Search results for "san antonio"

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HUD Secretary Julian Castro touts new planning rules for affordable housing
U.S. Housing & Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro visited Chicago today to announce a clarification to the 1968 Fair Housing Act that officials say will improve access to affordable housing in cities across the country. HUD finalized a bureaucratic rule that Castro says will correct shortcomings in the federal agency's provision of fair housing. The 1968 law, part of the Civil Rights bill, obligates HUD and its local affiliates to “affirmatively further fair housing,” a lofty goal that “has not been as effective as originally envisioned,” according to the new HUD rule. "This represents a new partnership with cities,” said Secretary Castro, a former mayor of San Antonio, Texas. Standing in front of Chicago's newly expanded Park Boulevard—the mixed-income housing development was formerly Stateway Gardens, part of the corridor of South Side housing projects that included Robert Taylor Homes—Castro said the new rule will make publicly available data and mapping tools to help community members and local leaders establish local goals for the development fair housing. He added that Chicago had already used the newly available data for a preliminary exercise linking affordable housing and transit planning. The change also allows local housing agencies more time and flexibility in presenting their fair housing priorities and goals to the federal government. Castro referenced a recent Harvard study that found kids from low-income neighborhoods were statistically less likely than their wealthier counterparts to achieve upward mobility. "A zip code should never prevent anyone from reaching their greater aspirations,” said Castro.
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This abandoned rail corridor in Singapore will soon be a nationwide linear park, and these firms are competing to design it
Singapore’s Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) has shortlisted five winning design firms for an RFP to overhaul the Singapore Rail Corridor. Defunct since 2011 and once a prominent Singapore–Malaysia trade route, the railway spans the entire country from north to south starting at the Tanjong Pagar Railway Station to the Woodlands Checkpoint. A competition launched by the URA requested proposals to transform the 15-mile stretch into a public greenway connecting four important urban nodes: Buona Vista, the Bukit Timah Railway Station area, former Bukit Timah Fire Station, and Kranji. The five shortlisted design teams are as follows:
  • West 8 and DP Architects
  • Grant Associates and MVRDV with Architects 61
  • Turenscape International and MKPL Architects
  • Nikken Sekkei with Tierra Design
  • OLIN Partnership and OMA Asia with DP Architects
“The expanse of the corridor running through the center of the entire country presents an unprecedented opportunity to develop a new typology of landscape with transformative effects for the country as a whole,” said Michael Kokora, partner at OMA, one of five shortlisted firms. “This is a project that has the potential to improve quality of life for generations to come.” To progress beyond Stage 2A, the selected firms will have to draw up a feasibility study and present preliminary designs for a 2.5-mile signature stretch designated as a “green gateway” to the Rail Corridor. The landscape architecture is a linchpin in the evaluation process, seeing as the brief calls for the conversion of the railway into a “leisure corridor for shared sports, arts and community activities” while leveraging the tropical environment. The URA launched the "Rail Corridor – An Inspired and Extraordinary Community Space" RFP in March 2015. Sixty-four design teams responded. Stage 2B will commence by the end of this year following a public exhibition held from October to November 2015 by the five shortlisted teams. After assimilating public feedback, the winning teams will work with the URA to refine the Concept Master Plan and Concept Designs to account for the provision of services and infrastructure such as cycling tracks, shelters, and toilets. Evaluation panel member Dr. Malone-Lee Lai Choo, Director for the Centre for Sustainable Asian Cities at the National University of Singapore and member of the Rail Corridor Partnership, said, “We were looking for schemes that are particularly strong in responding to the ecology of the site, that respect its natural qualities, while introducing sensitive design interventions to enhance them.” “They must demonstrate understanding and appreciation of the needs, sentiments and collective aspirations of users and residents. We would also want the Corridor to be an outstanding urban asset, and are therefore open to innovative concepts, particularly in and around the nodes; ideas that demonstrate freshness of approach and potentially exceptional design qualities that will enhance our urban landscape.”
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Chicago's Graham Foundation awards $490,000 for architectural research
The Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts today announced the latest recipients of their grants to individuals, a $490,000 pot of money split among 63 projects all over the world, including an extensive photographic survey of Le Corbusier’s completed architectural works by photographer Richard Pare; a series of community-based design and urban development courses in Costa Rica; and a compilation of criticism about Berlin's Institut für Raumexperimente (Institute for Spatial Experiments).

