Search results for "san antonio"

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Buc-ee Cheese

Gas stations on steroids: Welcome to Buc-ee’s
Here are some things for sale at Buc-ee’s: dozens of varieties of beef jerky, jalapeño pepper jelly, fudge, yoga pants, gun cases, faux rusticated wood accoutrements, faux rhinestone belts, cowboy art, meaty kolaches, deer corn, American Hunter game feeders, artisan soap, camo tote bags, sports memorabilia, gummy worms, brisket, BBQ smokers, and just about anything else one could possibly want emblazoned with the portrait of the store's mascot, a cartoon beaver. For the uninitiated, Buc-ee’s is a Texas gas station chain and so much more. Started in Lake Jackson, outside of Houston, by Arch “Beaver” Aplin III in 1982, the chain now has 33 locations throughout the eastern half of the state. Like a watering hole on the suburban savannah, these mega-size mini-marts serve as a social condenser: They provide a place where the diverse populations of Texas can graze together. To generate anticipation, Buc-ee’s maintains billboards hundreds of miles out from its stores, inducing in travelers’ minds a yearning for a bathroom break and a bag of “Buc-ee's nug-ees” before they know their desires themselves. The ads are meme-worthy and infectious: “OMG! It’s a beaver! LOL!,” “My overbite is sexy,” “The Top Two Reasons to Stop at Buc-ee's: Number 1 and Number 2,” and “Only 262 miles to Buc-ee’s. You can hold it.” They lodge in the brain much like the chain's corn nug-ees stick in one's teeth. Buc-ee’s are big. Full-size versions of the store sport over 100 gas pumps. They are truck stop–scaled attractions with no trucks, as big rigs are not allowed at the chain. The number of pumps makes for an absurdly long shade canopy, as if the plan of a normal gas station was enlarged in one dimension prior to construction. It is a gesture of logistical horizontality, and the form embodies the engulfing flatness of a state that takes 12 hours to cross diagonally. The structure captures the state’s vitality and artificiality; architecturally, Buc-ee's inspires the same synthetic blend of patriotism and awkwardness as a stretch Hummer. Some locations include car washes, built with the same strip mall vocabulary as the main building. At the recently opened Buc-ee’s in Katy, the conveyor belt apparatus is 255 feet long and officially set the Guinness World Record for the world's longest car wash. But there’s an ecological reason for this. According to Aplin, quoted in the Houston Chronicle, the car wash's length and the number of brushes involved means that it uses less water than smaller operations: “You're not trying to do it in 50 feet. You have more time…It's very eco-friendly." Inside, the store’s most valuable amenity is its clean restrooms. The bathrooms are immaculately maintained and generously sized, with fully enclosed toilet rooms that are finished, as Kevin Bacon’s character from Tremors might describe it, in tile that goes “all the way up.” After heeding the call of nature, one is immersed in the overwhelming expanse of the retail floor. It feels like a to-go Cracker Barrel on steroids with fewer rocking chairs and more truck nuts. As in a casino, disorientation and interiority dominate the senses. Typically, drink coolers and snack racks are to the right, prepared and fresh food kiosks are in the middle, and hard and soft goods are to the left. Flagship locations are larger than grocery stores, although beyond jams and spices, the stores don’t really sell raw food materials. Square beige tile covers the floors and walls everywhere. Above, the 2x4 pattern of fluorescent lights is a relentless perspectival companion, the grid against which the goods are seen and reflected on every individually packaged unit of merchandise. Buc-ee's is big business for its owners and a decent job for its employees. A sign advertises wages for cashiers starting at $14/hour, nearly the $15/hour rate recommended by some progressives as a baseline minimum wage. Municipalities, knowing the chain's popularity, shell out to land new locations. This year, a Buc-ee's will open in Denton, where the city agreed to $8.1 million in sales tax reimbursements in exchange for the new 38-acre development. The appeal is legitimate, as each location attracts scores of motorists and generates up to 200 jobs, all contributing to the state's strong economy. Buc-ee's bustles at all hours in its performance of consumer culture. Here, people from all walks of life, about to partake in all kinds of activities, arrive in hot pursuit of sustenance and supplies. Much as Buc-ee’s creates its own network of road trip destinations today, in the early 1970s the Truckstop Network, a project by the briefly Houston-based Ant Farm, reimagined the American freeway system as an infrastructure for “media nomads.” They proposed a set of support modules that would provide essential services for travelers, as well as communication services to allow for the broadcast of original content directly to the public. But now that unlimited streaming is the norm, the mediatized aspect of Ant Farm's dream feels outdated. What endures are the creature comforts that still spur us to pull over and join the masses in search of junk food and cheap fountain drinks. In the deserted expanses of roadside America, it is a welcome surprise to suddenly be lost in an air-conditioned crowd as it circulates around a Buc-ee's interior, swirled along by the currents of individual appetites, only to quickly return to one's vehicle, as there are no places to sit