The geometry of the proposed building allows the vehicle to be seen in its entirety from the corner of Saturn Lane and 2nd Street just as it was before it was enclosed. Internally, the building’s volume provides visitors with the necessary distance to experience the scale of the vehicle while also providing space for exhibits, lectures, and other special events. A series of elevated catwalks allow the vehicle to be viewed from above – a perspective never before possible. The building’s appearance reflects the mid-century aesthetic that defines the rest of the Johnson Space Center campus.
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The recent trend in streetcar reintroductions and expansions across the US have hit a political speed bump. Most recently, on August 5, voters in Kansas City, Missouri, turned down a proposal to expand the funding mechanism for the city’s downtown streetcar starter line to partially fund a $472 million, 7.6-mile expansion project. Backers of the plan hoped that generating approximately half of the total funds would position the City for federal funding. At a news conference after the defeat of the measure, Mayor Sly James did not concede. “This issue is not over by any stretch of the imagination,” he said.
Kansas City is not alone. Earlier this summer, the San Antonio City Council scuttled plans by VIA Metropolitan Transit, the region’s transit agency, to build a 5.9-mile streetcar line downtown. Confronted with a strong anti-streetcar backlash, the mayor and city council are tabling the streetcar discussion into the update of its long range transportation and moving forward with a Charter Amendment next May 2015 that would prohibit the City from funding any streetcar project or allowing streetcar’s on their right-of-way without voter approval.
VIA Board Chairman, Alexander Briseno, explained, “Although we are disappointed that the value of the modern streetcar was not understood or realized by many, we remain optimistic and are committed to continue with our 2035 Comprehensive Transportation Plan.”
Similarly last year in Cincinnati, Ohio, the city council halted $42 million in funding for a $147.8 million, 3.6-mile streetcar project while it was under construction. Then newly elected Mayor John Cranley felt his anti-streetcar stance meant people agreed with him on the subject. An independent audit determined it would cost the city as much to cancel the project as to finish it, and local business leaders stepped in to provide partial funding.
But these setbacks are exceptions to the national trend. There are over 40 streetcar projects nationwide in stages from planning to completion. The quiet revolution that started over a decade ago in Portland, Oregon, and spread to cities across the country has received significant support from the federal transit administration with the appointment of former Charlotte, North Carolina, Mayor Anthony Foxx to Secretary of Transportation in 2013.
By the end of 2014, both Atlanta and Washington D.C. should have new streetcar lines. In 2015, Kansas City will open its 2.2-mile $100 million starter line, followed by Cincinnati’s line in 2016. “It behooves us to recognize that our infrastructure is not going to get better,” said Kansas City Mayor Sly James, “unless we find [local] ways to pay for it.”
Bellaire, Texas, one of the many smaller cities engulfed within Houston’s metropolitan area, is set to get a new public green space. Evelyn’s Park, as it is called, will soon be built on the site of the historic Teas Nursery, formerly located on the 4400 block of Bellaire Boulevard. After years of complicated maneuvering, the project is slowly inching closer to fruition, with construction expected to begin by January 2016.
Edward “Papa” Teas established Teas Nursery in 1910. It continued operating on the same site until the death of his grandson, John Teas, just shy of its 100th anniversary. To make a long story short, in 2009, when the land officially hit the market, brothers Jerry and Maury Rubenstein, owners of Texas Pipe and Supply Company and residents and civic supporters of Bellaire since the 1980s, quickly began negotiating with the Teas family before they could sell to another developer. The Rubensteins and the Teas came to an agreement to sell the acreage to the Jerry and Maury Rubenstein Foundation for an undisclosed sum with the intention that it would eventually become a public park named in honor of their mother, Evelyn Rubenstein. In 2011, the Rubenstein family created Evelyn’s Park Conservancy, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization with a board made up of members appointed by Bellaire City Council and the Rubenstein Foundation, to administer the park and coordinate its delivery to the city. The Rubensteins and the Bellaire City Council each gave $100,000 as seed money to Evelyn’s Park Conservancy to begin planning. Later that year, Houston-based landscape architecture firm SWA Group, along with San Antonio-based Lake|Flato Architects, were hired to design the park and supporting buildings.