Recipients of this year's grants run the gamut in terms of media, from films and photography to exhibitions and public programming. (Full disclosure: Graham Foundation Director Sarah Herda sits on AN's editorial advisory board.) The awards ceremony is being livestreamed on YouTube:

Here's the full list of recipients, by category: EXHIBITION [6 awards] Zoe Beloff (New York, NY) Gabriela Burkhalter (Basel, Switzerland) Allied Works Architecture: Brad Cloepfil (New York, NY/Portland, OR) Kari Cwynar (Toronto, Canada) & Kendra Sullivan (Brooklyn, NY) Jamila Moore Pewu (Hanover, MA) Michael Rakowitz (Chicago, IL) FILM/VIDEO/NEW MEDIA [7 awards] Gavin Browning, Glen Cummings & Laura Hanna (New York, NY) Etienne Desrosiers (Montreal, Canada) Granny Cart Productions: Elettra Fiumi & Lea Khayata (New York, NY) Chad Freidrichs (Columbia, MO) New-Territories/[eIf/b^t/c]: Camille Lacadée & François Roche (Bangkok, Thailand) Léopold Lambert (Paris, France) Candacy Taylor (Los Angeles, CA) PUBLIC PROGRAM [3 awards] Elizabeth Lennard (Sausalito, CA) Marije van Lidth de Jeude & Oliver Schütte (Curridabat, Costa Rica) Noam Toran (London, England) PUBLICATION [33 awards] Ethel Baraona Pohl (Barcelona, Spain), Marina Otero Verzier (Rotterdam, the Netherlands) & Malkit Shoshan (Amsterdam, the Netherlands) Alessandro Bava (London, England) Silvia Benedito (Cambridge, MA) & Iwan Baan (Amsterdam, the Netherlands) Emilia Bergmark (Malmö, Sweden), Corinne Gisel (Zürich, Switzerland) & Nina Paim (St. Gallen, Switzerland) David Chambers & Kevin Haley (London, England) Esther Choi (Brooklyn, NY) & Marrikka Trotter (Cambridge, MA) Thomas Daniell (Fukuoka, Japan) Charles L. Davis II (Charlotte, NC) Alexander Eisenschmidt (Chicago, IL) Institut für Raumexperimente: Olafur Eliasson (Berlin, Germany), Eric Ellingsen (Ithaca, NY) & Christina Werner (Berlin, Germany) Didier Faustino (Paris, France) Todd Gannon (Orange, CA) & Craig Hodgetts (Culver City, CA) Kersten Geers, Joris Kritis (Brussels, Belgium), Jelena Pancevac (Paris, France) & Andrea Zanderigo (Milan, Italy) Chris Grimley, Michael Kubo & Mark Pasnik (Boston, MA) Georgina Huljich & Marcelo Spina (Los Angeles, CA) Daniel Ibañez (Cambridge, MA), Clare Lyster (Chicago, IL), Charles Waldheim (Cambridge, MA) & Mason White (Toronto, Canada) Catherine Ingraham (Brooklyn, NY) Doug Jackson (San Luis Obispo, CA) Daniel López-Pérez (San Diego, CA) Sébastien Marot (Paris, France) Noritaka Minami (Cambridge, MA) & Ken Yoshida (Merced, CA) Joan Ockman (Elkins Park, PA) Kathryn E. O’Rourke (San Antonio, TX) Lluís Ortega (Chicago, IL) Miriam Paeslack (Buffalo, NY) Richard Pare (Richmond, England) Stephen Phillips (Los Angeles, CA) Jesse Reiser & Nanako Umemoto (New York, NY) Charles Rice (Sydney, Australia) Sara Stevens (Houston, TX) Despina Stratigakos (Buffalo, NY) Alice Twemlow (Brooklyn, NY) Rebecca Zorach (Chicago, IL) RESEARCH [14 awards] Shumi Bose (London, England) Marshall Brown (Chicago, IL) Fabrizio Gallanti (Montreal, Canada) David J. Getsy (Chicago, IL) Rob Holmes (Gainesville, FL) & Brett Milligan (Davis, CA) Sabine Horlitz (Berlin, Germany) Andres Kurg (Tallinn, Estonia) Tiffany Lambert (Brooklyn, NY) Gregorio Carboni Maestri (Milan, Italy) Mary McLeod (New York, NY) Ara H. Merjian (New York, NY) Meredith Miller (Ann Arbor, MI) Spyros Papapetros (Princeton, NJ) & Gerd Zillner (Vienna, Austria) Benedikt Reichenbach (Berlin, Germany)
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Laying Down the Law
Brantley Hightower

The Courthouses of Central Texas
By Brantley Hightower
University of Texas Press, $45.00

Texas, with its 254 counties, each containing a courthouse, has far more than any other state. (Georgia, with 159 counties is a distant second). San Antonio–based architect Brantley Hightower’s slender book, The Courthouses of Central Texas, which showcases 50 examples, is a succinct tribute to one of the most admired groups of buildings in the state.