down, inside or outside. This dance is overseen by the gaze of the eponymous beaver, a ubiquitous character in the store that oscillates between appearing cheery and creepy, depending on one's mood. The creature's unblinking eyes peer out from every piece of branded product, its buck-toothed mouth frozen open. If able to speak, what would Buc-ee say? Despite the store's appearance of American monoculture, culinary diversity sneaks in; the New Braunfels location offers 37 varieties of jerky, including “bohemian garlic, cherry maple, and ghost pepper,” according to NPR. Like a ten-year high school reunion or an acid trip, Buc-ee's triggers many surprises about one's self and the world. As a lovesick essayist wisely observed, “You go to Buc-ee's for the same reason you break up with someone: to pursue possibility, that narcotic promise of more.” In Content, OMA described a “social condenser” as a "programmatic layering upon vacant terrain to encourage dynamic coexistence of activities and to generate, through their interference, unprecedented events." This matches the chaos of Buc-ee’s. It's not a socialist Narkomfin, where workers might promenade in productive collision after their collective labors, but a capitalist terrain where citizens can stock up on sugared nuts, psychedelic beaver socks, and signs that read, “The most important kitchen utensil is the corkscrew.” Buc-ee's may not be the social condenser we need, but it's the social condenser that shows us everything we didn't know we always wanted.
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Tried All the Angles

Judge clears way for controversial Brooklyn development at Broadway Triangle
Last Friday in New York City, a lawsuit against one of North Brooklyn’s most contentious, high-profile developments was dismissed after a six-month delay in court. The lawsuit, filed by the Churches United for Fair Housing (CUFFH) and local groups in February, claimed the Broadway Triangle project would discriminate against people of color and further segregate the predominantly black and Latino community from the rest of Brooklyn. Currently a vacant piece of land situated at the corner of Union and Flushing Avenues, the contested site is slated to become a massive eight-building, mixed-use complex. It was formerly owned by pharmaceutical giant Pfizer. In their complaint, the plaintiffs said the development violates the federal Fair Housing Act and asked the city to stop the rezoning of the site. They also urged the city to consider requiring racial impact studies when rezoning areas in low-income communities throughout New York. Alexandra Fennell, network director at Churches United, told The Architect’s Newspaper that such a study could easily be incorporated into the Environmental Review process when properties are up for development. “The land use process provides opportunities for tangible remedies for issues that are present,” she said. “If the city refuses to even study segregation in our neighborhoods then we are almost certain to perpetuate it.” The plaintiffs also noted that the Pfizer site’s current developer, Rabsky Group, has a longstanding history of building luxury homes and apartments exclusively for larger Hasidic families with three- and four-bedroom options. They argued these sizes don't make sense for smaller black and Latino families who might be interested in applying for the 287 affordable housing units being offered at the Pfizer Project.  The planned 1,146-apartment complex will include those subsidized units, 65,000 square feet of ground-floor retail, and green space, designed in conjunction with the NYC Department of Planning and Manhattan-based firm Magnusson Architecture and Planning (MAP). According to the architects, the new design will aim to improve the local pedestrian experience on the southwest corner of the 31-acre Broadway Triangle, boost economic activity in the area, and beautify the surrounding neighborhoods of South Williamsburg, Bushwick, and Bedford-Stuyvesant.  Magnus Magnusson, the firm's principal, said since the first goal of the project was to receive the zoning change, the initial drawings specifically show the urban design approach taken to the site. You can’t tell from the images, he said, but going east the scale of the buildings get lower to match the surrounding neighborhood. The tallest structures on Union Avenue—a busy, car-ridden street—feature up to 18 stories. “Another big urban design feature we added was a large, public open space in the middle of the complex,” Magnusson said. “The neighborhood today lacks green space and we wanted to make it a place for the entire community to come together.” Magnusson also noted that there hasn’t been any talk of a luxury development by Rabsky so far. “There are seven apartment buildings ranging in various sizes, so each one could be for a different use and feature either affordable housing versus market rate,” he said. “The attraction here for us was the fact that for decades, this was an empty property. To build a new mixed community is really what New York is all about in trying to do to make the city more inclusive. Even though the opposition wanted more, this will probably be the best compromise." Broadway Triangle has been a public topic of controversy for nearly a decade. The city voted to rezone the area, which it owns, in 2009 to make way for new development and affordable housing options, but a federal judge blocked such actions three years later, citing that it would be detrimental to the local minority populations. After the city agreed to find a new developer