The scheme for Evelyn’s Park is typical of the program-heavy small urban park model that was inaugurated in the 1992 rehabilitation of New York’s famously decrepit Bryant Park by Hanna/Olin and Hardy Holzman Pfeiffer. In the Houston area, this model has been used extensively, notably for Discovery Green in 2008 and Market Square Park in 2010.
The SWA and Lake|Flato design transforms the oldest of several Teas family houses that once existed on the property—a two-story wood-framed bungalow ordered from a Sears catalog and built in 1910 as Edward Teas’ own residence—into a café. Directly behind the café is a barn-like annex that can be rented out for additional income. Behind it is the main parking lot. Just east of the café complex is a “stream fountain” that mimics, in miniaturized form, the many bayous that snake through Harris County. It drains into a small lake at the rear of the park. The lake faces a “Great Lawn” that extends almost to the park’s southern boundary at Bellaire Boulevard. This end of the lawn is demarcated by what the architects call the “Trevillion” (trellis + pavilion), a 200-foot-long, gently curved, steel framed pergola that is intended to be the park’s landmark. In addition to these features, there is a small plaza and water feature in front of the café, a children’s garden and play area, butterfly gardens, a donor wall and donor plaza, a bog garden, a memorial garden for Evelyn Rubenstein, and a “native restoration buffer” planted along the northern boundary of the park to screen views of the Lovett Homes houses.
After the schematic plan was approved by City Council in 2012, the citizens of Bellaire overwhelmingly supported a $5 million bond for improving the park site in November 2013. Although this is generous, it is not quite a third of the park’s total $16.5 million estimated budget. Construction will be completed in stages. The $4.9 million phase one omits the stream fountain, the lake, and the trevillion, but includes the café complex and great lawn.
This summer, San Antonio’s Travis Park—a newly revitalized green space originally established as Travis Plaza in 1870—is playing host to an architectural installation by 14 graduate students from the UTSA College of Architecture. F2, as it is called, is a grid shell prototype that spans more than 50 feet with only 2 inches of material thickness. It evolved from a research project studying minimal surfaces, inflatables, branching, cellular structures, and centenaries.
F2 is made from 4,800 linear feet of ½-inch-by-2-inch spruce timber sections and 760 CNC cut Coroplast folded panels. The assembly is bolted together into a grid shell with more than 1,000 galvanized nuts and bolts and 2,600 washers. The footings are water jet cut from ½-inch steel plate, welded, and attached to 30-inch screw piles. It took two weeks to fabricate the individual parts and the graduate students installed it in five days with the help of 13 volunteers.
The project was designed and fabricated under the direction of Andrew Kudless, Director of Matsys and the 2014 Dean’s Distinguished Visiting Critic at UTSA, and Kevin McClellan, Co-Director at TEX-FAB and lecturer at UTSA. David Shook of SOM San Francisco provided structural design support during research and Datum Engineers did the final design engineering.
In late June, the board of directors of VIA Metropolitan Transit in San Antonio, Texas, approved plans for the Westside Multimodal Transit Center at the corner of Frio and Houston streets. The city hopes that the project, which broke ground on July 14, will spur development in this somewhat sparse and dilapidated area just west of downtown. The neighborhood is currently home to such differing facilities as a University of Texas at San Antonio campus and the Bexar County Jail.
Designed by New York City–headquartered EE&K, a Perkins Eastman company, with local help from architecture firm Ford, Powell & Carson and landscape architecture studio Bender Wells Clark Design, the transit center taps into San Antonio’s rich history of urban squares. It will service the city’s growing network of city bus and VIA PRIMO bus rapid transit service, expand its B-Cycle bike share system, and may accommodate future rail service as well.
Perkins Eastman has plenty of experience with this kind of project. The firm previously worked on Houston’s Northern Intermodal Facility and Los Angeles’ Union Station. “We got the job because we knew how to take a transit project and turn it to a civic purpose; use the same dollars to create a plan around the facility that will make it a center piece of future redevelopment,” said Perkins Eastman principal Stan Eckstut. “We started by looking at the streets, instead of looking at bus facilities, and said ‘lets’ purchase a whole block, turn it into a square with busses on the perimeter, and make it a wonderful place to wait for busses or arrive for work, with lots of shade, landscape, art, and cafés.’”