In March 1957, Architectural Record published an article, “Lockhart, Texas,” written by the English critic Colin Rowe, then teaching briefly at the University of Texas. It remains today perhaps the single most penetrating critique of the Texas courthouse as a generator of urban form. According to Rowe, while,

The place of origin of the type is presumably a matter of academic interest… it is just possible that its place of culmination is in central Texas… where the brilliance of the atmosphere lifts the most modest architectural statement to a new potential, the idea becomes completely clarified; and for the unprejudiced eye, the eye which is willing to see, a number of small towns do present themselves as very minor triumphs of urbanity… As a form of emotional complement to the interminable terrain, the impact of these four-square, geometrical, concentric little towns is discovered to be one of remarkable intensity. They have, all of them, something of the unqualified decisiveness, the diagrammatic coherence of architectural models…

Hightower seems to have been taken by this concept of the “diagrammatic coherence of architectural models.” His presentation of the courthouses as a united collection of “incongruous architectural artifacts” (18) is scrupulously regular. Selected from the counties surrounding San Antonio, Austin, and Waco, they are presented in chronological order in a neat succession from the first, built in 1970, to the last, built exactly 100 years later in 1970. Each courthouse is given a two-page spread, which includes a single black and white exterior photograph, an elevation drawing of the principle facade, a site plan showing the courthouse and the immediate surrounding blocks, and a short descriptive text giving key dates and names. The drawings are all to the same scale, in the elevations 1 inch equals 18 feet and in the site plans 1 inch equals 222 feet. (The irregular scales are presumably a result of fitting the drawings to the pages of the book.) Although the site plans indicate the main circulation corridors of the publicly accessible ground floors, in the manner of the famous 1748 Nolli Map of Rome, the book contains no interior photographs.

Hightower begins and ends the book with short explanatory chapters. In the first we learn about the main types of courthouse squares that are named after the specific towns in Tennessee, Virginia, and Pennsylvania that they first appeared. In the Shelbyville square, which is the most common, the courthouse sits in the center of a single block. The Harrisonburg square is shifted over half a block so the courthouse faces a single incoming street. The Lancaster square is shifted in two directions so the courthouse faces four oncoming streets. Finally, the Two-Block square is, as its name indicates, the result of combining two blocks so that the square functions more as a public park. We learn that the reason that most of the courthouses were built in the last three decades of the 19th century was because in 1874 the Texas Legislature passed a law allowing counties to issue bonds to pay for municipal buildings.

In the concluding chapter we learn about the architects, particularly San Antonio architect J. Riely Gordon (1863–1937) who designed some 18 distinguished courthouses in Texas built in the decade between 1890 and 1902 when he relocated his practice first to Dallas and then to New York. (Of these, however, only six were built in counties included in the book.) Gordon’s designs were unique for their sculptural, centralized massing and floor plans typically containing a central square atrium connected by four angled hallways leading to quarter-circular entrance porches. The atrium, which connected to a central, windowed tower acted as a chimney drawing air up and through the building for surprisingly effective summer cooling. We also learn the reason that so many of the old courthouses look oddly fresh and new is a legacy of the Texas Courthouse Preservation Program, initially sponsored by then governor George W. Bush in 1999. Between 1999 and 2014, 180 grants were awarded to 96 counties, resulting in the full restoration of 59 courthouses across the state.

Because Hightower’s book follows several others about Texas courthouses, the question inevitably arises: What justifies this re-presentation? Hightower’s critical engagement of the subject is more implied by his methodology and selections than stated directly. He writes somewhat contradictorily, for example, that “it may seem misguided for a small community to make such a large investment in architectural spectacle.”(141) But isn’t precisely the point of these buildings to be eye-catching landmarks? He continues, “As compelling as the courthouses of central Texas may be, they are products of a time and a culture that no longer exists.” (146) But if they don’t embody repeatable, universal design values able to transcend their original context then why should an architect working today bother studying them?

