Search results for " The University of Texas at Austin School of Architecture "

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$450 Million

A controversial master plan for The Alamo causes debate among architects and the public alike
A $450 million plan for the treasured historic site of The Alamo in downtown San Antonio is causing a stir. Architects, planners, professors, patriotic preservationists, and the public are in disagreement over a rejuvenation scheme that looks to open up the plaza but relocate a historic cenotaph in the process. The Alamo Mission (commonly known as just "The Alamo") is home to the 18th Century chapel, Shrine of Texas Liberty, and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A 1930s cenotaph erected in tribute to the Texian and Tejano defenders who were killed in an 1836 Mexican onslaught is at the center of the debate. The plan devised by nonprofit Alamo Endowment, the Alamo Commission, the city of San Antonio, and the Texas Land Office, looks to move the cenotaph to declutter the plaza and allow it to become a space for events. To improve access, perimeter walls that enclose the state-owned Alamo Gardens would be removed. These, unlike the cenotaph, are not historic and their removal, according to officials, would add approximately five acres to the site. The walls would also be partially replaced by glass walls too. Of the $450 million, $110 million will be used to renovate and repurpose three buildings (owned by the state) as a museum. The historic battlefield site is a top destination for Texans and tourists alike, attracting around 1.6 million every year. Plans to modernize the site aim to triple these figures over a decade and add 2,000 jobs to the area. "A lot of the children that will be going to this museum and to the compound are not even born today," Gene Powell, an Alamo Endowment board member told the City Council. "Technology is going to change. Children are going to want things that are more exciting and more fun. They want to be able to see things." Some, though, are not impressed: "This proposal represents a failure to address the real concerns and needs of visitors and heritage tourists who are asking to see more of the Alamo—not aesthetic landscaping," wrote Glenn Effler in the San Antonio Express-News. "The re-created acequia and the trees are little more than window dressing, a cosmetic treatment to a historic battlefield that is in dire need of inspiring interpretation." Effler is a senior member of the Alamo Plaza Project and board member of the Alamo Society. His letter in full can be read here. Local resident Susan Green, speaking to the San Antonio Express-News, was also skeptical of the proposed master plan. She was worried that the glass walls would be "a stark, modern looking contrast to the architecture in all of downtown." In light of the scheme's criticism, though, a number of architects and others in the architecture discipline penned a letter of support for what they described as a "great beginning to a plan that should lead to a transformative place."
As architects, we believe that the Alamo Master Plan in its final form can restore both the Alamo and the integrity of this historic place in our city. We applaud this incredible effort. All the residents in our city and our state want this plan to succeed. To be a vital destination for everyone, it is equally important to have the plaza be a dynamic and welcoming civic space as it has been for the past 200 years—perhaps the most memorable place in the state. Like all good master plans, the first plan is the beginning of the conversation. We should honor the Alamo and Alamo Plaza by having a thoughtful “listening” period to allow the plan to get better (building upon the successes of the River North, Broadway, Hemisfair and South Town Master Plans). Alamo Plaza should be a memorable place for residents and visitors to return to again and again. A place that strengthens our city. On May 11, we hoped the City Council will approve the master plan conditional on the need for a continuing process that keeps the plaza as a connected civic space rather than a controlled-access outdoor museum. The plaza must be a welcoming and integral part of our city, balancing the historic aspects of the Alamo with the civic needs of the plaza.
Thirty-one architects signed the letter, including David Lake and Ted Flato from Lake/Flato Architects and Lawrence Speck, professor, School of Architecture at the University of Texas at Austin. The letter can be read in full here. The day after this letter was posted online, however, David Lake published a critique of the master plan in The Rivard Report. He responded to elements in the master plan that in his view, were not addressed in an appropriate manner, notably the proposed glass walls. Here are a few of the key faults he noted:
The master plan creates new walls to the north and a west acequia which are not in historic locations and confuse the integrity of the battlefield. The arbitrary location of the north wall and the west acequia disrupt the plaza’s original character implying a much smaller space, which is not historically accurate. The walls exclude the community and disrupt connectivity, creating a place for visitors but inflexible to events that occur today. In this plan, it is no longer a community gathering place.
Lake also argued that the plan only honored the Alamo Plaza of 1836 and "not the history of commerce in the plaza post-1836." His critique in full can be found here. If the master plan is approved, half of the sum required will come from San Antonio and the state, while the rest would be privately funded. A decision is due to be made on May 11. [UPDATE, 5/2/2017] This text has been updated from a previous version, published yesterday that did not include architect David Lake's critique of the master plan, which was also published that day. Further text from the signed architects' letter has been added to clarify their support for the "master plan process" rather than the master plan in its current form. 
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Dean Buzz

