times, students carried signs calling on the president to move the subway route, which is currently slated to run underneath Beverly Hills High School and other sites in the city, away from delicate areas. The students also sought to have the president take the unprecedented step of revoking the $1.5 billion in federal funds and low-cost loans awarded to the transformative project. There’s no word from the president yet, but Metro cranked up its two new tunneling machines Monday to begin digging the next leg of the extension nonetheless. It’s expected the tunneling machines will advance roughly 60 feet per day from La Brea Avenue and Wilshire toward the current Purple Line terminus at Western Avenue. After the tunnel there is excavated, the machines will be driven back to La Brea and begin the work of completing the final leg of the line. Phase one of the expansion is slated to open in 2023 with the second phase due to arrive in 2025 and final completion expected by 2026, just in time for the 2028 Olympic Games.
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Tulsa's Tree Kingdom

Michael Van Valkenburgh transforms Tulsa’s riverfront into a fantastical green parkland
The Gathering Place, Tulsa, Oklahoma’s newest public park, is anything but basic. Opened in early September, the 66.5-acre riverside landscape looks more like an ultra-green theme park than a typical urban park with trees thrown in for shade. Designed by landscape architects Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates (MVVA), the $465 million project was dreamed up by the George Kaiser Family Foundation and backed by over 80 other local corporate and philanthropic donors. It’s located just 2 miles from downtown Tulsa on a formerly flat, scorching site along the Arkansas River. After four years of the first phase of construction, it’s now one of the city’s greatest amenities, providing spots for sport, relaxation, and water play underneath a sprawling tree canopy and atop grassy open lawns. MVVA transformed the topography of the existing site by creating various elevated landscapes and other sunken spaces with access to water. The firm also accentuated the native ecologies of the parkland and introduced wetlands, meadows, streams, and dry areas that inspire different types of interaction with nature. Thick logs for seating, fingerlike tree trunks for gathering, and local stone used for walls and mazes were additionally incorporated to connect the landscape as a whole and link it to the surrounding region. While the park boasts threads of regional bike trails, courts for ball-handling sports, and 21 points of entry and exit, it’s the surprising structural elements of play that make it stand out. MVVA designed a 5-acre adventure playground for kids age two to 12 that features seven thematic spaces: Volcanoville, The Land of the River Giants, Royal Tower, Fairy Land Forest, The Ramble, Spiral Connector, and Mist Mountain. According to the architects, these play areas are “boldly expressive and richly programmed,” with normal playground elements such as towers, suspension bridges, and slides, but also fantastic designs like climbable, large-scale animals, flowers, and fruit. Many of the play accessories are clad in steel as well as timber imported from the Alps. Accessibility is a key component of The Gathering Place. MVVA describes the guiding vision of the park to be a democratic space where all Tulsans can come together and experience an array of physically challenging and leisurely activities. Children in wheelchairs can easily access the playscapes through elongated ramps on all of the structures, like the giant, wood-slatted elephant with a truncated slide. The park also includes a pond and boathouse where families can check out kayaks, canoes, and paddle boats. A coffee and ice cream cafe, as well as a dining patio and other picnic areas are situated in the northern part of the parkland near the play spaces to encourage extended stay. Toward the park’s south side, MVVA designed the Sky Garden and Four Season Garden, as well as Swing Hill, situated on the highest point of The Gathering Place with prime views of downtown Tulsa. At the farthest end of the park, visitors can enjoy courts for basketball, volleyball, street hockey, and soccer, or ride over to the skateboard and bike park, which offers courses for all ages and levels. A 50,000-square-foot children’s science museum will also be constructed in this area, coming late summer 2020. Phases 2 and 3 of construction, beginning next spring, will bring the park to a total of 100 acres.