As an author, he seems to have been most interested in the documentation, which visually is extremely satisfying and noteworthy in its refinement. However, to what larger end is this series of elegant drawings? Although he advocates for architecturally defined, human-scaled public urban space, it is not clear how this is to be achieved based on his portfolio of courthouses. As a contrast, when architect Clovis Heimsath wrote his manifesto-like book about the vernacular architecture in central Texas, Pioneer Texas Buildings: a Geometry Lesson (1968), he concluded quite strongly:

We can talk about the geometry of these early Texas buildings and that is their glory, but it is the poignancy of the environment they create, set in the Hill Country, that is the “why” of this book… I want these houses to speak out against the sham of current American domestic architecture. The fraud is so appalling, it becomes the aesthetic sin of the age by its very magnitude: that we snug Americans can live in our endless four-square rooms with our endless eight-foot-high ceilings while the outsides say everything stylistically under the sun is a fraud—we want it, so we have it. (153)

Heimsath’s selection of diagrams and photos provided a design methodology for generating new forms created through geometric re-combinations of the base components of the buildings he documented. Hightower as an architect begins a similar process in a series of evocative diagrams where he layers the courthouse elevations over each other to create the shadowy outlines of an ur-courthouse form. However, this exercise only appears on three pages before it is abandoned. It is at points like this, where the author starts to manipulate his carefully gleaned data in intriguing ways, that one wishes he would have continued. What would have made this book—significantly written by an architect instead of an historian—more meaningful is if it presented a method for synthesizing the architectural and spatial elements of the courthouses and their urban precincts to make new designs that possess the pleasing qualities of the old.

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HUD Secretary Julian Castro to headline IDEAS CITY 2015 in New York City
Julian Castro, the United States Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, has been announced as the keynote speaker for the third annual IDEAS CITY festival in New York.  IDEAS CITY is a biennial street fair that “explores the future of cities with culture as a driving force.” It will launch its third annual rendition on May 28th–30th on the Bowery. Castro will address this year’s theme of “The Invisible City,” highlighting the parts of the city that go unseen, or the forces that are driving change that are not always easy to map. Castro was appointed Secretary of HUD in July, after gaining notoriety as not only an up-and-coming Democratic mayor of San Antonio, who has been mentioned as a possible Vice Presidential candidate in the 2016 race, but also as a strong advocate and innovator in urban policy with a design slant. From the IDEAS CITY website:

As three-term mayor of San Antonio, Julián Castro was known for innovative governance. His “Decade of Downtown” program campaigned for new investments in San Antonio’s city center and older communities and brought in $350 million of private sector money, generating more than 2,400 housing units. In 2010, Castro was enrolled in the World Economic Forum’s list of Young Global Leaders and named by Time magazine as one of its “40 under 40” list of notable leaders in American politics. At the 2012 Democratic National Convention, he became the first Latino to deliver a keynote. Castro took office as the sixteenth Secretary of the US Department of Housing and Urban Development on July 28, 2014.

This year’s festival promises to be an energetic follow-up to the previous years under the direction of Joseph Grima, who has been involved in no less than three Biennials in the last year, including Chicago’s Architecture Biennial and Biennale Interieur in Belgium. IDEAS CITY is also a partnership of The New Museum (Founder), The Architectural League of New York, Bowery Poetry Club, The Cooper Union, Storefront for Art & Architecture, The Drawing Center. Some of the other events that stand out are: —IDEAS CITY Street ProgramInstitute for Public Architecture: Total ResetKurt Andersen, Carmen Yulín Cruz, and others: MAYORAL CONVERSATION: Finding The Invisible CityRhizome: AIRBNB Pavilion: Stay With MeKim Stanley Robinson, Bjarke Ingels: Make No Little Plans: A CONVERSATION IN TWO PARTS:Part 1. Toward A Plausible UtopiaMunicipal Art Society, Architizer: Pitching the CityManny Cantor Center, Laura Nova: Moving Stories
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This enchanting bar in Toronto features mahogany-sculpted interiors inspired by tattoos and muscle
Sinewy muscle, tree stump joints, and Spanish art nouveau formed the inspiration for the enchanting new Bar Raval in Toronto, whose classy, tree house-like interior is awash with the gleam of sculpted mahogany. The wood has been shaped into voluminous curves and bulges patterned with sinewy lines all generated by computer code, and then oiled to a lustrous finish. Nestled in the heart of the city’s Little Italy, the watering hole is designed to rival the art nouveau histories of Barcelona’s traditional pinchos bars, where stacked pieces of bread are served on skewers. Cutouts in the curvaceous wood frame delineate shelving and windows, the latter of which are shrouded by metallic lingerie to give passersby fleeting glimpses of the interior—perhaps the flicker of candlelight or the swish of a skirt. This air of enigma, Canadian studio Partisans maintains, is a metaphor for the mysteries of Toronto’s culinary and design worlds just waiting to be discovered. Overhead, a terraced protrusion bearing liquor bottles evokes the stump of an ancient hardwood tree, giving the impression that the bar is sunken beneath the ground and adding to the cosy, somewhat secretive atmosphere. Accordingly, the bar is named after El Raval, a once seedy district in Barcelona. The watering hole belongs to Grant Van Grameren and business partner Mike Webster, one of the world’s most celebrated mixologists and masters of Spanish cuisine, art and culture. While brainstorming on the drawing board the team at the Canadian design studio clipped images of tattoos, muscles, and 19th-century building facades, all of which became integrated into the finished product. “The design developed out of a connection between the formal histories of art nouveau, the plethora of cured slabs of meat, and the anatomy of the chefs themselves: a tattooed, muscle-bound group of intellectuals,” Partisans told DesignBoom. “Our design is a three-dimensional tattoo manifest in pure CNC’d mahogany.”
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Tobin Center for the Performing Arts
Mark Manjavar