The design of the transit center takes its cues from the adjacent International–Great Northern Depot (1908), a historic train station designed by Harvey L. Page in a fantastical Spanish Mission style, which was converted into a bank in the 1980s. The depot’s circular dome, as well as the turning radii of busses, inspired the circular, 20-foot-high canopy that rings the site.
While primarily composed of a simple palette of structural elements, the design team added tile mosaics to the column covers, “to add a little more beef, so there’s something to look at,” said Eckstut. The canopy is topped by a photovoltaic array that will generate much of the power needed to light the project. A stand of cedar elm trees fills the expansive interior of the 90,000-general-square-foot plaza. Permeable pavement and an underground retention system control stormwater runoff. A light tower installation by San Antonio artist Bill Fitzgibbons is planned for the plaza entrance to make it easily discernible from long distances.
As a security strategy, San Antonio opted to stay away from cameras. Instead, the city and the architects opened up views across the facility, in the hope that once the site is activated there will be enough activity to keep it safe. “They were willing to take a positive views of their riders and people in area,” said Eckstut. “There are at least a dozen development sites nearby that are vacant, or parking lots, or one story buildings. It could be major place for people to live and work near downtown.”
Currently Perkins Eastman is putting together a manual for future transit stations in San Antonio. “It’s full of lessons on how to approach each transit facility,” said Eckstut. “It advises to think beyond stopping and going, to expand the idea of the platform to be a public environment.”
At the end of March, faith-based non-profit Link Ministries and Urban Tech, the downtown studio of the College of Architecture at Texas Tech University, announced plans for High Cotton Genesis, a homeless assistance facility on the 5-acre site of a former cotton gin in Lubbock, Texas. Designed by San Antonio architecture studios HiWorks and Urbanist Design and Dallas landscape architecture practice Studio Outside, the master plan provides a framework for phased development of new service buildings and a chapel, the adaptive reuse of existing agricultural structures, and landscape elements that will soften the harsh West Texas environment.
High Cotton has already been in operation on the site for three years in a military-like array of tents, which has become known as “Tent City.” It was set up after the Lubbock City Council made it illegal for the homeless to occupy the city’s central library as a 90-day assistance program geared toward helping the housing impaired to get back on their feet, find a job, and move into their own residence. “We came at it not trying to be nice to anybody, we were just trying to get them out of downtown,” said Urban Tech director David Driskill.
Link Ministries, which owns and operates several community centers in former cotton industry buildings in the area, donated the property. The facility—the first of its kind in Lubbock—turned out to tap quite a need. “Every day I get at least one call from a potential resident that I have to turn down because we’re at capacity and have a waiting list. It’s a good sign that our services are helping people in the community, but it’s also a sign that it’s time to grow,” said Link Ministries director Les Burrus in a statement.
To determine how best to improve the project, Link Ministries and Urban Tech formed an advisory group (the High Cotton Core) and held an information gathering session in January 2012. In the fall of that year, Lake Flato Architects led a design charrette with the High Cotton community to further flesh out a vision for the site. In fall 2013, the stakeholders reached out to the design team, inviting them for a two-day site visit and two more charrettes. In order to get a better idea of the experience of residents, Brantley Hightower, founder and principal of HiWorks, spent a night in Tent City.
The master plan builds on the assets that High Cotton has in place, making strategic additions to diversify and improve the level of services offered so that it can help a broader range of the homeless population. One key element that was maintained is Tent City. “The whole idea of using tents started because that was all they had,” said Hightower. “But what they found is that they were nice enough and permanent enough to be an improvement over the street, but you didn’t want to stay there forever.”
“When you start getting into physical architecture for this kind of use it has to be durable and can get dehumanizing pretty quick,” said Jonathan Card of Urbanist Design. “The tents are no substitute to your own house, but they do offer some dignity.”