New Dean Michelle Addington talks about her vision for UT Austin School of Architecture
This summer the University of Texas at Austin School of Architecture (UTSoA) will be the latest school in recent years to appoint new leadership, welcoming Professor Michelle Addington of Yale University as its new dean. Addington will succeed Interim Dean Elizabeth Danze, who took the helm of the institution last year after the abrupt departure of Frederick Steiner. According to Maurie McInnis, the executive vice president and provost at UT Austin, “Michelle is a perfect fit.” She added that Professor Addington “brings fresh eyes and new ideas that will continue supporting the robust breadth and depth of interdisciplinary work happening at the school, and she will lead conversations that advance the field in the 21st century." The Architect’s Newspaper (AN) spoke with Addington last week about her vision for UTSoA, emerging issues for designers in the built environment, and her eagerness to be walking distance from Franklin’s Barbecue. AN: What initially interested you about UTSoA as an institution? Michelle Addington: I wanted this position for a very long time. I always kept my eye on different deanships and interviewed off and on over the years, but none of them felt right to me. When this became available, I knew it was one I really wanted. Part of it has to do with the fact that I come from a Texas family and there is a sense of home. My mother is from Austin, so it is a part of the country that really resonates with me. Another part of it has to do with the fact that [UTSoA] has such a storied legacy in the development of contemporary design education. One can look to the Texas Rangers... [they] were an incredibly formative part of architectural education. And, the fact that the full range of design disciplines are represented, everything from architecture, interior design, landscape architecture, urban design, community and regional planning, sustainable design, and historic preservation. And a robust combination of degrees from undergraduate to PhD. I feel that it's a place that is right for me as an individual but also a place where I feel as though I can bring my experience to the existing faculty and students and build on their strengths. In the last few years, the school has attracted significant funding and progressive initiatives. Examples include the U.S. DOT Transit Research Grant, a new faculty position for the study of Race and Gender, and a high-tech Robotics Lab, to name a few. Though these are early days, can you talk a little about these initiatives and the direction you see the school going under your leadership? If you think about the field of architecture writ large—about all of the design disciplines—they were heavily product-centric for centuries. The digital turn at the end of the 20th century brought forward methods that enable us to deal with multiple contexts, multiple terrains, and different kinds of content. We became incredible masters at manipulating this varied terrain but mostly in terms of dealing with what I consider to be ‘contested boundaries.’ It’s easy to think about a building as being bounded by its site and envelope. But when you start to look at [architecture] as an insertion for instance in ecological, economic, spatial, political boundaries, [it] can accurately map and open up questions that I don't think any other discipline can do. All of these initiatives—the DOT, the Robotics Lab, the program dealing with gender and racial diversity—are looking to insert [designers] into the center of questions that heretofore have been addressed by other disciplines. I think the University of Texas has been on the mark in recognizing what we need to do [in this respect] and it is one of the reasons I'm so excited to be there. One of the things that I spoke to the [UTSoA] faculty about was that I see interdisciplinarity differently than I think many traditional schools of architecture have seen it. All too often we think about how we fold in content from other disciplines—that is not interdisciplinarity to me. That's cherry picking information to support what it is one wants to do. Real interdisciplinarity actually means that you have to be involved in, understand, and affect the 'other'—other frameworks and conflicting points of view. And, you have to de-center yourself in order to do that. You are making some news as the first woman to be named dean of UTSoA, succeeding Elizabeth Danze as Interim Dean. Your credentials I think speak for themselves but do you perhaps have any thoughts about the increasing prominence of women in leadership positions at architecture schools? And in the profession? I have to correct that because Elizabeth Danze is the first woman dean [of UTSoA]. She may be interim but she is the trailblazer here. She is one of my favorite people. There are many ways that practice leads academia in terms of its reflection of the world at large. However, this is a case where practice is lagging. It's going to take some time. I think one of the things that would be interesting to talk about with a larger number of women in the field... is this idea of the ‘other.’ [Women] are used to being on the margins, away from the center, practicing on the edges. A number of years ago there was a book put together by Lance Hosey and Kira Gould called Women in Green: Voices of Sustainable Design. They had noticed there was a disproportionate number of women who were working in sustainable design. You are going to find this for a lot of interdisciplinary areas that are on the edge. I think that as we start looking, again, at this negotiated terrain that is not so centered on the building object, we are going to find and recognize a lot more parity from a gender standpoint. There might be some pendulum swinging for a while because we have big problems to deal with in this world. All I can wait for is the day when it doesn't even occur to someone to say ‘woman architect’ but simply ‘architect.’ I want that term to disappear from our [discourse]. As a public institution, UT Austin operates quite differently than a private school like Yale, where you currently teach. Recently, we have seen several controversial policies emerge in Texas such as Senate Bill 6 (the so-called “bathroom bill”) and the open carry law which went into effect last summer. With these in mind, how do you see architecture schools engaging with similar issues of public space and more broadly how does this translate into practice? I can't say yet how it translates into practice. But what I can say is these issues are another reason why I want to be at [UTSoA]. I want to come precisely because these debates are on the table. It is very easy to be critical of how others are thinking about particular situations, but part of understanding and embracing the 'other' is that you have to fully embrace it. You have to engage yourself in that discourse no matter what you believe for yourself. We are in a really messy world. We are not going to be able to come up with solutions by bracketing ourselves and narrowing our domains or territories so that we are only surrounded with like-minded individuals. I am most interested in figuring out how we negotiate these radically different voices. How we map progress that accepts these differences yet at the same time protects the most vulnerable. In design disciplines, we have an enormous responsibility for the health, safety, and welfare of society at large which means we have to tackle these issues head on. What we really need to do is figure out how to engage. On a lighter note, you will begin your post on July 1st of this year; and, as you well-know having attended Tulane, the south has an unforgiving summer heat. Weather aside, though, what are you looking forward to most about relocating to Austin?  Well, my grandparents lived outside of Dallas and I used to spend my summers at their unairconditioned ranch. I've never forgotten that. Number one, though, is BBQ. No matter what you try in the north nobody can make decent BBQ and I'm tired of my friends from New England constantly dragging me to places where they claim that it's the best BBQ—no. And driving, I shouldn't say this because I'm a sustainability person, but I miss a good road trip. I've never been to Marfa, that's so high on my list.
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Longhorn Leader