Strangely out of place, yet harmoniously so, the recently completed Tobin Center for the Performing Arts in San Antonio is the best work of architecture in the city in decades. Its closest rival, literally, would be the Central Library designed by Ricardo Legorreta in the 1990s a few city blocks away. It is a shame it has taken nearly 20 years for San Antonio to once again embolden itself with vision and purpose for its citizens.

Looking at the Tobin one is first struck by the marked contrasts of the building itself. On the one hand there is the historic Spanish Mission facade of the Municipal Auditorium. And then there is the angular, asymmetric glistening folded metal screen that veils the addition, which comes alive at night with a dynamic lighting display. The project houses three performance spaces, the largest of which accommodates 1,768 people with no seat further than 150 feet from the stage. Its construction tells a tale of the changing times in architecture, where technology and craft are once again at the forefront. That is the tie binding the historic facade to its contemporary partner.

The architects preserved the historic Spanish Mission Facade of the Municipal Auditorium, while cladding the new building elements in perforated metal panels with integrated LED lighting.

Designed by Seattle-based LMN Architects with local firm Marmon Mok Architecture as associate architect, the Tobin has many advanced elements that set the building apart. First and foremost is the dynamically lit metal skin that wraps the proscenium. It is a complex arrangement of folded and perforated panels, realized parametrically, that screens the building’s stepped, windowless masses with a modulating pattern of 18,000 panels, 1,300 of which are unique. Forming distinct yet-interrelated volumes around the building, the veil interlocks around a triangular support beam cantilevered from the panelized weather tight primary building skin. The panels form a continuous band woven both vertically and horizontally creating a seesaw effect that allows for light to reflect in different directions. Designed with eight different panel types sized to match the existing building’s limestone blocks. The result is a facade that has dimensional qualities and a richness of lighting effects both during the day and at night.

Facade Consultant
Lighting Design
Horton Lees Brogden Lighting Design
Metal Plate Wall Panels
Seating Riser System
Gala Systems

Inside the main performance hall, a pneumatic flooring system allows for the complete transformation of the stepped auditorium seating into a flat floor within 23 minutes. The sheer mechanical acrobatics that the system undergoes is mesmerizing to watch. Banquets and symphonic concerts can be pared on a single day, which opens up the possibility of endless uses and unique experiences within the main hall.


One of the more noticeable and aesthetically prominent elements within the building is the integrated back-lit balcony fascias. Used to signal intermissions, augment a performance with ambient lighting, or create effects, the LED illumination system with a full spectrum of color was not possible just a few years ago. This may be the single most evidently aesthetic element within the hall, one that remains in the shadows until needed. Aside from being a backdrop to the lighting, they serve as a sophisticated dynamic sound baffle system. Perforated with a vegetal pattern that repeats, the fascias absorb sound and displace it throughout the large vertical volume. Together with adjustable panels located behind the seating, they can either be programmed to control reverberation for amplified music performances, or to increase reverberation for acoustical performances.

The Tobin Center showcases a development process that stems from a larger effort within the City of San Antonio. The client’s vision with clever financing made possible by the city is working to catalyze a metropolis that prides itself on its tradition of art and culture. The project successfully blends a historically important building into the present with its juxtaposition of old and new architectural elements, as well as functional and aesthetic building systems. This combination of pragmatism and aesthetic intent should serve the creative community as a model for future projects in the city.