The most prominent architectural aspect of the project is the chapel, a 45-foot high extension of the existing cotton gin building, which will become a landmark in the flat landscape. The lower-slung service buildings and a perimeter wall, based on a Spanish Mission precedent, are planned to be constructed from rammed earth.
The landscape design mixes various drought-resistant grasses and other arid plants with windbreaks and lusher vegetation to create a soothing retreat from the surrounding windswept plains. “We ended up blending orthogonal lines and letting nature eat its way through the site to give it more interest,” said Tary Arterburn of Studio Outside. “The client said that part of West Texas is like walking into a definition of hell and wanted it to be an oasis for residents.”
At the dawn of the twentieth century Texas was a poor and rural state. Over the course of the next 100 years, the discovery of vast petroleum deposits hidden beneath its expansive landscape fueled the growth of the state’s economy and transformed it into the modern home of three of the nation’s ten largest cities. Wealth from the oil industry has bankrolled the skylines, cultural institutions, and politicians that have come to define the state.
Texas has experienced its fair share of oil booms over the past century and it is currently in the midst of what may prove to be one of the largest. Although oil and natural gas have been known to exist in shale formations for some time, until recently these deposits were too difficult to profitably extract.
Induced hydraulic fracturing—or “fracking” as it has come to be called—is the process by which a mixture of water, sand, and chemicals is injected underground at high pressures, creating a network of small fractures that allows the embedded oil or natural gas to be removed. The technique itself is not new but the advent of directional drilling technologies made thin shale strata accessible to a degree never before possible.
The infrastructure required for these operations is large, complex, and proprietary. In order to shield the undertaking from prying eyes, many of the early drilling operations that tapped the Barnett Shale deposit in the Dallas–Fort Worth metropolitan area attempted to conceal themselves behind large privacy screens that resembled the abstract land-art of Christo and Jeanne-Claude.
If the Barnett Shale acted as a proving ground for induced hydraulic fracturing and directional drilling, the Eagle Ford Shale demonstrated that the technique could be adapted for the extraction of oil on a vast scale. The formation itself is a 400-mile-long subterranean rock stratum that has proven to be one of the largest plays in recent memory. Although there is no obvious visible surface delineation of this particular underground formation, the activity occurring above it has made the region clearly visible from space. NASA imagery shows the lights and gas flares associated with drilling operations illuminating a wide swath of land between San Antonio and Laredo.
Even if the mobile drilling rigs and pump jacks directly associated with oil extraction are perhaps the most obvious relics of an oil boom, they are not the most significant. The true architecture of fracking is much more banal.
In just a few short years, small towns such as Pleasanton, Three Rivers, and Cotulla have seen their populations explode as drilling operations expanded in the region. Undeveloped tracts of land on the once deserted highways leading into these and other towns are now home to a myriad of structures hastily built to support the wells and those drilling them. In addition to vast quantities of water, sand, and chemicals, drilling for oil requires steel pipe as well as welders to connect it and trucks to transport it. Towns that once had a single stoplight now sport multiple hotels and restaurants that constantly operate at capacity. Billboards now display advertisements for trucking services as well as for attorneys representing those injured in trucking accidents. In just a few short years these small towns have developed sprawling edges of suburban development.
Even if most of this pattern of development is familiar, the boom has given rise to at least one new building typology—the man camp. Filling a need for housing in between a hotel and an apartment, these camps exist as arrays of RVs or low-end mobile home trailers and offer minimal accommodations for subcontractors working far from home. These temporary villages sit empty for most of the day until a shift change occurs and the parking lots fill with dusty pickup trucks returning from the oil field. Rents at these Spartan villages might run as high as $1,200 for a 400-square-foot cabin although this can be reduced if a single bed is shared between a day and night shift worker.
Inflated prices burden local residents and transient workers alike. Gasoline, groceries, and rent have become more expensive and traffic has become considerably worse than it ever was before the boom. Some local residents might benefit by selling land, its mineral rights, or by entering the service industry, but those who rent or are on fixed incomes have a much harder time.