Michelle Addington named dean at University of Texas at Austin
The University of Texas at Austin School of Architecture has just announced the selection of a new dean: Professor Michelle Addington of Yale University. At Yale, Addington is the Hines Professor of Sustainable Development and she holds a joint appointment in Forestry and Environmental Studies and Architecture. The university hopes she will bring an "interdisciplinary perspective" to her new position. Here is the full announcement from the university:
Dear UT community, I am excited to announce that Michelle Addington will serve as the next dean of the School of Architecture effective July 1, 2017. Michelle comes to us from Yale University where she holds joint appointments in the School of Architecture as well as the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. Educated as an architect and engineer, she brings an impressive array of experience and expertise, both in academia and applied practice. Over the past 20 years she has dedicated herself to education as a teacher, mentor, and leader at Yale and Harvard. Earlier in her career she worked at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center and at DuPont as an engineer and manager. The interdisciplinary perspective she brings will be a tremendous asset to the school and university, and I am thrilled that she has agreed to lead one of the top architecture programs in the country. Michelle holds undergraduate degrees from Tulane University and Temple University, and master and doctorate degrees from the Harvard Graduate School of Design. Her teaching and research focuses on sustainable energy systems, advanced materials, and new technologies. In 2009, Architect Magazine recognized her as one of the top ten architecture faculty in the nation. I also want to take this opportunity to thank Elizabeth Danze. As interim dean, I could not have asked for a more effective leader and partner throughout this process. She is highly respected by her colleagues and the campus community and has led the school with distinction this year. Please join me in thanking Elizabeth for her leadership and service. Michelle is an exciting addition to the Longhorn community. Please join me in welcoming her to UT. Sincerely, Maurie McInnis Executive Vice President and Provost The University of Texas at Austin
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All Aboard

UT Austin School of Architecture gets millions to study transportation across megaregions
The United States Department of Transportation (DOT) is pouring money into transit research at universities nationwide, among them the University of Texas at Austin School of Architecture (UTSOA). The federal agency is giving millions in grant money to UTSOA and its partner schools to fund transit research in so-called megaregions, rural-to-urban geographic areas that share environmental features, infrastructure, and economic futures. The funds will be disbursed over five years, beginning with a $1.4 million grant for UTSOA's 2016-17 fiscal year. Dr. Ming Zhang, associate professor of community and regional planning at the School of Architecture and researcher at the university's Center for Transportation Research will lead the four-school "CM-2" consortium (CM-2 stands for Cooperative Mobility for Competitive Megaregions). The group includes researchers from Louisiana State University, Texas Southern University, and the University of Pennsylvania. “Support from the U.S. Department of Transportation will allow us to advance our research, education, and technology transfer initiatives that work to improve the mobility of people and goods in urban and rural communities of megaregions like the Texas Triangle,” said Dr. Zhang, in a statement. “CM-2 seeks innovations in institutional cooperation for transportation planning, multi-modal integration for increased access and equity, and better transportation investment decisions and public engagement achieved through improved information technologies.” UTSOA's DOT grant is one of 32 from the agency that fund research at University Transportation Centers (UTC) programs. UTC works with transportation agencies and the private sector to study the field from all angles. CM-2 will lead workforce development and education, carry out mobility research, as well as investigate how technology could be used to enhance mobility and economic vitality in megaregions across the United States. The group's research will focus on transportation policy and regional planning, increasing equitable connections across regions, thinking about modeling for fast-growing regions, and coming up with new multi-modal planning strategies.
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Serriform

This year’s SXSW Eco conference featured a unique set of stage backdrops

On October 10, the two-day South by Southwest (SXSW) Eco Conference kicked off in Austin, Texas. Igor Siddiqui and Nerea Feliz, professors at the University of Texas at Austin School of Architecture, were asked to design the stage backdrops for this year’s event. The design brief specified eight different, but interrelated, stage backdrops for the conference, ranging in width from 12 to 30 feet and offering a “striking visual presence that highlights innovation.”

Together, Siddiqui and Feliz explored issues of serial variation, digitally derived patterning, and robotic painting. The result was Serriform. Drawing on Ettore Sottsass’s 1992 Adesso Peró bookcase, Serriform gets its name from the serrated edges of its columns.

“Digital technologies have transformed the logic of mass production by allowing repetitive processes to produce variation, meaning that components, objects, and patterns produced in a series no longer all have to be the same,” said Siddiqui. “Our project was designed with such capabilities in mind.”

For example, Siddiqui continued, the columns forming the principal structure for the stage backdrops feature a range of different geometric profiles, while still belonging to the same “family.” “This was achieved using a parametric script in the design process,” he said. “Because the columns were fabricated digitally [using CNC machinery], it was as efficient to produce the series with such variation as it would have been had they all been identical.”