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The Future is Green

Major investment coming to Detroit and Buffalo’s waterfront park projects
As Detroit and Buffalo get set to take on two transformative park projects along their respective waterfronts, both cities have been generously backed by a philanthropic organization aiming to enhance green space and bolster community engagement. Today, the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation announced its pledge to invest over $1.2 billion in the cities by 2035 in honor of its founder, the Buffalo Bills’ late owner, and his centennial birthday. The Foundation is making a sizable donation to Western New York and Southeast Michigan—the two areas Wilson loved most—by committing a combined $200 million for upgraded parks and 250 miles of trails in the regions. A large chunk of that change will go directly to revitalizing LaSalle Park in Buffalo and West Riverfront Park in Detroit. With a design already envisioned by Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates (MVVA) and David Adjaye, the latter parkland will give Michiganites long-desired, tangible access to the Detroit River. Though the 77-acre LaSalle Park has stretched across Lake Erie’s edge since the 1930s, it’s massive potential for further beautification and elevated programming could increase the quality of life for Buffalo residents and beyond. Dave Enger, president of the Foundation, stressed that community involvement is the key to taking on these monumental landscape goals. “Foundations don’t build parks, communities do,” he said. “Our vision is really to support these wonderful projects and the people that have the vision.” The design process is well underway for West Riverfront Park in downtown Detroit. Situated atop a former industrial piece of land, the 22-acre parkland will be a year-round destination for fishing, skating or swimming, sports, entertainment, and family gatherings. MVVA’s proposal was chosen over 80 other submissions in an international design competition to reimagine the park, which was transferred from private ownership to the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy in 2014. Since their master plan was selected earlier this spring, MVVA has worked alongside the Conservancy and the Detroit Mayor’s office to garner feedback from locals and find out their personal ambitions for the park. The firm’s principal, Michael Van Valkenburgh, said his team especially loved talking to people aged 60 and older about their childhoods in Detroit—the places they loved and why. For many, the secluded Belle Isle was the only locale they could go to enjoy green space and the river at the same time. But that’s about to change thanks to these new ideas for downtown. “Not every place in Detroit has what New York’s Brooklyn Bridge Park offers—a way to touch the water and put your toes in,” said Van Valkenburgh. “Because Detroit is so vast horizontally, we knew needed to add shock and awe to the design to get Detroiters who were far away to come to the water. Michiganders feel defined by and proud that the state is surrounded on three sides by the Great Lakes. We thought giving access to the water, through this cove and beach creation, would be a big draw.” A construction start date hasn’t yet been announced for West Riverfront Park, but officials estimate it will be complete by 2022. Van Valkenburgh is sure the master plan will go through many design iterations before ground is broken and he’s excited about more community input. “I’ve been going to public meetings since 1990,” he said. “These have been the most uplifting public meetings I’ve ever been a part of. People come with a real sense that this park is going to be a big lift for the city. They really want it.” At the other end of Lake Erie is LaSalle Park in Buffalo. Though it’s a long-loved and well-utilized community treasure, city stakeholders agree that it could use significant improvements. In 1998, the city conducted a planning review to overhaul the expansive parkland and identify priorities for a new design and upgraded programming. That vision was never realized until the Regional Institute at the University of Buffalo began researching its history and surveying people through a project called Imagine LaSalle. A focus group even spent this summer exploring the park and visiting other famous green spaces in Chicago, Cincinnati, and New York for inspiration. “The feedback has been tremendous so far,” said Brendan Mehaffey, executive director for the city’s Office of Strategic Planning. “Part of the mayoral administration’s core values is inclusion so we’ve talked to people from all backgrounds including low-income individuals, young professionals, business owners, and more.” Community engagement is at the heart of both efforts in Buffalo and Detroit. Much like Imagine LaSalle, MVVA also transported a busload of teenagers to visit their Maggie Daley Park in Chicago, and other groups went to New York and Philadelphia. Mehaffey sees the connection between the two waterfront park projects, and the two cities in general, as vital to their respective successes. “The Detroit team is much further into the design process than we are, so we’re delving into their research to try and discover best practices for building our own LaSalle Park,” he said. “I think that commonality between us is part of what the Wilson Foundation’s statement is going to make to the country.” Enger also believes the two cities are inextricably important to one another—that’s why his organization has zeroed in on their combined futures. He emphasized that spurring economic development through green space is a key way to democratize the municipalities on a greater level. “Where else in the United States are you going to find world-class parks in post-industrial cities that overlook international border crossings and feature some of the most magnificent sunrises and sunsets?" he said. "We think the total leverage of this project will be far greater than what our investment will bring.”
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(It's a bubble)

What’s the state of inflatable architecture?