The Institute for Economic Development at the University of Texas at San Antonio has conducted research on the impact of the Eagle Ford Shale. In 2013, it released a study that reported that drilling in the Eagle Ford added more than $61 billion to the economy of a 20-county region in Central and South Texas in the previous year. The study forecasted that drilling operations would directly or indirectly generate 127,000 jobs in the coming years.
Of course, this prediction is predicated on the notion that the demand for oil remains high and the price of oil remains constant. The profitability of a drilling operation in the Eagle Ford play or anywhere else ends as soon as the price of a barrel of oil drops below the cost of its extraction. And when it falls below that level, companies will begin to pull out of the region. It is thus a race against time to extract as much oil or natural gas as possible before the price drops.
The challenge for towns such as Pleasanton, Three Rivers, and Cotulla is to ride the wave of the boom while building a sustainable community that will survive after it has subsided. While these communities now have the funds to invest in schools, parks, and other public amenities, they also are facing infrastructure demands unlike anything they have seen before. Managing this sort of rapid growth is difficult, but planning for a post-boom future is harder still. Making matters worse, the kinds of structures currently going up are not easily repurposed. When the boom ends these small towns will have little need for all the hotels, restaurants, and big box retail stores that are now proliferating across the landscape, and the long-term environmental effects of the chemicals associated with induced hydraulic fracturing are as yet unknown.
Located in the Permian Basin in west Texas, much of Midland’s surprisingly well-developed skyline sat empty through the oil busts of the 1980s. The recent tapping of the shale deposits of the region has reignited its economy and, in what promises to be one of the more obvious symbols of the manic optimism of a boom mentality, developers have proposed building a 58-story mixed-use tower in this city of 111,000 (“Boom Town” ANSW 01_11.26.2013). Designed by Edmonds International and dubbed the “Energy Tower at City Center,” this structure would be more than twice the height of its tallest neighbor, not to mention the sixth-tallest tower in the state.
Needless to say, this monument to the most recent oil boom would radically transform the skyline of a city that is itself a product of an earlier boom. But the real architecture of fracking is much more mundane. It is the Chili’s restaurant built on what a year ago was an open pasture. It is a cheaply built man camp where oil workers spend their evening alone in their rooms. It is the small south Texas town whose population has ballooned with the boom and, in the process, become unrecognizable to the people who once called it home.
There is a playful perversity in celebrating an artistic movement that called for the destruction of “museums, libraries, academies of every sort…” with a monumental exhibition on Fifth Avenue. Italian Futurism 1909–1944: Reconstructing the Universe, on view through September 1 at the Guggenheim, takes an ungainly collection of painting, prints, sculpture, ceramics, fashion, and writing and tames it into a lively narrative about a curious strain of early 20th century radicalism that aimed to bully its way to utopia.
Later reviled—sometimes unfairly, writes art historian Enrico Crispoliti in a catalogue essay—for its associations with Italian Fascism and a misogynistic point of view, Futurism began as a literary movement spearheaded by the poet and editor F.T. Marinetti. In his original 1909 manifesto published in the French newspaper Le Figaro, Marinetti provocatively paid homage to war and speed, the former as a transformational force in society and the latter as a new aesthetic standard for modernity.
Marinetti’s medium was the written word, but through the years he gathered a motley, multidisciplinary crew under his tent, including poets, musicians, artists, and architects. The Italian movement, which emphasized plastic and dynamic forms, unfolded parallel to Cubism in France and was soon influenced by it. Umberto Boccioni, one of the better known artists from the movement’s so-called “heroic” early period, is well represented in the exhibition, as is the young architect Antonio Sant’Elia. A fascination with the infrastructure of transportation and communication shines through in Sant’Elia’s drawings of sleek, streamlined high-rises in his Città Nuova series, and his drawing Station for Trains and Airplanes looks like it may have come from the pages of a 21st century newspaper.
Killed in 1916 in World War I, Sant’Elia’s involvement in the movement was brief and on paper, although his name lived on as the title of a Futurist journal. Work of Sant’Elia’s contemporary Mario Chiattone, who was never formally part of the Futurists, is also included in the show, along with that of architect Virgilio Marchi, whose dramatic sketches for city plans with flyovers and floating walkways for the island of Capri—a Futurist outpost—evoke modern day Hong Kong.