A Kuka Robotics KR60 robotic arm spray-painted the pattern on the panels while a script in algorithmic modeling editor Grasshopper was used to facilitate variation in the paint application. During this process, the script remained the same, but the variables within it changed in order to take into account materiality, fabrication, assembly, and use. “We were amazed by the idiosyncratic nature of each mark—none is the same even if the script is repeated over and over again,” said Siddiqui. “This allowed us to make the kinds of painted marks that would have been difficult, if not impossible, to achieve through any available mechanical or manual means.”

Siddiqui and Feliz intend for Serriform to be used beyond the SXSW conference. “The challenge of temporary installations like this is that they are only useful for a short period in time,” Siddiqui said. “A plan for its after-use was very important to us, so the whole installation is actually designed to serve as a shelving and partition system afterwards.” (According to Siddiqui, a Serriform 2.0 is on the way.) “We looked at iconic bookshelf designs, seeking examples where their sculptural qualities transcended function,” he continued. “Adesso Peró gave us some good clues, while allowing us to come up with a more variable version tailored to the digital era. Sottsass’s design is still all based on the repetition of the same dimension and form, and today we can do so much more! While his bookcase is a piece of furniture, we think of work as architecture. In this way, the H-profile columns (like that of steel members) are decidedly tectonic in nature and open to other spatial applications. We are continuing to work on this project by designing new scenarios for how the columns and panels can be used as shelving and partitions, and, unlike their role as backdrops, arranged in space in a more three-dimensional way.”

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Doctored Up

UT Austin gets medical center that aims to reform the healthcare industry

The University of Texas at Austin is the first tier-one public university in the United States to build a new medical school from the ground up in almost 50 years. Dell Medical School, funded largely by a raise in local property taxes, consists of 11 departments and institutes scattered among new buildings on the southern edge of campus and oriented around the school’s idyllic Waller Creek.

The new campus’s master plan, designed to connect the medical district physically and architecturally to the rest of the university and Downtown Austin, was designed by Sasaki Associates and Page Southerland Page. Of its new structures, unquestionably the centerpiece is Page’s and S/L/A/M Collaborative’s Health Learning Building.

The five-story structure is a long, slender volume with massing, height, and materiality all informed by the campus’s materials, colors, and overall feel. It’s essentially divided into two main components: The north-facing “social edge”—a section of open spaces, workshops, and breakout zones expressed by a largely glass wall (including both clear- and clay-colored glass)—and a large, multilevel cantilevered stair. An opaquely-clad section, facing south, east, and west, is marked by intricately CNC-milled limestone walls with punched windows (shaded by terra-cotta colored fins). All areas feature team-based learning spaces and labs, as opposed to traditional classrooms, a strategy meant to promote innovation and collaboration.

“They’re really interested in being revolutionary. Rethinking the healthcare industry,” said Page partner Lawrence Speck. The school’s tagline, he noted, is Rethink Everything.

The surrounding structures, which Speck refers to as “fabric buildings,” are tied together, and to the rest of campus, by materials like stone and metal as well as by their height and massing. The 260,000-square-foot, eight-story Health Discovery Building is primarily for research and houses 97,000 square feet of laboratory space, a 20,000-square-foot vivarium and 15,000 square feet of core labs. The 233,000-square-foot, 10-story Health Transformation Building, an advanced medical office building, will be connected to the Health Discovery Building via a five-level “dry lab,” allowing collaboration among medical professionals and clinical researchers.

The campus is also shooting high in terms of sustainability. The Health Learning Building will be LEED Gold, while the overall district is aiming to be one of the first examples of the Sustainable Sites Initiative, evaluating buildings, landscape architecture, and engineering as a holistic whole.

Things seem to be going so well, said Speck, that the dean has already started talking to the design team about a second phase of building, far ahead of schedule. “They definitely see the architecture as a means to go after their goals,” said Speck, who has been studying, teaching, and building at UT for about 40 years. “I feel like I’m living a dream,” he added.

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Class Act

UT Austin’s Michael Garrison reflects on students’ changed approach to facade design
When Professor Michael Garrison, the Cass Gilbert Centennial Teaching Fellow in Architecture at the University of Texas at Austin, thinks about how students are pushing the cutting edge in design, three developments come to mind. First, said Garrison, who will participate in the “Form Follows Performance” panel at the upcoming Facades+Dallas conference, is a heightened attention to materiality. “Our students are keen on new materials, the embodied energy of materials, smart materials,” he explained. This new awareness is largely the result of students’ exposure to the school’s University Co-op Materials Lab, a multidisciplinary space for hands-on exposure to more than 27,000 materials samples. Second is the question of craft. “We find it very interesting that naval architects and NASA call their works craft, but we in architecture don’t know such things,” said Garrison, recalling Buckminster Fuller’s question, “How much does your house weigh?” Thanks to developments in digital design and fabrication, he said, “the old idea of tool and die mass production characteristic of modern thinking in the twentieth century has really changed. Students are able to make something of a more unusual shape.” Parametric design is the new normal in the design-school classroom. Finally, Garrison points to a “new and profound” evolution away from “the hermetically sealed box of the Seagram Building era” to a focus on “thick skins.” These multi-layered facades typically involve a sunshade or other external component, which “creates an interstitial space between the traditional envelope and the new envelope,” said Garrison. Increasingly, students are focused on incorporating adaptive technology into building envelopes, often patterning facades along biomimetic lines. “Whereas the first two decades of the twenty-first century were about unusual shapes, [with] parametric design, we are now moving toward intelligent shapes that are more responsive,” he concluded. Catch up with Garrison and other top AEC industry professionals at Facades+Dallas. Seating is limited; register today.
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Texas Modern