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These competition-winning bus shelters in Austin will harvest rainwater for a pocket park
It’s a matter of time before the canine-abused fire hydrant is outfitted with its own sound system—like this park bench. Two designers are retooling a high-traffic bus stop in Austin, Texas, to incorporate a pocket park for city dwellers to revisit distant nature. AIA Austin’s "design voice" committee and transportation company Capital Metro have announced designers Sara Partridge and Melissa Robledo as winners of the Bus Stop Shelter Design Competition. Located at 1717 South Pleasant Valley in east Austin, the new stop will shade riders from rain and shine with three structure cisterns in colorful designs inspired by Metro Rail’s Crestview Station, which includes a trail providing pedestrian and bicycle access to the station from the surrounding neighborhoods. Meanwhile, a harvesting system will collect rainwater to irrigate the native and adapted plants in the surrounding landscape, while the enhanced lighting and bicycle racks makes it easy for cyclists to switch from two wheels to four. “The bus stop meets riders’ basic needs by providing shade and shelter from the rain, but we have also designed a space that welcomes riders, cyclists, pedestrians and even the riders in cars passing by,” Partridge said. The concept stems from a new “place-making” approach: the design of community-centered and multifunctional public spaces designed for health and wellbeing – in which the park bench becomes an ogle-worthy social hub for reconnecting with nature. “Austin is rich with arts and culture and we wanted to celebrate our community by creating a unique neighborhood space,” said Dan Dawson, Capital Metro vice president of marketing and communications. “We are excited to begin working with our winning design team, and look forward to picking up riders from this one-of-a-kind stop.” The design competition commenced in September 2014 with a design charrette attended by over 30 designers and architects. Finalists then had four weeks to develop designs and submit their presentations. In the meantime, AIA Austin designvoice and Capital Metro surveyed over 100 riders and community members to gauge transit needs and feedback. Capital Metro will contribute $30,000 to the project, which is the average costs for the construction of a bus shelter, while the design team is responsible for securing additional project funding.
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The Hemisfair Confluence
Courtesy Gustafson Guthrie Nichol

In December, Seattle-based landscape architecture firm Gustafson Guthrie Nichol (GGN) unveiled designs for a new civic park within San Antonio’s 1968 International Exposition grounds, otherwise known as Hemisfair. Inspired by the city’s tradition of public gathering spaces and intimate relationship to its eponymous river, the 16-acre park includes plazas, plantings, and promenades, as well as a meandering water feature. Part of an ongoing redevelopment of the 90-acre Hemisfair site on the edge of downtown, the project integrates six new buildings, totaling over 600,000 square feet of mixed uses, and provides direct connections between San Antonio’s resurgent core, River Walk, and historic neighborhoods like Lavaca and King William.

“We did a lot of research into the history of San Antonio to find out the things that make this place special,” said Kathryn Gustafson, a founding principal of GGN. “What a great city. It’s such a party town. This is a civic park for people who naturally go out all the time.”

Hemisfair Park will create connectivity between San Antonio’s core and adjacent residential neighborhoods. It includes an event lawn and stage, shaded promenade along a meandering water feature, and quiet, contemplative gardens.

In addition to GGN’s research, a program put together by the Hemisfair Park Area Redevelopment Corporation (HPARC) from community input informed the park’s design. HPARC hired planning consultancy MIG, which conducted four months of public information gathering sessions in order to produce a programming document that was handed over to the landscape architects. “The way that the programming was developed was through public meetings and stakeholder charrettes and surveys,” said Andrés Andujar, CEO of HPARC. “MIG is very organized about how to get this information from the community. We ended up with eight programming sections that included our zocalo (plaza), a promenade, a lawn, an area where we had water and shade, which we are calling The Shallows, and so on. When GGN arrived we were available to provide a consultant-led community developed program for the civic park.”

“Andrés is one of the most professional clients I’ve ever had,” said Gustafson.
“It’s a luxury to have a client that comes prepared with a well-thought-out scope and program.”


GGN’s design is multi-layered, with specified zones for the different uses San Antonians said they wanted from this public space, and a variety of typologies that respond to the city’s diverse cultural and natural history. The plazas and a gently curved event lawn combined can accommodate 12,000 people around a stage for music and other performances. This function can be activated day and night with both local and touring acts to create a consistent draw. For the less extroverted, there are placid gardens grouped near the few historic houses that remain at the fringes of the Hemisfair site, quiet areas where “you can read a book or take your elderly parent for a walk,” said Gustafson.

The water feature emerges from a source fountain in a plaza at the northwest corner of the site and then travels along a tree-shaded promenade in a channel that refers to San Antonio’s historic acequias—the irrigation channels dug for the original Spanish mission that later helped define the grid of the modern city. In the southern half of the site the water gathers in shallow pools inspired by the natural limestone formations that collect water throughout the surrounding Hill Country. The water will be a mix of reclaimed municipal water and processed stormwater gathered on site.

GGN is leading a design team that includes local and national firms. San Antonio–based Alamo Architects is providing architectural and urban design services. Seattle engineering firm Magnusson Klemencic Associates is the sustainability and water management consultant. Construction is expected to begin in 2016 once the west wing of the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center, which currently occupies part of the site, is demolished.

