Search results for "Public Design Commission"

Placeholder Alt Text

Bend It Like Beckham

David Beckham's Miami soccer village reveals Arquitectonica's designs
After David Beckham and his Major League Soccer (MLS) partners unveiled the first glimpse of their billion-dollar, 73-acre soccer campus in early July, details about the development, and Miami’s possible first MLS team, have been coming fast and furious. This morning, Beckham, the potential Miami football club's owner and president, unveiled the new name and logo of the team. “Club Internacional de Fútbol Miami,” or Inter Miami CF, are scheduled to begin playing in 2020 if all goes according to plan and will be represented with an emblem that combines Miami’s signature pink with a pair of herons. Beckham and team co-owner Jorge Mas claim that every part of the team’s identity references Miami’s diverse global population, from the name to the “M” shape formed by the birds in the logo.
More information about the contentious Miami Freedom Park soccer complex has also been made public. The potential development would rise on the city-owned Melreese Country Club golf course, and Beckham and partners successfully convinced city commissioners to put the development on the ballot in November. If voters approve, Beckham’s partnership would lease about half of Melreese from the city for 39 years (with an option to extend their lease to 99 years), while the city would need to renovate the rest of the country club using taxpayer funds. Beckham and Mas have enlisted hometown favorite Arquitectonica to plan and design the complex. In addition to the 10.5.-acre, 25,000-seat soccer stadium that anchors the plan, Freedom Park could contain 23 acres of soccer fields, 3,750 parking spots (a radical departure from Beckham’s first stadium proposal), 600,000 square feet of restaurant and retail space, 750 hotel rooms, and 400,000 square feet of offices. In the updated renderings, Arquitectonica has included a playground, skate park, and golf facility on the city-owned portion of the park, which, if built, would be constructed with public funding. The curving canopies of the stadium, which swirl around the open field and resemble an aperture, will extend out to beyond the building proper and seemingly cover other public areas. Miami residents will vote on whether to move ahead with Freedom Park this November.
Placeholder Alt Text

Request for Proposals

William & Mary solicits ideas for a memorial for the school's former slaves
The College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, has announced an open call for a competition to design a memorial honoring the African Americans enslaved by the school upon its founding in 1693 until the Civil War. The public university welcomes conceptual ideas for a physical memorial that provides an area of community and contemplation for students, teachers, and staff to reflect on its former reliance on slave labor. The forthcoming memorial must engage with the school’s Historic Campus, a two-acre, diamond-shaped site situated around The Wren Building—designed by English architect Sir Christopher Wren and the oldest college building still standing in the U.S. The adjacent President’s House and the Brafferton make up the heart of William & Mary’s colonial campus where the memorial may be constructed. “This memorial is such an important project for our community,” said current President Katherine A. Rowe in a press release. “African Americans have been vital to William & Mary since its earliest days. Even as they suffered under slavery, African Americans helped establish the university and subsequently maintained it.” The project falls under the larger umbrella of a long-term initiative by the university to research its own history with slavery. As the second oldest higher education institution in the country, it used slaves for not only construction, maintenance, and service, but for funding the college in general. King William and Queen Mary of England specified in a charter that the school would be built off the profits of slaves working in tobacco fields of Virginia and Maryland. The college even owned its own plantation, the Nottoway Quarter. In 2007, the William & Mary Student Assembly called for the college’s Board of Visitors (BOV) to create a commission to research the full depths of its contributions to slavery. They also asked that a public memorial be built as an apology and as a source of remembrance. Under the purview of The Lemon Project, which the BOV established in response, the school has been exploring these ties to slaveholding as well as its current relationship with the African-American community of Williamsburg, Virginia, for several years. Sponsored classes, research studies, symposia, and more have encouraged students and faculty to spread awareness and dive deep into the topic despite its difficult truths. The Lemon Project Committee on Memorialization (LPCOM) was founded out of this commitment after a fall 2014 course where students considered how a memorial design might convey the history and memory of the school’s racially fraught past. The committee has spent the last several years discussing how to best approach the memorial competition, which was announced last week. Interested participants must submit a design plan and a 500-word description of their concept by October 12 at 5 p.m. To learn more about the submission process, go here. A jury of alumni, staff, faculty, and students will choose three ideas to show President Rowe, upon which, if the design is ready, she will share with the BOV during its February 2019 meeting.
Placeholder Alt Text