for the site last year, plans restarted. In March the court put a temporary restraining order on the site, but the ban was lifted with the final ruling last week. “The city needs more housing...a lot more,” Manhattan Supreme Court Judge Arthur Engoron wrote in his ruling. “The Pfizer Project has already passed political process muster; today it passes judicial process muster. This court finds no legal impediment to it and will not stand in its way one more day.” Judge Engoron also stated that the city has no obligation to carry out a racial impact study when it considers rezoning properties and noted that concerns of gentrification and displacement speak to broad social trends rather than the hidden agenda of developers. For the past month, Churches United has hosted the “Take Back Bushwick” campaign, a series of 17 “actions” or events calling out future local market rate developments that are driving up rents, displacing residents in Brooklyn, and have zero affordable housing options. The last and final action, a rally against an incoming 27-story residential building on Wyckoff Avenue, was held this morning. Fennell calls this particular project the “ultimate middle finger building” in Bushwick and a development that “could not be farther from what the community needs.” “Today’s action was not related to Pfizer but it also focuses on the city’s failure to create policies that encourage development of low income housing which we desperately need in favor of luxury development,” she said. “New York is one of the most segregated cities in the country and this type of development is only segregating us further.” Council member Antonio Reynoso, who represents District 34 where the Pfizer Project will be developed, also spoke at the rally and urged the local community to continue getting involved in these discussions. “Bushwick looks a certain way, it has a character,” he said “That’s what makes it so popular and that’s what's being taken away from us. We’re allowing developers and big money to dictate and determine exactly what they want to do in this community, instead of allowing the community to be the sayers of how we want things to be.” This article was updated on August 2nd with comments from Magnusson Architecture and Planning.
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Grapefruit-Chic

David Adjaye realizes a ruby-red museum in San Antonio, Texas
In 2007 the late artist and philanthropist Linda Pace—of Pace jarred salsa fame—had a vision of a ruby-tinted arts city come to her in a dream. The city, as Pace dreamed it, would become a rough outline for the 14,000-square-foot Adjaye Associates–designed museum complex that will house her foundation’s art collection in San Antonio. Pace passed away in 2007; more than ten years later, her vision is being brought to life bit by bit, an endeavor that is currently in full swing ahead of the building’s projected 2019 opening date. The $16 million dream is being translated into reality by architect David Adjaye and an international network of local architects, contractors, and fabricators who have made plans for a precast concrete panel citadel situated on the Texas plain. There, folded concrete surfaces and expanses of brut walls will house the 800 or so artworks collected by Pace and her namesake foundation. The pink complex is built out of a special concrete and aggregate mix crafted by fabricators across the border in Mexico that will result in a gleaming, rosy edifice. As explained by Mike McGlone, principal at Alamo Architects, the executive architect for the project, most colored concrete starts out in either gray, beige, or white tones, with pigments added incrementally to tint the mixture to the desired color. But ruby red pigment is a particularly difficult hue to achieve. For one, pigment can only be added little by little, resulting in a blended appearance that can appear muddled when combined with cement’s natural coloring. The process is made more difficult by the inherent structural requirements of the materials involved—the more pigment is added, the less resilient the final product—so while Pace’s dream called for a vibrant, beet juice–colored edifice, tests using traditional methods yielded less spectacular results. That was the case until designers began looking south of the border, where concrete fabricators Pretecsa can produce concrete panels made with red rock aggregate and red sand taken from local quarries. There, instead of starting with beige or gray bases, the fabricators begin with white concrete and add colored materials and tints to change the hue of the mix from inside-out. The fabricators include materials such as recycled red glass and mica in the mix to boost coloration, while also creating a glittering finished surface that will reflect sunlight throughout the day. Adjaye’s designs call for a collection of open galleries topped by a pair of sculptural light cannons that will bring light into the building. The complex will make use of several different concrete panel types, including rough surfaces that will line the upper sections of the building to better reflect the sun. Lower sections will be smooth to the touch, with a three-sided forecourt wrapping a sculpture terrace that features sandblasted surfaces. The folded concrete panel structure will also use cementitious panels along its roof, a system that will be supported below by a secondary weather-proof roofing system located directly below the outermost concrete layer. The complex is expected to be completed in late 2018 and will open to the public in 2019.