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Kelly Green
Courtesy Blanton Museum of Art

Houston’s Rothko Chapel fuses art and architecture to create a contemplative space that some visitors experience as spiritual. Even the less spiritually inclined describe it as a highly intensified art viewing experience. Now a second artist’s chapel is coming to Texas, designed by another great abstract expressionist, Ellsworth Kelly. Originally designed in 1986 for a private collector, but never realized, the 2,700-square-foot structure will be the first-ever Kelly-designed building. It will be built thanks to the efforts of the Blanton Museum of Art at the University of Texas, Austin, which will also maintain the space and use it for study.

Blanton Museum director Simone Wicha paired Kelly with San Antonio-based Overland Partners to refine and execute the design. “It was developed conceptually, but not schematically. We have been working with Ellsworth to take the concept model and make it a viable building for a university campus public space, while making sure it remains true to his vision,” Wicha told AN. The Blanton has raised over $7 million to build the project, with a total goal of $15 million including an endowment.

Austin, Ellsworth Kelly’s first building, is inspired by Romanesque architecture and includes his first works in glass.

Kelly’s chapel features a cruciform plan, each arm of which terminates with a colored glass installation that will bring multi-hued light into the stone interior. One installation features square windows, each of which is a single color, arranged in a grid. Another includes slit like openings arranged in a circular formation. A third has square colored windows positioned as diamonds arranged in a circle. Facing the entry, a niche will contain a totem sculpture.

Kelly, born in 1923, is known as one of the major American abstract artists working across painting, printmaking, and sculpture. His work spans Minimalism, Color Field painting, and pure abstraction without being bounded by any one movement. The chapel, however, evokes the six years Kelly spent in France in the late 1940s to the mid 50s, before he rose to international prominence. The artist was particularly taken with Romanesque architecture, which is clearly reflected in the chapel’s barrel vaults. In addition to being his first building, this will also be the first time Kelly, now 92, has worked in glass. The Franz Mayer studio of Munich, Germany, will fabricate the glass. Kelly and the design team will use a combination of two layers of glass to create the perfect color.

Though the granite-clad chapel was conceived for a location in California, Kelly rechristened the project Austin in recognition of the particular qualities of Texas light, which will change the experience of the space.

Though Austin is entirely Kelly’s design, Overland Partners is bringing essential expertise to the project. “In order to add insulation and create a cavity in the wall, the walls had to become thicker, so the building also became taller. We’ve worked closely with Ellsworth to translate his design intent,” said Rick Archer, a principal at Overland Partners. “One of the challenges of working with artists is learning to remove yourself completely from the design. This is Ellsworth’s piece.”

According to Wicha, the museum hopes to break ground on the project soon, and expects it to be completed in about a year.

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Brantley Hightower
Five years ago Cotulla had two hotels. Today it has closer to 30 with more under construction.
Brantley Hightower

In May of last year, The Architect’s Newspaper ran an essay about how the ongoing oil boom in Texas was impacting the built landscape. Since then the cost of a barrel of oil has plunged from a high in July of 2014 of $120 a barrel to less than $50 as of February 2015.

Despite dire predictions that such a price drop would shut down production in plays such as the Eagle Ford in south Texas, that has not come to pass. The boom is still alive and well.

To better understand what this means for the architecture of the region, the town of Cotulla is worth closer examination as a case study. Located in the heart of the Eagle Ford play midway between San Antonio and the U.S.-Mexico border, Cotulla was established as a stop on the International-Great Northern Railroad line in 1882. Its economy remained primarily agricultural throughout most of its history and for the majority of the 20th century its population hovered between three and four thousand. Since the 2010 census its population has ballooned as it has been overrun with individuals coming to work the oil fields outside of town. In addition to the RV parks and “man camps” that have sprouted up between the interstate and town, there has been a remarkable boom in the construction of chain hotels.


Five years ago Cotulla had two hotels clustered around the Interstate that runs to the east of town. Today it has closer to 30 with more under construction. They are some of the tallest structures in town and these 2-4 story wood-frame buildings are perhaps the most remarkable change to the built environment of Cotulla. Constructed as quickly and as inexpensively as possible, they exemplify the challenge of building for a boom economy. After the oil has been pumped and the legions of roughnecks leave, most of these hotels will be empty. It is an issue local leaders have already begun to consider.