Small Island, Big Money

New York plans massive mixed-use development for Governors Island
Governors Island could soon be home to, well, homes. Or at least dormitories. The New York Harbor island could house the city’s newest innovation and education hub while maintaining its identity as a beloved recreational oasis. Crain’s New York reported that City Hall will hold a public hearing next month on its plans to rezone the island's former military base to make way for a proposed 4.5 million-square-foot, mixed-used development. Mayor de Blasio's office posted a notice last week about the hearing, which will be the first step in an environmental review process for the project. Aiming to attract a combination of tech and life-science firms, educational institutions, dormitories, as well as a convention center and hotel, the city wants to build out the development as a way to enhance exposure for Governors Island. The 172-acre landmass currently functions as a leisurely getaway for urbanites to enjoy during the summer. Though city-owned, it’s managed and maintained by the Trust for Governors Island. The new development, which would be constructed on the south side of the island, would help annually fund the costs of the island's 43-acre park. With this proposal, it seems the city wants to piggyback off the success of Roosevelt Island’s Cornell Tech campus and bring those small island–big money vibes south of Manhattan. Plus, space for ground-up construction in New York is limited and Governors Island remains one of the more barren sites in town. Any new facilities part of the proposal would be built on two plots of land currently zoned for residential development. The problem is that residential construction has long been prohibited on Governors Island, which is why the city wants to first rezone the land before bringing businesses on board. After an extensive public review process beginning with next month’s meeting, City Council is expected to vote on the proposal in fall 2019. If passed, the rezoning would allow low-rise commercial structures to be built on the site as well as proposed dorms and hotel properties that could potentially rise as high as 300 feet. Crain’s also noted that the city has already commissioned a second ferry to take construction workers out to the site. But that won’t be enough to transport future commuters to and from the development, even in combination with an expanded East River Ferry service. That’s why the Economic Development Corporation is in talks to put a gondola between Lower Manhattan and Governors Island, further mimicking the layout of Roosevelt Island, which is reachable via a gondola and the F train. The public hearing for the rezoning proposal is scheduled for September 26 at 6:00 p.m. at the Battery Maritime Building in Lower Manhattan.
Placeholder Alt Text

Try It On

Rudolph Schindler’s Fitzpatrick-Leland House is now a luxury clothing showroom
The historic Rudolph Schindler-designed Fitzpatrick-Leland House in the Hollywood Hills of Los Angeles has been converted into a preview and fitting location for the “luxury essentials” clothing brand Co. T Magazine reports that the recent change in use for the MAK Center-owned and operated home came about after the owners of the clothing brand initially inquired about using the hillside complex for a photo shoot.   Eventually, a deal was worked out by the MAK Center and Co, and the center has been working hand-in-hand with the company to continue restoration efforts for the property started last fall, according to Priscilla Fraser, director of the MAK Center. In an email, Fraser explained that MAK considers Co as its current designers in residence, while adding that the installation is “a temporary arrangement while we go through the city process of altering the house’s use from residential to 'public benefit' so we can officially run it as a small museum.” The home, which was marketed as a potential AirBnB site a few years ago, has also been outfitted for its new use with abstract artworks on loan from L.A.’s Maccarone Gallery by artists Rosy Keyser and Marco Perego.  Images accompanying the T article also showcased International Style furniture pieces on loan from L.A. dealer Joel Chen, a custom teak folding screen commissioned for the store, and a new kitchen table designed by Jed Lind, formerly of Commune Design. With the arrangement, Co, a clothing brand known for contemporary riffs on classic luxury designs, will occupy one of L.A.’s most quintessentially modernist homes. The L-shaped building was designed in 1936 and features a complex arrangement of interlocking interior and indoor-outdoor spaces, including terraces that overlook a swimming pool. The stucco house also features Schindler’s characteristic thickened, abstracted floor plates as well as floor-to-ceiling glass walls and a series of walkways that project into the surrounding eucalyptus tree canopy.  The Fitzpatrick-Leland House was previously used as a base for the MAK Center’s Urban Future Initiative, a fellowship program supported by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the US Department of State with a $410,000 grant benefitting international cultural thinkers, according to the MAK website.  Given the multifaceted history of the house and the outside-the-box approach Fraser has taken with MAK’s properties since being appointed in 2016, it will likely not be the last new use envisioned for the historic home. For images from Co’s photoshoot at the home, see The New York Times website.
Placeholder Alt Text

Freeze!