There’s been something of a renaissance lately in inflatable architecture. In the past few years alone, this ephemeral typology has been at Collective Design Fair, Performa 17, and the Park Avenue Armory. Inflatables emerged in the 1960s as a means of expressing dissatisfaction with established cultural norms about life, work, and society. They were seen as potentially revolutionary structures that allowed for experimentation with space in order to influence social, psychological, and physical cognition through the built environment. Inflatables were originally invented by the U.S. military with Cornell aeronautical lab engineer Walter Bird to deploy radio antennae in 1948. Bird, often referred to as the father of the field, is credited for taking this military technology and popularizing it in 1959 by collaborating with Paul Weidlinger on an inflatable roof for the Boston Arts Center Theater. In the ’60s and ’70s, when techno-optimism about the future reached its peak, Buckminster Fuller proposed a massive dome over Manhattan, while Frei Otto envisioned one to shelter 40,000 people in the Arctic Circle. What came next in "inflatotecture" was symptomatic of the counterculture era, which viewed it as a way to construct space for dissent and experimentation while taking advantage of lighter, stronger construction methods and new audiovisual technologies. Ant Farm, a San Francisco–based architecture studio, designed inexpensive and disposable structures out of vinyl for counterculture “happenings,” and anyone attending them could buy the group’s Inflatocookbook, a comic detailing step-by-step how to make one’s own enclosure (a practice common among collectives to disseminate information and design about inflatables). Other contemporaries included the U.K.'s Archigram, Italy's Archizoom, and Germany-based Haus-Rucker-Co.—all of whom envisioned inflatable architecture as a way to explore theories about spatial production, social organization, and consumption. Experimental inflatable architecture continues to be a form that designers use to examine contemporary social problems and to radically play with form and space for its own sake. The following projects stretch the medium to its limits, showing how the next generation of inflatables can generate new experiences. Jesse Seegers Looking to practice new forms of architecture outside of the traditionally accepted profession, New York-based designer Jesse Seegers employs the term “spatial practice,” a framework to create structures that draw from architectural knowledge but are equally related to other disciplines. For example, the Potlatch Pavilion was an ethereal inflatable for a gift exchange party, referencing the Pacific Northwest indigenous American tradition where one’s status is derived from how much you can give away, rather than how much wealth you possess. Here, the inflatable was deployed to “construct alternative systems of political economy.” Seegers’s recent projects include a temporary yoga space called Yoga Dome, which premiered at the opening of Sky Ting Yoga; an installation at a Pioneer Works exhibition on Ant Farm; a concert backdrop for musician SOPHIE’s live tour; and an inflatable landscape for musician Oneohtrix Point Never’s M.Y.R.I.A.D. concert at New York’s Park Avenue Armory. In 2017, Seegers helped French, Los Angeles–based architect François Perrin bring Reyner Banham and François Dallegret’s 1965 conceptual drawing The Environment Bubble to life as a site-specific installation for dance workshops in Brooklyn Bridge Park and Central Park as part of Performa 17. Alex Schweder “An inflatable space in process speaks to the bodies we have. It’s a fleshier, time-based architecture,” said Alex Schweder. The self-proclaimed performance architect began working with inflatables in 2005 at the American Academy in Rome, where his first blow-up installation, Sick Building Sequence, encapsulated feathers floating inside of a translucent plastic “room.” Since then, his inflatables have traversed Collective Design Fair, Tel Aviv Museum of Art, the Venice Architecture Biennale, Tate Britain, and Performa 17. These include a “room” with photosensitive fur, an inflatable hotel inside of a cherry picker, a floor-to-ceiling mass that collapses and expands into and away from itself, and a spiderlike robot that inflates and deflates to reconfigure space on a dance floor. What’s next? Schweder is working with a team of international artists on a traveling show that responds to László Moholy-Nagy’s Mechanized Eccentric, which will debut at the Bauhaus 100th anniversary next year. Seattle Design Nerds Formed in 2014 as a volunteer nonprofit organization dedicated to designing for the public realm, the group is officially the Seattle-based chapter of the international Design Nerds Society. Known for their inflatables, Seattle Design Nerds is a multidisciplinary collab started by Jeremy Reeding and Trevor Dykstra. The pair works with other local architects, designers, and artists on public interest projects to “make Seattle a little more awesome.” True to their mission, Reeding and Dykstra’s first inflatable was a large-scale installation for the 2014 Seattle Design Festival Block Party, a pop-up space shaped like a giant monster and filled with random objects for play. The team veered into the conceptual realm with The Gas Trap, a performance work where a car's tailpipe seemingly fills the inflatable to illustrate our dependence on gasoline. Last year they dreamed up an installation at the Seattle Art Museum's Olympic Sculpture Park composed of eight cuddly, inflatable orbs that