How kinneymorrow is helping to reinvigorate the Houston architectural scene

Taryn Kinney and Michael Morrow’s eponymous architectural practice, kinneymorrow, is one of several small, reasonably new studios that should gain enough momentum to redefine the staid Houston architectural scene in coming years. What sets this cohort apart from its peers is the intellectual rigor of its design methodology. Rather than slapping together a collage of materials and boxy shapes—the kind that typically passes for modern architecture in the Houston market—kinneymorrow’s designs arise out of a careful analysis of the program. These initial studies almost intuitively take the form of a diagram, with shades of the Beaux Arts era esquisse, a rapidly drawn sketch containing the big idea (or ideas) that guides the project to completion. Coupled with this is an unusually pronounced contextual sensitivity that is all the more remarkable considering that Houston, table-flat and sprawling messily over the Gulf Coast plain, is by no means considered a city where architecture has served its traditional role of spatially defining the urban environment or of even making a mark on public consciousness. These two tendencies produce thoughtful, modest, and witty projects that—despite their oft-diminutive size and small number—are immensely satisfying on many levels. 

Both Kinney and Morrow are graduates of Rice University, studying there in the late 1990s and early 2000s when it was headed by the Swedish polymath Lars Lerup, perhaps best known as a writer of marvelous essays that speculate in a simultaneously poetic and bemused fashion on the current state of the contemporary city. In 1994, Lerup described Houston in the essay Stim and Dross, (required reading for all Rice students at the time): “The European metropolis-without-crowds has skipped westward while radically transforming itself into a new creature: leaner, meaner, and more superficial, but harder to catch, at once simpler and less bearable to live in.” kinneymorrow, now about a dozen or so years out of school, is doing the hard work of turning such ideas into an architecture inflected by the experience of living in this ephemeral city and it is exciting to see. 

Austin Studio Austin, Texas

This support space for an artist’s studio was plugged into an existing prefabricated metal shed in a rustic outpost just west of Austin, Texas. It measures 12.5-feet-wide by 25-feet long and contains a small kitchen, bathroom, living area, and sleeping loft. The building is conceived as a didactic tool to explain the artist’s process as a printmaker. The site slopes to one side, necessitating a tall concrete foundation, which the architects extruded up an extra three feet past the level of the floor to form a structural wainscot around the inhabitable spaces. Into this concrete, they inserted a set of the artist’s wood blocks, corresponding to different colors and shapes used to make a single print. After the concrete cured, the blocks were removed and the relief images around the base of the building record the artistic process. The new building, with its taut, vertical proportions clad in corrugated metal siding, is a foil to the long, low shapes of the existing studio and its extension. The artist uses red as a signature in her prints and it appears sparingly as an accent in the otherwise all-white, concrete space.

Decatur Street House Houston, Texas

Here, Kinney and Morrow were commissioned to remodel a double shotgun house built in 1894 located in the Old Sixth Ward, a compact community in the shadow of downtown Houston that contains the largest collection of 19th century architecture in the city. Since the Old Sixth Ward is designated as a protected historic district, the exterior elevations of buildings cannot be altered. The architects, who also live and work in this neighborhood, focused their interventions on the interior instead. The existing long and narrow plan consisted of two rows of four interconnected rooms with no hallways. In the new plan, the service areas including kitchen, bathrooms, and closets are arranged along the western side of the house, thus retaining the longitudinal logic of the shotgun house, but adapting it to the desires of contemporary clients. The entire eastern side is left open for living and dining areas with three new sets of double French doors opening to a new outdoor deck and a new, giant seven-foot square window at its farthest reach that entices with a distant view of a pocket garden. Space is articulated with level changes and subtle variations in proportion, rather than with walls and doorways as in the former plan. To accommodate the larger dimension of these living areas and bedrooms, the architects simply extruded the shape of the existing house to the rear building line of the lot.

Kane Street Office Houston, Texas

For another project in the Old Sixth Ward, the architects negotiated the purchase of a 751-square-foot house built sometime in the 1880s—positively ancient by Houston standards—that was to be relocated from its original lot to make way for a new structure. Remarkably, Kinney and Morrow were only the house’s third owners. Its plan, a double shotgun, like that of the Decatur Street House consisted of two rows of three interconnected rooms. Through some investigative detective work and relying on a single photo of the house from the 1970s, they discovered that the center room along the western half of the house was originally a semi-enclosed porch. They restored it along with the missing front porch on the house’s street-facing, north elevation. In the eastern three rooms, the configuration was left unaltered, and the architects chose to make a radical intervention by running a row of giant, black-stained plywood work desks through openings cut through the walls between the rooms. This unites the three rooms and also introduces an intriguing ambiguity in scale, proportion, and color inside the otherwise all-white studio work space.