LAPD headquarters could be saved by new lawsuit
Activists in Los Angeles have filed a lawsuit in a last-ditch effort to halt the pending demolition of the city’s defunct former police headquarters, Parker Center. Representatives of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), Healthy Housing Foundation, and the Coalition to Preserve LA held a press conference Wednesday morning announcing the new suit, the latest effort in a long-running battle to save the vacant, 300,000-square-foot, International Style complex.  The organizations have filed a suit to stop the building’s demolition and to compel the City of Los Angeles to instead convert the structure into a 700-bed temporary housing shelter. The debate began last year as efforts to landmark the structure took off against a backdrop of fierce community opposition to saving the tower. The complex was considered for Historic-Cultural Landmark status but the Los Angeles City Council voted in favor of razing the structure instead, choosing to make space for a new office tower being planned in conjunction with a new masterplan for the surrounding Civic Center area. The Parker Center complex was designed by architecture firm Welton Becket & Associates in 1955 as a state-of-the-art headquarters for the Los Angeles Police Department and was used as a backdrop in the television series Dragnet, a police procedural drama from the 1950s focused on the intricacies of police detective work.  The organizations filing suit allege that the City has misrepresented the costs associated with converting the building into a shelter relative to its demolition costs. Further, the group accuses the City of using gassed up figures in its feasibility determination. The City of L.A.’s estimates put the shelter conversion at over $295 million, while an estimate commissioned by AHF indicates that a conversion would cost roughly $102 million.  In a statement announcing the lawsuit, Michael Weinstein, President of AHF sad, “City officials are padding their estimate to rehab and repurpose Parker Center as housing because they are bound and determined to tear it down.” Weinstein added, “It is a horrible waste of public funds and shows a lack of interest in the cost-effective use of existing resources at a time when the crisis of homelessness in Los Angeles rages on largely unabated.” The replacement 27-story “luxury office tower” being proposed would cost at least $900 million to build, making it the most expensive municipal office building in the country if constructed.  The question of whether to save Parker Center has exposed old, unhealed wounds among several local constituencies, especially for the residents of the surrounding Little Tokyo neighborhood, some of whom saw their properties and businesses taken by force when officials were originally planning and consolidating the Civic Center district in the 1950s. Members of L.A.’s African American and Latino communities detest the building, as well, and see its existence as an extension of the city’s traumatic legacy of racist policing tactics.  A judge has yet to hear the case, but current plans called for demolition on the tower to begin as early as August 20. It is unclear if that timeline is still on track.
Placeholder Alt Text

ArtPOPS

Public art chapel in corporate midtown Manhattan to get a restoration
Tucked away in the corporate international style Citigroup Center in midtown Manhattan lies a spiritual sanctuary designed by one of the 20th century's great artists. The Chapel of the Good Shepherd, also known as the Nevelson Chapel, is the work of Louise Nevelson, a flamboyant New York City sculptor who rose to prominence for her postwar abstract assemblages that turned street detritus into enigmatic works of art. An interdisciplinary team is restoring the space, both conserving the painted relief sculptures that line the walls and installing modern mechanical systems to better condition the room. The Nevelson Chapel is a privately owned public space (POPS) in the Citigroup Center, which opened in 1977 and features a distinctive raised base and a slanted roof. The building was landmarked in 2017. POPS began in 1961 when New York City started offering developers FAR bonuses on developments if they would build public spaces as part of the projects. Dozens of these areas are now scattered through the city. As a POPS, the chapel is open to visitors. Saint Peter’s Church originally commissioned the chapel and currently operates the space as part of their worship areas in the complex. The restoration is part of a $5.7 million initiative made possible by donations from nonprofits and individuals, many of whom are connected to Saint Peter's. Objects Conservation Studio and Pratt Institute students are treating painted wood surfaces to reveal Nevelson's original paint using a technique developed in Florence, Italy. Jane Greenwood of Kostow Greenwood Architects, Michael Ambrosino of ADS Engineers, Michael Henry of Watson & Henry Associates, Ryoko Nakamura of Loop Lighting, and Sarah Sutton of Sustainable Museums are installing new lighting and mechanical services. According to the Saint Peter's website, the Nevelson Chapel is accessible every day at almost any hour. The chapel will be open while the artwork is being restored through October 15, after which time more intense construction will take place, and the chapel will close. The space is scheduled to reopen in spring 2019.
Placeholder Alt Text