“Everything that we do has to be with the end goal in mind of being sustainable for the future,” said Larry Dovalina, Cotulla’s City Manager. One use being considered for the surplus hotel rooms is to incorporate them into a free trade zone. Cotulla happens to be located such that truckers driving from the agricultural regions of Mexico can get to Cotulla on a single tank of gas. The hope is that the town could become an inland transfer point for goods entering the U.S.


Today there are really two towns of Cotulla. One is the bustling nexus of semi trucks, oil field workers, and cheap chain hotels along the interstate. The other is the still somewhat sleepy small town about a mile to the east. At first glance, the historic part of Cotulla looks much as it did 80 years ago. The depression-era courthouse still sits upon the hill. The commercial strip along Front Street still faces the old railroad tracks that represent the reason Cotulla came to exist in the first place. What is lacking is any ostentatious example of the wealth that theoretically has come to the area as a result of the oil boom. There is no lavish cultural center or unnecessary monorail. But Cotulla now has things that people elsewhere take for granted. The streets are paved. The schools are better than they have ever been.

This is a reflection of the measured approach community leaders have taken to develop a strategy to allow these two Cotullas to coexist. It remains a challenge to make Cotulla appealing for both a temporary worker who needs a cheap hotel room for the night and a family who wants a place to live in the future.

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Engaging the Environment
Lake Austin House, Austin, Texas.
Hester & Hardaway

Lake | Flato Houses:
Embracing the Landscape

Introduction by Guy Martin; section introductions by Frederick Steiner
University of Texas Press, $45.00

Some may think it strange that one of the most extraordinary and thoughtful design practices engaging the environment anywhere is to be found in central Texas, surrounded not by tall trees and mountains, or next to an ocean, a rainforest, or within an abundance of wildlife. On the contrary, San Antonio has low-lying hills, little water, scrubby brush, and arthritic trees with diverse yet sparse fauna. And yet, that may be exactly why Lake | Flato is the design practice it is.

The new book published by the University of Texas Press, Lake | Flato Houses: Embracing the Landscape, looks thoughtfully at that reality by bracketing the firm’s residential oeuvre broadly into six explicitly environmental categories: Bushland, Desert, Hillside, Mountain, City, and Water. Conceptually illustrated with 3 houses each, the categories neatly define the work. Section introductions by Frederick Steiner support the book’s thesis, showing the extent and variety of the firm’s work across the country.

Dunning Residence, Santa Fe, New Mexico (left). Hillside House, Austin, Texas (right).
Timothy Hursley; Aaron Leitz Photography

A preface by Lake | Flato with an accompanying quote by William Turnbull seems unnecessary, as the book’s introduction by Guy Martin thoroughly introduces the firm’s history and work in a conversational tone that better appeals to a reader with an affinity for conversation, good drink, and the effects of a well-designed home knitted into the landscape. However clunky it begins, the book’s subsequent pages open up a broad and refined catalog of projects that vary tremendously, while still maintaining a razor sharp approach that is characteristically Lake | Flato.

In its 30-year history, the firm has exemplified an attitude to architecture that may well live on more natively and completely in our ever complex and stimulated world than many may expect. Seeing the environment and its resources as prized pocessions which must be valued, used but respected as ever depleting, the ethos of Lake | Flato is keenly placed in its time, in a post-post-post industrial world—or maybe a “premodernist” world, as O’Neil Ford would have it.

Brown Residence, Scottsdale, Arizona.
Bill Timmerman

What is most touching in this thick, yet small and intimate book, is that the role of material is so ever-present and deliberate that it jumps out of reach. What a strange thing that is, since we reside in a world ever more plastic and malleable, defined by digital technologies and ideas, verging on the immaterial to the point that farce plays like drama in pulse-taking pop-culture movies like Her. In short, the work is beyond its representation in both word and especially image, wonderfully lush as the pictures are, taken with the greatest care. The reader is certain to begin looking beyond the pages, eyes heading off the image’s border, further into the skies, waters, trees, and through the words on the page to desire the experiences the houses enable.

At the intersection of the environment and material, where Lake | Flato stands deftly, is an elemental aesthetic taking landscape and weaving it with an incredibly simple palette of wood, masonry, steel, and glass. Flipping through the book’s pages it is clear the 30 years of developing, exploring, and producing has yielded a rich body of work that can be easily identified and appreciated. But I am left wanting not only more of the experience, but also more variation. If imagining my experience, the houses do whisper with the wind, but what is also wanted and is needed is the dressing up.

Fashion is sometimes maligned in architecture, however it is what defines a culture, its tastes and soul, like a Mexican rebozo or Comanche headdress. And it is present in Lake | Flato’s work. We get glimpses of it, showing a level of sophistication that results only by mastering technique and developing a specific vocabulary.