change color when bopped. For the 2017 Seattle Design Festival Block Party, the group envisioned an illuminated inflatable mural crafted by visitors at the event with Velcro pixels. Their latest work for Cooper Hewitt’s Design with the Other 90% features a giant egg-shaped inflatable that will debut at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Discovery Center in Seattle in mid-September. Nicolas KK A young Nicolas KK grew up in Brazil in a family of hot air ballooners. From these beginnings, he developed an innate understanding and appreciation of the form. Putting his “family stuff” to good use, he started making his own blow-ups while studying industrial design at the Maryland Institute College of Art. That trajectory has continued through collaboration with digital, audio, and light artists in a shared studio in Bushwick, Brooklyn, called Future Space. Inspired by the inflatables of the 1960s and ’70s, Nicolas KK produces experimental structures by applying his expertise in computational design. His digitally driven experimental performance pieces create “dynamic” qualities and always include a programmable element that directly responds to existing digital infrastructures or naturally occurring biomimetic systems. Nicolas KK plans to study Integrative technologies and architectural design research at the University of Stuttgart in Germany, where he will continue to work with inflatables and collaborate with other artists on projects that respond to the emerging computational environment. In December, New York's New Museum will debut his work in an online exhibition described as “the original live desktop theater internet television show.” Pneuhaus Matt Muller, Augie Lehrecke, and Levi Bedall spearhead the Rhode Island-based design collective Pneuhaus dedicated to the mastery of all things inflatable, specifically spatial designs, temporary structures, contemporary art, and large-scale installations. It all started at Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) in 2014 when Muller and Lehrecke designed a handful of different inflatables inspired by Art Farm’s Inflatocookbook. The university hired them to continue to explore those ideas and design a space for the school’s annual design conference. Soon after, Beddall joined Muller and Lehrecke when they got their first professional commission to design-build and perform a circus for the RISD Museum. Since then, the trio has imagined transient spaces for Spotify, Burning Man, and Brown University. Ranging from inflatable fabric prisms built around the fundamental properties of light to inflatables outfitted with pinhole cameras, their growing list of projects develop as iterations of previous works. Their most recent project, Compound Camera no. 2, is a new iteration of the pinhole camera inflatable dome as a giant tunnel at the LUMA Projection Arts Festival in Binghamton, New York.
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Neon, Y'All

Goodnight Charlie’s is a contemporary honky-tonk with Texas roots
“We didn’t want a Disney World experience at Goodnight Charlie’s, so we pared back,” said Gin Braverman, principal of Houston-based Gin Design Group (GDG), about the city’s Montrose neighborhood’s newest (and only) honky-tonk. “We didn’t want it to feel contrived.” In order to flesh out project architects Content Architecture’s contemporary structure for a musical lineup that ranges from twang to tonk, GDG began with Goodnight Charlie’s good bones and dressed them with simple, vernacular elements. The rectangular structure’s cedar-clad exterior is complemented by interiors of warm, accessible materials that would be at home in Texas’s barns and farmhouses. Rough cedar and plywood dominate the interior, materials evocative of the simple, collaborative approach a community might take in a barn raising—and the cooperative process that came easy for the interior designer and Content, whose practices share a building. Galvanized aluminum paneling wraps an angled wall behind the bar and around the door to the kitchen—a utilitarian choice that ends brilliantly, as the aluminum picks up and diffuses the multiple light sources in the room, including a lattice of raw lightbulbs, the fresh neon signs of the bar logo, and a cheeky crescent moon behind the stage. Bar storage is achieved with rolltop doors set within a steel structure, where a rotating narrative of bottles and ephemera is allowed to build naturally, a scheme Gin Design Group put considerable intent behind. “It was important that nothing appeared staged,” Braverman added, “so the finishes and fixtures align with that direction.” Nested tables with benches in hardwood provide a flexible gathering space within the performance area, while warm leather high-top chairs in burnt sienna encourage patrons to (figuratively) saddle up to the wide bar top, rendered in concrete and powder-coated metal. Beyond the bar area is a real-life Texas porch that opens out to the neighborhood, complete with swings hung on long steel chains and classic picnic tables. Looking up reveals the structure’s exposed trusses and cedar louvers. The restrooms are more intimate and detailed, with a portrait of Goodnight Charlie’s namesake—Charles Goodnight, the first cattle rancher in the Texas Panhandle—separating genders. Inside there are farmhouse sinks and white tile that has a handmade texture. Wallpaper takes on a Federalist air, the red print featuring the Texas seal, the Alamo, and an eager American eagle above a wave of stars. “The materials are just broad enough,” added Braverman. “They are a nod to Texas in general.”