On a Pedestal

Women's suffrage statue is coming to New York City
Looks like women are finally getting honored for their monumental achievements in both American and New York City history thanks to two initiatives pushing for more female representation in the city’s statues. The Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony Statue Fund and She Built NYC are setting precedents for bringing permanent public works depicting women to the streets in monument form. Last month, The Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony Statue Fund announced the winning design for an upcoming statue of the famed female suffragettes by sculptor Meredith Bergmann, whose piece will be erected in the park on August 26, 2020, just in time for the centennial anniversary of the establishment of women’s right to vote. Gothamist reported that the statue will showcase the figures cast in bronze and writing out arguments for women's rights on an elongated scroll. The pair is well-known for penning the lady’s liberation paper, The Revolution, which ran in print from 1868 to 1872. According to Gothamist, the organization said in a press release that they’re proud “to have broken the bronze ceiling to finally start the creation of the first statue of REAL women in Central Park’s 164-year history.” A monument for the women's suffrage movement has been in planning for several years. A request for proposals went out last November, to which 90 sculptors submitted designs. As Bergman's chosen design awaits approval by the New York Public Design Commission, a model of the statue is on view at the New York Historical Society through August 26. Another program helping to elevate women’s historical contributions to New York is She Built NYC, a new advisory panel put together by the De Blasio administration that’s dedicated to preserving and highlighting female figures in New York from 20 years ago or more. Through the City's Percent for Art program, She Built NYC will select nominated figures for public works projects to go up over the next four years. This fall, the panel will vote on the first submitted nominations, which were collected during an open call this summer. The Department of Cultural Affairs has already committed up to $10 million for these new public monuments. The chosen subject and site of the first project will be announced in January. “There are big gaps in our City’s public art, with few statues of women, trans, and gender nonconforming people,” said First Lady Chirlane McCray in a press release. “The message that lack of representation sends is that these people have no value and did not make contributions to our city. This first step we are taking will help us more accurately show the diversity in the people who helped make New York City so great.” The upcoming Elizabeth C. Stanton and Susan B. Anthony statue will mark the sixth statue in all of New York depicting a female historical figure. The others depict Joan of Arc, Golda Meir, Gertrude Stein, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Harriet Tubman. It will also be the first statue in Central Park’s 840 acres to honor real women. The other 23 statues are of men while the only two female statues are fictional characters Juliet and Alice in Wonderland.
Placeholder Alt Text

The End of Parker Center

Former LAPD headquarters to be demolished after years of controversy
Various reports indicate that L.A.’s Parker Center, an International Style structure designed by Welton Becket and Associates that once served as the headquarters for the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD), is set to be demolished starting August 20.  The much-maligned building will make way for a new 750,000-square-foot, 27- to 29-story office tower that is being developed as part of a new master plan for the surrounding Civic Center neighborhood.  There was a short-lived effort to landmark and perhaps preserve the Parker Center last year that failed in large part due to community opposition to the building. One reason the building is unpopular is that the site for the complex was taken from what once the cultural and commercial core of L.A.’s Little Tokyo neighborhood. Resentment over the displacement of businesses and cultural institutions resulting from the land-grab still runs high in the area and helped to derail the building’s application for Historic-Cultural Monument status. The building is also widely criticized in Latino and African American communities for its associations with the LAPD itself, an organization with many documented cases of brutality and injustice against members of those communities, including the brutal 1992 attack on Rodney King and offenses resulting from the ensuing L.A. Uprising.  The building was originally designed as an “ultramodern” and “scientific” police headquarters that focused both on internal efficiency and—ironically—on thoughtful public interfaces.  The building’s lobby features an open design, for example, and is populated by a series of site-specific artworks, including a mural by the artist Joseph Young titled Theme Mural of Los Angeles that depicts city landmarks amid abstract color fields. The complex also features a bronze exterior sculpture titled The Family Group by artist Bernard J. Rosenthal. In a 2017 interview with The Architect’s Newspaper, Louis Naidorf, one of the architects who worked on the complex, lamented the building’s sordid reputation. He said, “[I] always assumed architects were supposed to positively affect the lives of the people who used their buildings and that the ‘real client’ for projects like Parker Center were the people who work in the building, the people who walk by the building, the people who were affected somehow by the presence of the building.” Naidorf added, “Your work was a setting for their lives. At a more basic level, [you] can create spaces that are depressing or spaces that are happy.” The LAPD left the building in 2009 when a new 491,00-square-foot, 11-story tower designed by AECOM located down the street opened for business. Earlier this year, the AIDS Healthcare Foundation and other preservationists attempted to convert Parker Center into a shelter for people experiencing homelessness, but the plan failed. Ahead of the planned demolition, the public art elements were removed for storage and eventual restoration. The complex is slated to make way for a key component of a new “Civic Innovation District” that will bring housing, offices, and new open spaces to the area. The new office tower that is set to rise on the Parker Center site has yet to be designed, but official estimates put its cost at $700 million. A detailed plan for the design and construction of the tower has not been announced, but planning documents explain that the city plans to complete the replacement tower around 2020. 
Placeholder Alt Text