East 21st Street House Houston, Texas

A second project in Sunset Heights revels in the small scale. The architects were commissioned to rework a diminutive 750-square-foot house built in 1890 as one of the original farmhouses on the tract before it was subdivided. The house, which is 22-feet-wide by 26-feet-long, is a miraculous survivor and the architects could not bear to see it get scrapped. Therefore, the design scheme was to use the existing house as the module and replicate it twice more to accommodate the new program of an increased number of bedrooms and a larger living area oriented to a majestic pecan tree in the back yard. The exterior of the old house with its hipped roof, waterfall siding, and bit of ginger-breaded porch will remain essentially untouched, while the new modules, connected by low, flat-roofed hyphens will retain the square plan and pyramidal roof—but will have modern, minimal detailing to indicate their place as successors to the originals.

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1928-2016

John Shaw, former Cornell professor and member of the “Texas Rangers,” passes away
Note: The Architect's Newspaper received this obituary from John Shaw's son, Lytle Shaw, who's also the author. With his permission, we've posted the obituary below. John Preston Shaw passed away on June 9, 2016 in Issaquah, Washington. Shaw had a long and prestigious career as an architectural educator and architect. He was born July 7, 1928 in Abilene, Texas, and graduated with a degree in architecture from the University of Texas in 1950. The next four years he spent in the Air Force, first in North Dakota and Nebraska, designing demountable housing for the Strategic Air Command directly under the famous Cold Warrior Curtis LeMay. In 1953-54 Shaw was sent to Europe: first, by accident, to Paris; later, once the Air Force learned of their mistake, to Wiesbaden, West Germany. In 1955 Shaw returned to Austin where he worked in the office of Fehr and Granger (1955-1956) and taught at the University of Texas in the architecture department (1955-1958). It was here Shaw met Bernhard Hoesli, Colin Rowe, Lee Hodgden, Werner Seligmann, and John Hejduk, and formed the group of educators known as the Texas Rangers, many of whom (Hodgden, Rowe, Seligman, and Shaw) later taught at Cornell. Shaw had the distinction of being the only Texas Ranger actually from Texas. This group’s contribution to architecture education in the United States is the topic of Alex Caragonne’s 1995 The Texas Rangers: Notes from an Architectural Underground. John Shaw met Betsy Gidley in Austin, Texas in 1957 and the two were married in 1958. They shared, among other things, a strong interest in music, especially opera. The two moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts during the summer of 1958, where Shaw attended Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MA, 1960), studying with Eduardo Catalano, and taking classes with Lewis Mumford, and with Siegfried Giedion at Harvard. During the summer of 1959 Shaw won a Skidmore Owings and Merrill travelling fellowship that took him and Betsy to Europe. That fall he was offered an assistant professorship at North Carolina State University, where he taught until 1962, when he was offered a job at Cornell University, where he remained until his retirement in 1995. At Cornell, the ideas explored initially at the University of Texas were developed into a more robust, expansive pedagogy. While Shaw’s examples still centered around modernist architects (including Le Corbusier, Wright, Mies, Aalto, and Kahn) he tended to understand them less as makers of iconic, self-enclosed buildings than as architects whose program and site-specific vocabularies had not been sufficiently acknowledged. His lectures and seminars often focused on the buried contextualism latent within high modernism, and to this end stressed on-site investigation. It was on such investigations that he generated a formidable slide archive. And yet the slides that remained at the center of his lectures were not only those of the high modernists. Shaw was equally interested in Swiss barns, Dutch polders, the mosque at Cordoba, medieval urbanism in Spain and France, small town Texas courthouses, Italian villas, palazzi and town planning, cubist and Renaissance painting, and Commedia dell’Arte (about which he published an article in the Cornell Journal of Architecture). He was also an enthusiastic watercolorist and collagist. Among his many interlocutors at Cornell were not only the Texas Rangers, and many younger colleagues, but also European architects including Martin Dominguez and Oswald Mathias Ungers (who Shaw recruited to Cornell). Shaw was a strong advocate of his students, and a much-loved professor. He trained and mentored several generations of architects including Musfafa Abadan, Bruce Abbey, Ed Bakos, Larry Borins, Jason Chandler, Peter Choi, Steven Fong, Dan Kaplan, Blake Middleton, Burton Miller, Richard Olcott, Chad Oppenheim, Andrea Simitch, Todd Schliemann, Aaron Schwartz, and Val Warke, amongst many others. In 1986, Shaw was the first professor to teach in Cornell’s new program in Rome, to which he returned several times. Other foreign teaching included summer schools in Switzerland, Mexico, Greece, the Aegean, and Germany. Shaw was also a visiting professor at University of California, Berkeley, Rice University, University of Texas, and University of Tennessee. Shaw retired from Cornell in 1995 to an earth-ship hacienda he designed and built in Taos, New Mexico. Among his other built works are the Tompkins Trust Company Bank in Ithaca, New York, the Divi Hotel in Aruba, and the Clark/Shaw house in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire. In retirement, Shaw published a catalog on the collages of his close friend Bernhard Hoesli in 2001, and wrote up his lecture notes into an as yet unpublished manuscript. John is survived by his children David Shaw, with whom he lived his last years, Anna Studebaker, and Lytle Shaw, and by his grand children Dalton Studebaker, Alexandra Studebaker, Julia Shaw, Amilia Shaw, Cosmo Clark-Shaw, and Luca Clark-Shaw. A memorial service will be held at Robert H Treman park in Ithaca at noon on Saturday, August 27th (upper enclosure). In lieu of flowers, the family is accepting donations for a “Professor John Shaw Memorial Lecture” Fund at College of Architecture, Art and Planning, Cornell. Donations to the fund can be made by check (Cornell University PO Box 25842) or via this website.
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spaceCAMP