The surprise star of the exhibition is Fortunato Depero, an artist and graphic designer who notably proclaimed in 1931, “The art of the future will be the art of advertising.” Unlike the architects associated with the movement, Depero actually managed to build something, and his 1927 Bestetti Treves Tumminelli Book Pavilion made of giant three-dimensional letters, showcased in a striking 1:3 scale model in the show, seems to foreshadow the contemporary pop-up shop. Depero’s ads for Davide Campari underscore his facility at bringing Futurist aesthetics into the commercial realm, while his designs for toys, textiles, and waistcoats speak to the Futurist ideal of the opera d’arte totale, or “total work of art,” a concept more familiar to architects and designers in its German iteration, the gesamtskunstwerke.
Like Gropius at the Bauhaus, the Futurists wanted to create a holistic environment. But if a movement so aggressively shuns the past, it is a challenge to create a way of living that does not refer to previous conventions. A Futurist tea set? A Futurist dining room suite? Both are represented, and it is at these moments in the show that Futurism almost feels quaint.
At the Guggenheim, visitors may be tempted to zip to the top of the building via elevator then let gravity help pull them through the main exhibition. But those who trickle down through Italian Futurism will miss the full impact of the careful story that curator Vivien Green methodically builds during a forced march up the museum’s ramp. With the mix of media including archival publications of Futurist manifestoes (there were many) as well as videos that deploy sound and photographic stills, content and context become effectively blurred.
The Futurists were a noisy bunch, declaiming their latest writings at serate, evening gatherings that often ended in a scuffle. The exhibition feels intentionally noisy, too, with an atmosphere of cacophony rather than contemplation. The message is that Futurism was meant to be experienced, not just observed. A side gallery dedicated to Futurist theater underscores this with a pulsating installation that evokes Giacomo Balla’s 1916–1917 lighting design for Igor Stravinsky’s orchestral composition Fireworks.
Politics aside, this dedication to the disorienting and disruptive gives the Futurists particular resonance today, when the speed of cultural and technological change is taken for granted. The movement’s love of aerial perspectives generates some of the most electrifying later work, such as Tulio Crali’s 1939 Before the Parachute Opens, which graces the cover of the exhibition catalogue and could be a still from a modern day action movie. Seen from above, a black clad figure is silhouetted against the countryside just as he jumps from a plane.
By comparison, the last gallery, featuring five large-scale painted panels by the artist Benedetta Cappa, one of the prominent female Futurists and later Marinetti’s wife, feels like a quiet coda rather than a conclusion. Based on the theme of communications, the 1933–34 public work was tucked away in a conference room in a post office building in Palermo. It is a reminder that with so few major commissions, the Futurists only come into focus today through massive efforts like Green’s at the Guggenheim.
The American Institute of Architects New York Chapter honors six new firms for innovation with its New Practices New York exhibition at the Center for Architecture, opening October 1, 2014.
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With offices in New York City and Seoul, Korea, NAMELESS is a concept-based architectural practice committed to “the simplicity on the unpredictable world.” The firm has completed art pavilions and worked on the cultural infrastructure of New York.
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This small “design farm” is run by Antonio Torres and Michael Loverich. With offices in New York City and Guadalajara, Mexico, Bittertang makes it its mission to bring happiness and pleasure into the built environment and to add “a thick rich fodder to contemporary material culture.”
Fake Industries Architectural Agonism
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“F**k originality,” declares Fake Industries. Founded by Urtzi Grau and Christina Goberna Pesudo, the firm explores the potentials hidden in the public knowledge of the last 400 years of architectural excess. “Don’t ask us for new stuff, we copy.”
dlandstudio architecture + landscape architecture
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Founded by Susannah Drake in 2005, this multi-disciplinary design firm collaborates with large teams that include architects, artists, landscape architects, planners, and engineers.
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Composed of three trained architects, this collaborative looks to the future by looking back at the past, and reaching beyond the traditional bounds of the profession in order to bring home fees.
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This New York City–based collaborative works on projects that vary in scales and media, from commercial, institutional, and residential work, to events and international competitions.