Super States, Assemble

The Center for Architecture's latest show imagines the future of the New York region
The nonprofit, nonpartisan Regional Plan Association (RPA) released its Fourth Regional Plan back in 2017, a 400-page prescription for a variety of problems facing the Tri-State New York metropolitan area. Now through November 3, visitors to the Center for Architecture can explore the RPA’s plans for increasing housing affordability, improving the region’s overburdened public transit, and addressing climate change by 2040. The Future of the New York Metropolitan Region: The Fourth Regional Plan exhibition at the Center breaks down The Fourth Regional Plan into four typologies: core urban areas, suburbs, local downtowns, and regional green spaces. Each section is further broken down to address affordability issues, the failure of policymakers to address problems in those regions, how climate change will impact each area, and how to best improve mass transportation. Both the problems themselves, as well as the RPA’s proposed solutions, are on display. The Four Corridors, an RPA-commissioned initiative that tasked four different architectural firms with reimagining different “corridors” throughout the region, is also on display at The Fourth Regional Plan. Rafi A+U + DLANDstudio proposed a “landscape economic zone” to protect the area’s coastal regions from flooding—a softer, living take on the traditional seawall; Only If + One Architecture proposed creating the Triboro Corridor, an accessible route from Brooklyn to Queens to the Bronx; WORKac wants to turn the Tri-State suburbs into denser, greener versions of themselves and create easy access between smaller towns; and PORT + Range proposed reinvigorating the area’s highlands into ecological buffers with varied natural ecosystems. “RPA’s Fourth Plan is a blueprint for creating a healthier, more sustainable, more equitable region, one with more affordable housing, better and expanded public transit, and a closer connection with nature," said RPA Executive Vice President Juliette Michaelson. "This exhibit provides an opportunity for New Yorkers and regional visitors to explore the Fourth Plan and imagine what our future could look like if we are bold enough to reach for it." Other than the show itself, the Center will host two accompanying programs. Creating More Housing without New Construction will take place on September 14 from 8:00 AM to 10:00 AM, and Designing the Future of the Tri-State Region will be held on October 29 from 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM.
Placeholder Alt Text