UT Austin’s School of Architecture gets its own site-specific art installation

In Hyperstyle, architects Mason Leland Moore and Joel Nolan of spaceCAMP create an environment in which physical tension takes center stage. The exhibition looks at the pull between the concrete floor and the ceiling of the Materials Lab at the school of architecture. Both set out to test different materials while exploring spatial concepts at specific site installations. Two grids of thin columns overlap with one rising from the floor, and the other descending from the roof. The tension is accentuated by the consistent overlays, along with a change in color from yellow to a light gray. Conventional construction techniques are reflected in the room’s organization through the intimate relationship formed between the ceiling and the floor’s multiple columns.

Hyperstyle is on view at the Materials Lab Gallery of the West Mall Building at the The University of Texas at Austin's School of Architectures, April 15–August 10.

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Close In and Sky High

How real estate speculation, ugly architecture, and gentrification shape Austin’s urbanity
In a teaser for the new season of IFC's Portlandia, protagonist Fred Armisen comes to Austin, Texas whereKyle MacLachlan plays the mayor who navigates the pitfalls of our neighborhoods. Coffee shops, record stores, a couple of bars: “Alright, cool,” MacLachlan says. But then strollers and baby clothing stores start popping up, “Not cool!” he protests. The show’s hyperbole isn’t far off: It's hard to find a good, affordable place to live in this town. The Austin real estate bubble’s most difficult issues manifest themselves in the realm of single-family housing. Buoyed by soaring property costs, speculative redevelopment has been transformative in central neighborhoods, especially East Austin. Typically, developers buy properties and quickly erect a cheap new house that maximizes the allotted FAR (floor area ratio) of the site, thereby maximizing sales profit. This type of development is disruptive. As houses grow larger and boxier, they change a street’s definitive qualities of scale and grain. Last December, the Austin City Council updated the Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) requirements, which set limitations on the size and placement of back houses. ADUs are now able to be 1,100 square feet (up from 850 square feet), closer to the main structures (10 feet, down from 15 feet) and a parking space is not required in some areas. The minimum lot size required for an ADU is now 5,740 square feet, down from 7,000 square feet. The legislation also placed restrictions on the use of ADUs for short-term rentals, a contentious issue that further affects housing prices. This is a step in the right direction. Currently, Austin’s minimum buildable lot size is 5,750 square feet, and a movement for small lot amnesty calls for that number’s reduction. The opposition is explicit in its reasoning: Such a change would allow developers to buy larger lots and subdivide them, encouraging further conversion of neighborhoods into engines of capital creation. Unfortunately, whatever is good for urban density is good for developers, as it increases the number of housing units to be sold. Small secondary houses do improve density, but they don’t adequately address affordability. Those residences are sold or rented at market cost-per-square-foot prices, rendering them only available to individuals or couples who can both afford them and only require so much space—youthful types who move here in large quantities. Hence, gentrification. This doesn’t help families or low-income individuals, populations that are in decline in central Austin. Minority residents of East Austin, for example, are priced out of their homes and are exiting the city in large numbers. African-Americans in particular are adversely affected, singled out as the only demographic that’s shrinking in our booming city. Such trends have created an Austin that is now the most economically segregated metro area in the country.
A photo posted by @uglyaustinhouses on
For Anthony Alofsin, AIA, a practicing architect and professor in architecture at the University of Texas at Austin, the concerns of diversity outweigh the concerns of density. Alofsin has been in Austin for almost 30 years, long enough to recount previous boom and bust cycles in the real estate market. Some of his academic research studies builder homes, which remain the most common way Americans house themselves, a statistic largely ignored by the architectural profession. In Alofsin’s view, a diverse mix of individuals—different patterns, passions, occupations, incomes, and ethnicities—leads to an “urban experience,” and Austin is short on this type of urbanity. Alofsin also worries about larger repercussions of civic housing trends: Changes in national family trends combined with the exodus of families from the city center spells disaster for the future of Austin’s public schools. Form-making isn’t important at this scale: Whether a house has a flat roof or fake stone or a turret is irrelevant to the economics at work.

A photo posted by @uglyaustinhouses on

To see what’s on the market now, Creede Fitch, a real estate agent with Skout who focuses solely on modern and midcentury properties, took me on a tour of neighborhoods near 12th Street. Close to the railroad tracks, one luxury spec house near the railroad tracks set a high water mark, selling for around $600,000 last year (it was also featured on the 2015 AIA Austin Homes Tour). A few blocks away, Fitch points out a slim lot with an older structure on-site, clearly not worth salvaging. “$290,000!” he reports, not without disbelief.

Fitch, who himself is building a new home in East Austin, tries to educate clients on both Austin and modern architecture, though he admits that “modern” is not important to many buyers. Fitch is also aware of better ways to increase density; he described one solution where smaller existing homes are maintained and a larger “primary” new build house is placed behind, providing privacy and preserving the scale of the street. A pilot project in this style is a casita renovated by architect Alan Gonzalez, sited on the front half of its lot. The steep price tag—a listed $375,000 for 785 square feet—would make most wince, but it’s a baby step in the right direction.