Chasing Perfection

John S. Chase, trailblazing Texas architect, celebrated in two exhibits
John Saunders Chase, FAIA (1925–2012) was a Houston architect who realized a large body of work in the city, throughout the state of Texas, and around the United States. At its peak, his office had nearly fifty employees in four cities: Houston, Dallas, Austin, and Washington, D.C. Chase, an African American in a profession that has struggled with diversity and discrimination, achieved many historic firsts during his career. His life, as seen via his personal and professional achievements and the work of younger architects who passed through his office, was on display this spring in Chasing Perfection, a two-part exhibit produced by the Houston Public Library. Born in Maryland, John Chase moved to Austin in the late 1940s after receiving initial architectural training at the Hampton Institute in Virginia and serving in the Army during World War II. He applied to graduate school at the University of Texas at Austin (UT Austin) School of Architecture after the Sweatt v. Painter Supreme Court decision in 1950 that fought the “separate but equal” policy of racial segregation in college education. After graduation, no firm would hire him, so Chase established his own practice in Houston, and in 1956, he became the first African American architect to be licensed in the state. Throughout his career, he designed churches, homes, union halls, libraries, high schools, fire stations, and institutional buildings, including much of the campus of Texas Southern University. He was a founding member of the National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA) in 1970 and received his AIA Fellowship award in 1977. In 1980, Chase was selected by President Jimmy Carter to join the Commission of Fine Arts and was part of that committee during the contentious process of realizing Maya Lin’s Vietnam Veterans Memorial on the National Mall. He was the first African American to serve on this commission. During the 1980s, his office was part of a consortium of local architects responsible for the design of the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston. Chase is survived by his wife, Drucie, and their three adult children. According to Danielle Wilson, the exhibition’s curator, discussions about the show began in 2009 with Chase’s participation. At that time, his architectural archive had been donated to the Houston Metropolitan Research Center’s Architectural Archives, and his personal archive was in the process of being donated to the African American Library at the Gregory School. Wilson’s father grew up next to the Chases in Houston, so she was familiar with the family and immediately knew that she wanted to work on a show about the architect when she joined the staff of the Gregory School. After Chase passed away, it took a number of years to assemble the parts for this successful exhibition. On the second floor of the Julia Ideson Building in downtown Houston, letters, photographs, and artifacts were installed alongside photographs of built work, architectural drawings, and hand-drawn renderings. Seen together, Chase’s life and work could be understood through the staging of these personal and professional artifacts, sequenced together to tell a holistic life story. Wilson said, “When I think about architects and their work, everything goes all together. I think it’s great when you have that context of both. I think it makes works more powerful.” The room also included a large–scale model and drawings of the George R. Brown Convention Center mounted on a drafting table. At the Gregory School, the work of four architects who worked with Chase is on display and demonstrates the effect his mentorship had on a subsequent generation of African American architects. “When I was focusing on his work and life, it was hard to tell a comprehensive narrative without talking about these men,” Wilson said. Daniel Bankhead, AIA; Darrell Fitzgerald, FAIA; James Harrison; and Wilbert Taylor all worked at various points with Chase and went on to become professional and community leaders themselves. In February, the library hosted a discussion between these architects, in addition to a conversation with Mrs. Chase and her children. Chasing Perfection offered a powerful portrait of a 20th–century American architect through Chase’s life, work, and impact on the profession. Wall text for the exhibit was excerpted from a manuscript titled The Life and Work of Architect John Saunders Chase: You Can Do More from the Inside, by architectural historian Dr. Wesley Henderson with Andrea Lazar. Both worked for two years to conduct interviews with family members, colleagues, and former employees of John Chase. Henderson and Lazar believe that Chase’s life story deserves to be more widely known since very few biographies of successful black architects have been published. They were very pleased to be able to contribute to the show at the Houston Public Library. Chase’s legacy continues to be explored and celebrated. In February, UT Austin announced that it had purchased one of Chase’s early buildings in east Austin to renovate and use as a community engagement center. While Chasing Perfection closed in early June, Wilson says there are already discussions underway about touring the show at other institutions. She also said a brochure from Chase’s firm and drawing supplies from his office were recently acquired by the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) in Washington, D.C. Wilson added that she and Mrs. Chase are “going to go through his personal archives to see what materials might go to the NMAAHC, and the rest will be housed at the African American Library at the Gregory School.” Chase is an important figure among the talented architects who practiced in Houston during the second half of the 20th century. His career opened the door for many architects of color to enter the profession, and he serves as an example of the countless ways in which an architect can effect positive change in the world.

Chasing Perfection: The Work and Life of Architect John S. Chase Houston Public Library Julia Ideson Building

Chasing Perfection: The Legacy of Architect John S. Chase The African American Library at the Gregory School

Placeholder Alt Text

Alamo City

San Antonio's architecture has a bright future illuminated by a rich heritage
When it comes to notable architecture in Texas, it would seem strange to place San Antonio on par with Houston or Dallas. As the second-largest city in the state, San Antonio seems to only mimic the kind of architectural largesse seen in those cities. There are plenty of jewel-like late modern skyscrapers and austere civic buildings by Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, Caudill Rowlett Scott, and Marmon Mok in the city, but these are not the kinds of projects one would mention in the same breath as Houston landmarks like Johnson/Burgee’s Pennzoil Place and Williams Tower, Renzo Piano’s sublime Menil Collection, or Fort Worth's iconic Kimbell Art Museum by Louis Kahn. A selective itinerary of San Antonio’s past and future architectural projects reveals a steady commitment to buildings with bold, expressive forms that reference the city’s unique environment, history, and culture. Alamo City warmed up to these compelling architectural additions as it expanded during the late 1940s and early ’50s, and became a home to energy and utility companies during the 1970s and ’80s. Funded by philanthropic organizations and influxes of oil cash, many of these buildings are now hidden by giant, swooping highway overpasses, corporate plazas, and other developer-driven projects. Despite the earlier innovative and controversial projects, San Antonio remains overlooked. This will soon change. Newly appointed mayor Ronald Nirenberg has re-energized discussions about creating new housing, battling gentrification, and committing to more public art. This will certainly place a spotlight on San Antonio’s rich architectural offerings while reminding us of how these and other past projects have embodied this city’s distinctive topography, Latino heritage, and dry, arid environment. Emilio Ambasz’s Lucile Halsell Conservatory, completed in 1988 at the San Antonio Botanical Gardens, is a good starting point. Located on the city’s northeast side, Ambasz’s scheme took advantage of the sunken site with a series of prismlike canopies that appear to rise out of the bermed earth like upturned shards of glass. Each canopy creates its own kind of climate and features particular plant ecologies—architecture designed, as Paul Goldberger observed in 1987, for the interaction between plants and humans. The project is notable for its combination of building, landscape, and infrastructure into a seamless whole. The Lucile Halsell Conservatory accommodated some very particular environmental and topographical conditions, and did so with a formal and technological expressiveness unlike anything that had been built in San Antonio. Mexican architect Ricardo Legorreta’s San Antonio Central Library, completed in 1995, continues in this vein. Here, cubic volumes are stacked at various angles, creating a series of triangular-shaped courtyards intended to be outdoor reading rooms. Legorreta’s debt to Mexican architect Luis Barragán’s minimalist polychromy is clear. Working with the painter Mathias Goéritz, Barragán created spaces framed by walls and surfaces doused in highly saturated reds, blues, yellows, oranges, magentas, and pinks. At his Central Library, Legorreta appears to invert Barragán with a simple, playful interplay of volumes that seem to be wrought from its own color palette as well. The reddish-brown colored cubes appear gutted in some places, revealing inner planes of yellow, blue, and purple. When viewed from the air, the Central Library appears otherworldly, framing circular plazas made from grass and limestone and located on a triangular-shaped site near the geographical center of the city, as if something from another time had arrived here. That a Mexican architect was chosen for this project is important. As the seventh-largest city in the United States, San Antonio has one of the biggest Spanish-speaking populations. Over 62 percent of its residents are of Latino origin. The appeal of Legorreta’s Central Library stemmed as much from the need for more public libraries as it did from the desire to reflect the city’s heritage. Though this was the first building in San Antonio designed specifically to reflect the city’s Mexican-American heritage, there are older buildings that expressed the cultural richness so important to the city. The Alamo and the four Spanish Missions (recently designated as UNESCO World Heritage Sites) all combine Spanish and Catholic influences while referring to the rituals and structures of indigenous peoples. This is to say that San Antonio’s architecture continues to find a way to embody its venerable cultural geography. It also incorporates its distinct environmental geography. San Antonio is a city hewn from mesquite-dappled hills, limestone quarries, and deep-set aquifers. Lake|Flato continues to be the standard-bearer among the city’s firms for a kind of tectonic and environmental sensitivity that is immediately recognizable for its ingenious references to these conditions. Imagine a version of John Lautner’s spacious geometric forms where large cornices made from corrugated metal peer over meticulous compositions of glass, limestone, slats, and brise-soleil made from local woods, all culminating in views that privilege the rolling, arid mesquite and persimmon landscapes of the Texas Hill Country. This would not do justice to Lake|Flato’s work, but perhaps it is as close as we can get to a kind of South Texas regionalism. Yet some of Lake|Flato’s current work points to something altogether different. Their recently completed pavilion at Confluence Park designed in collaboration with Matsys connects the joining of the San Antonio River and San Pedro Creek, to nearby Mission Concepción, an 18th-century basilica. This is a highly-charged site in predominantly Spanish-speaking South San Antonio. The most visually arresting parts of Lake|Flato’s project are the concrete “petals” that reference the local flora while reminding the most architecturally astute observer of Spanish-born Mexican engineer Felix Candela’s sweeping hyperboloid structures, like Los Manantiales Restaurant (1958) in Mexico City’s Xochimilco Park, or the Chapel Lomas de Cuernavaca (also 1958) in Cuernavaca. Confluence Park is also part of the larger San Pedro Creek Cultural Park. This scheme is projected to transform a once-neglected 2.2-mile-long drainage spur into a cultural attraction with water features, public art, and areas dedicated to the preservation of local grasses and wildlife. In a nod to its aspirations, lead architect Henry R. Muñoz and others have embraced this project’s more common nickname—the “Latino High Line”—which may say more about Diller Scofidio + Renfro/Field Operation’s celebrated scheme than the actual goal of the project, which is to create a version of the Riverwalk devoid of its tourist traffic while celebrating Latino heritage. Urban designers are finding new ways to move San Antonio forward while referring to curious artifacts from the history of American cities. Architect Antonio Petrov, who teaches at the University of Texas at San Antonio and is the founder of Urban Future Lab, is one of the most outspoken voices when it comes to redevelopment in the city. He is a proponent of bringing back skyrides, which were already used during HemisFair ’68 as a means of connecting the city’s downtown with San Antonio International Airport. Petrov’s proposal, though evocative of pie-in-the-sky urban transportation schemes, is to be taken seriously. Similar proposals were actually in use at the 1932 Century of Progress Exhibition in Chicago as well as in Disneyland and Disney World (which were, in a sense, attempts to envision cities of the future.) Other schemes, though funded by corporate dollars and serious placemaking advocacy firms, are barely more pragmatic in their approach. A case in point is the proposed Alamo Plaza Redevelopment. Philadelphia-based Preservation Design Partnership authored one of the first master plans, a scheme that caused controversy when it called for relocating many of the businesses surrounding the Alamo and converting them to privately run cultural attractions. Current versions of the plan have done little to improve on the previous proposal. For example, the recent Alamo Comprehensive Interpretive Plan—spearheaded by St. Louis–based “placemaking” firm Peckham Guyton Albers & Viets; the heritage consulting firm Cultural Innovations; and landscape architects Reed Hilderbrand—still hinges on the creation of a pedestrian-friendly “Alamo District” designed to turn this historically charged site into an open-air museum. A previous scheme took this idea a step further by encircling the Alamo with a glass wall, as if preserving this architectural artifact in a kind of amber. There are plenty of other projects that are reenergizing the architectural scene in San Antonio. The city is in a bit of a gut-rehab frenzy, as landmarks like the Pearl and Lone Star Breweries have been renovated as pricey hotels and higher-end restaurants, all with the end goal of molding San Antonio into a destination for design-savvy millennials with money to burn, in hopes they will ditch an Airbnb in the picturesque King William District in favor of the Hotel Emma’s posh industrial-chic. It is in this milieu that Adjaye Associates’ Ruby City arrives as one of the most exciting projects to break ground in the Alamo City. This 14,000-square-foot gallery and contemporary arts center—scheduled to open later this year near the city’s burgeoning arts district—appears as a strange hybrid, part OMA Casa da Musica, part Legorreta Central Library. Adjaye’s building appears as a literal jewel, a faceted brick-red form whose speckled, punctured surfaces make it seem fleeting and otherworldly. But it is anything but that, for this building, which sits precariously on the edge of the one-acre CHRISpark in downtown San Antonio, will anchor the San Pedro Creek redevelopment scheme, and provide the Linda Pace Foundation’s extensive collection of modern and contemporary art with a bold, exciting home. Adjaye is still earning accolades for his groundbreaking National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C., and with Ruby City soon to be completed, this will be the most significant architectural gesture for San Antonio—one that will hopefully inspire an influx of more commissions and projects of a similar caliber. How should we look at San Antonio’s architectural legacies and gestures? It is tempting to stack them up against those in Houston or Dallas, but in doing so, we would risk ignoring how one of the fastest-growing cities in the United States is busy generating its own architectural identity. Don’t call it haphazard, however. The pace of architectural developments in San Antonio may appear slow, but like the city, its architecture is humming busily from what once was an undetectable purr to something greater. This sleepy South Texas city is anything but, and its architecture will demonstrate how this is the case.
Placeholder Alt Text