The good news is that some architects are working to change market realities, or at least their aesthetic dimensions. Jared Haas, principal of Un.Box Studio, spoke with me about a house he recently completed with Newcastle Homes. Knowing the market and the ground rules of spec projects, he designed a clean shape with a restrained material palette inside and out. Instead of the ubiquitous Hardie board siding, he sourced a vertical wood board at a comparable price. The house was purchased before it was completed, and Haas is at work on two more with the same company.

Other models of practice—architect-as-developer, design-build, design-build-develop—offer exciting alternate avenues of investment and engagement, and there are a number of successful examples at work in East Austin. Speculative building is now seen as pejorative, but it can be incredibly progressive. Haas, for one, looks forward to the time where spec projects, rather than further isolating residents, can bring them together in hybrid social spaces. What if speculative housing led the way toward new formats of living?

Later, I drove around East Austin to check in on its progress. I lived in the Chestnut neighborhood for two-and-a-half years in a full-size back house with two housemates; the house’s builder-developer had created a condominium complex of two houses on a single lot, another way to circumvent typical density limitations. It is both smartly dense, lucrative, and ruinous to the property values of neighbors. Nearby blocks are majority new builds, with accompanying new residents.

Construction has started on The Chicon, a three-building complex of affordable and market-rate apartments, close to an intersection that was once singled out as the city’s most dangerous. In 1925, one could take a streetcar from that corner all the way downtown. Now there’s a skee-ball bar on the block. Neighborhoods roll over, sometimes with unfortunate consequences, but the tide keeps going—part of life in a city. I stopped in front of a particularly ugly spec home with walls that bulge and tilt, as if frozen in nauseous mid-collapse. I slow my car to photograph the offense, but instead smile, wave, and move along—there is a moving truck out front with a couple unloading bicycles, ready to make that house their home.

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Gulf Green

At interdisciplinary conference, Houston highlights its new relationship to the natural landscape

Houston’s green renaissance set the stage for a recent conference of landscape architects, designers, planners, institutional leaders, and policy makers who convened at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston on March 11.

Hosted by Washington, D.C.–based non-profit The Cultural Landscape Foundation (TCLF), Leading with Landscape II: The Houston Transformation focused on how landscape architecture is changing the city at a scale not seen in the U.S. in a century.

Charles Birnbaum, founder and executive director of TCLF, posited Houston’s built heritage in three sections: The linear hardscape and engineering of freeways, the iconic architectural monuments connected by said infrastructure, and today’s emerging landscape architecture that is stitching together the natural and built environments.

“The story of zoning and planning in Houston is a fascinating study, one that lies at the very center of the conference and tours. It is a story characterized by political wrangling, economic boom and bust cycles, hurricane and flooding, the influence of the automobile in infrastructure and housing development, public-private partnerships, and the presence of the many bayous that traverse the city,” Birnbaum wrote in the conference guide. “Houston provokes the question, ‘Can a city that has developed largely without a plan also be one that is leading with landscape?’”

Conference discussions looked ahead to the ambitious new plans for Bayou Greenways, Memorial Park, the Menil’s Campus, and the Houston Botanic Garden, while examining the successes of Discovery Green and Hermann Park. Issues of street-level design for pedestrian experiences, equity, inclusion, and funding were also brought to the forefront to improve upon the city’s connectivity and accessibility.

The daylong panel discussions included the voices of leading landscape architecture firms and various institutions: SWA, Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, West 8, Hargreaves Associates, the Office of James Burnett, Reed Hilderbrand, Design Workshop, Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects, Asakura Robinson, Clark Condon, the Hermann Park Conservancy, the Kinder Institute for Urban Research at Rice University, the Houston Chronicle, the Kinder Foundation, Chilton Capital Management, Clean Line Energy, the School of Architecture at the University of Texas at Austin, the Houston Parks and Recreation Department, Rice University, the University of Houston, and the Anchorage Foundation of Texas. San Antonio mayor Ivy Taylor and former Houston mayor Annise Parker also spoke during the final session titled, “An Appraisal.”

Taylor, an urban planner originally from Queens, spoke about parks as potential anchors for neighborhoods, including San Antonio’s redevelopment of the Riverwalk, Pearl Brewery, and drainage improvements, as well as matters of park equity. She cited having grown up near Central Park in New York, “the granddaddy of them all.”

“As a little girl, I didn’t go to those parks. We had a square patch of grass. How do we reach out to folks to experience the natural environment?” Taylor asked. Her presentation led to the question: How are we to be stewards for the next generation?

The foundation also hosted expert-led free tours March 12–13 at more than 30 iconic sites that demonstrate Houston’s legacy of green and public spaces, including Buffalo Bayou Park, Sesquicentennial Park, the Menil’s Campus, Gerald D. Hines Waterwall Park, Sabine Promenade, and Discovery Green.

“This is my city. I love this city,” Parker said. “This is a city of big ideas and we tackle big things in big ways.” She continued to discuss the importance of the Port of Houston, the Astrodome, “Houston” as the first word on the moon, and issues including infrastructure, parks, preservation, and public art. She also elaborated on the Bayou Greenways Initiative and how it touches every community in Houston by creating an interconnected green web. As great cities attract intellectual capital, it also needs amenities and attractions for its citizens.