Clear Choice

Winning design chosen for Sandy Hook memorial
A final design has been unanimously selected for the Sandy Hook memorial in Newtown, Connecticut, the Newtown Bee reports. On Friday, the Sandy Hook Permanent Memorial Commission announced that out of the top three concepts unveiled in May, The Clearing by Ben Waldo and Daniel Affleck of SWA Group will be presented in front of the city’s Board of Selectmen at the end of this week as the commission’s official recommendation. The board is slated to make the final approval this month. It’s been five years since the commission was created to establish a public memorial honoring the 26 victims and survivors of the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. From 189 international submissions, Waldo and Affleck’s vision for the 5-acre site became the top choice after a July 17th presentation by the three final teams. The Clearing features a sprawling landscape of winding pathways, trails, lakes, and flowery woodland centered around a young sycamore tree planted in a fountain. The names of the victims are prominently carved into the fountain's stone edge. The latest design iteration, which the team updated for the most recent presentation, includes an added manmade pond and an alternative entrance and pavilion. It also includes more details on the proposed materials for the site. Waldo and Affleck are based out of SWA Group’s San Francisco office. The design team also includes Justin Winters of SWA/Balsley, Jim Garland, AIA, of Fluidity, as well as Jason Loiselle, principal at Sherwood Design Engineers and his colleague, design engineer Gabe Duque. The Board of Selectmen will meet Friday, August 9 to review the commission’s recommendation.