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Detention Prototypes

How architecture is aiding detention at the U.S.-Mexico border
This article is the first in a series that originally appeared in AN's July/August 2018 issue which focuses exclusively on Texas. The rest of the essays will be released in the coming days and examine architecture and practice across the southern border of the United States.
So much of what is built on the border is to contain, restrain, detain, constrain, restrict, wall off, fence up. When there is so much natural beauty there—the river, the desert, the mountains to enjoy and celebrate. So many families who want to be together, so many people who just want to be. I wish that we were building more bridges (flat, easier to cross and connect), tearing down the walls that we have; wish that we had immigration and asylum laws that matched our values and our interests so that we weren’t locking so many people up. Wish that there were no more private prison companies so that there wasn’t a profit motive to do that. —Beto O’Rourke, El Paso native, U.S. Representative for Texas's 16th congressional district, and the 2018 Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate in Texas
Texas, the state with the longest continuous land border with Mexico, has been uniquely formative in the construction of spaces and narratives that define national dialogue in the borderland. The state is home to more ports of entry than any other state. These entry points are legible crucibles of bio-political power, routinely collapsing spaces of speculative commerce, incarceration, and the projection of national identity. Assessments for constructing a new border crossing, connecting Tornillo, Texas, with Guadalupe, Chihuahua, began in 2001. A new bridge, a 2,000-acre industrial park, and 300 acres of "border facilities" were initially meant to bring economic development to the remote area and improve regional health, reducing pollution from idling traffic at congested bridges in El Paso. A presidential permit was issued for the bridge in 2005, but its construction would be stalled, and its purposes changed. In 2008, the Juarez Valley, a remote collection of agricultural communities in Mexico south of Tornillo, saw one of the highest murder rates in the world, gaining it the reputation as the “Valley of Death.” Victims of the violence would increasingly flee to Tornillo to seek asylum. Some speculate that the rampant violence was a scheme sponsored by the Mexican government to evacuate residents in the area in preparation for, and to expedite construction of, the bridge. In 2010, modular detention facilities in nearby Fabens, Texas, built to accommodate the flow, were over capacity. Violence in the valley eventually stabilized and plans for the new crossing were rekindled. The Tornillo-Guadalupe International Bridge opened in 2016 and was hailed as an achievement in cross-border infrastructure. The adjoining U.S. checkpoint exemplifies an architecture designed to manage, block, and process bodies, an outpost at the edge of empire. The architects of the LEED Gold facility describe the materials and performance as specially suited to the site’s desert context, with integrated technologies promoting the efficient monitoring of populations, noting that the design “inspires the spirit of place.” The optimism for the port to rapidly realize a future characterized by collaborative binational security efforts was captured in its christening. It was named for Marcelino Serna, the most decorated U.S. soldier from Texas to serve in WWI, who happened to be an undocumented migrant. The anticipated traffic never came. Less than a year after its opening, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) had shut down the only lane dedicated for northbound commercial traffic. Without the economic engine to support the new complex, the overbuilt site quickly found new use in a growing economy of detention. Tornillo opened a temporary overflow center in 2016, typical of an increasingly common ephemeral incarceration infrastructure. These pop-up sites are rapidly installed and disassembled by specialist companies who navigate remote terrain in far-flung locales as easily as their practices navigate the constraints imposed on such facilities by case law. Tornillo continues to be an ideal site for such installations, far from the public eye yet enmeshed in the infrastructure of detention. In June 2018, Tornillo would be home to its most notorious tent city. The Tornillo checkpoint currently holds over 300 minors in tents just south of the bridge. As the Trump administration’s "zero tolerance" policy has separated families across the country, the Tornillo site grows as a center of life for the unwanted, the detained, and the displaced. For a few days, however, a contrasting occupation resisted the isolation, anonymity, and placelessness of the remote facility. On Father’s Day 2018 and the following Sunday, floods of protesters descended upon the border checkpoint, appropriating the isolated node as a center of active resistance. The site joins a growing host of detention sites in the border state, which index nationwide trends in detention. Taken collectively, the sites represent a growing impact of private speculation and profit models impacting the construction of detention facilities, all of which are adapting—and therefore helping to realize—a near future in which the remote, prolonged detention of families and children is commonplace. Since 2006, Texas has been home to the much-maligned T. Don Hutto Residential Facility, which, at the time it was built, was the only privately-run facility used to detain families. The largest detention site in the U.S., the South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley, Texas, can house up to 2,400 women and children. The site is part of a constellation of for-profit, superscaled sites on a stretch of interstate highway between Laredo and San Antonio dubbed "detention alley." A new contract seeks a 1,000-bed center nearby—similar to a 1,000-bed facility built outside of Houston last year—which will be the eighth in the South Texas area. As military advisers advocate for detention centers on military bases to create even more “austere” and “temporary” environments, Texas leads the charge here as well. Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio housed migrant children in 2014, repurposing a dormitory once used for recruits. El Paso’s Fort Bliss housed 500 unaccompanied Central American children in 2016. A June announcement revealed that two Texas military installations—Fort Bliss and Goodfellow Air Force Base—would be among the select sites to continue the trend. Other sites in the state, such as the now infamous former Walmart in Brownsville, signal a shift toward speculative investment in detention trickling down to private properties and actors. At the Paso Del Norte International Bridge, connecting downtown Ciudad Juárez with downtown El Paso, CBP is pushing the edge of U.S. jurisdiction beyond the spatial limits of the bridge. Although due process of asylum claims is guaranteed within the port of entry, agents have ventured onto—and reportedly across—the bridge to deny access to the port. Uniformed border agents ask for documents on the bridge to identify and turn away Central Americans seeking asylum, a few hundred feet from their destination. On June 27, CBP confirmed to El Paso immigration rights advocacy groups that this prescreening and advance rejection has become official policy borderwide. Without access to the legal framework enabled by the ports, many asylum seekers cross in unsanctioned locations. Those caught crossing outside the ports, some with otherwise credible asylum claims, face criminal charges and deportation. By denying a space for lawful entry, the policy artificially amplifies the numbers of illegal crossings and a myth of increased illegitimate entry. The port thus transforms from a site capable of processing identities to an instrument which actively constructs and deconstructs citizenship.
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Petal Power

Sculptural concrete canopies cool a San Antonio public park
As implied by its name, Confluence Park overlooks the meeting of San Pedro Creek and the San Antonio River in San Antonio, Texas. Located about three miles south of downtown, the park acts as a gateway for the historic Mission Reach section of the San Antonio River. The $13.7 million project includes an education center and extensive landscaping that illustrates the diverse biomes of Texas. But what most visitors will remember about the 3.5-acre park are the nearly 30-foot-tall concrete petals that emerge from the ground to form a sprawling overhead canopy. Twenty-two of these sculptural panels are clustered together to form a single, large, open-air pavilion. Another six are paired together to form three smaller gathering areas. In addition to providing relief from the South Texas sun, these panels are shaped so that when it rains, they channel water into an integrated system of rainwater collection, filtration, and dispersal. All of this reinforces the stated mission of the park, which is to act as a destination for recreation while teaching important lessons about environmental science and sustainability. To that end, the design team sought to create a composition of architectural and landscape elements that used the same kind of logic found in nature. Ball-Nogues Studio, a Los Angeles–based design practice, established the park’s conceptual master plan. From there, the design was developed in close collaboration with the landscape architect Rialto Studio, Lake|Flato Architects, and Matsys, a San Francisco–based design practice that specializes in the development of new approaches to architectural design and fabrication. That particular skill set was critical in the development of the park’s concrete. Given the structural gymnastics involved, the project’s structural engineer, Architectural Engineers Collaborative (AEC), became an integral part of the design team as well. Although petals of steel, fabric, and wood were all considered during the design process, concrete was ultimately selected for its durability and permanence. Even though the majority of funding for the project came from private donations, Confluence Park functions as a public park, and so vandalism and long-term resiliency were key considerations. Despite the apparent complexity of the assembled petals, the design only required three unique petal shapes. These three forms were refined digitally using Grasshopper and Rhino. The resulting computer files were then provided to Kreysler & Associates and fed to their large 5-axis CNC router at their factory in California. The resulting Styrofoam “positives” were then used to manufacture the fiberglass “negatives” that were shipped to San Antonio to be used as formwork for the petals. Each of the park’s 28 petals was cast on-site but not in place. Given their complex geometry, a portion of the petal had to be exposed during the pour. This resulted in two contrasting concrete textures: a smooth finish where the concrete was poured into the fiberglass form, and a broom finish where the concrete was left exposed. As with many other aspects of the project, a custom solution was required here, too. A special eight-inch broom was used to apply the finish consistently to the petal’s curved form and to emulate the flow of water down the petals. After the concrete had cured for several days, the petals were lifted into their final positions. As with any tilt-up concrete structure, this was the moment when the highest stresses would be placed upon the petals. Adding to the complexity of the erection process was the fact that the petals had to be assembled in pairs: neighboring petals were joined to one another with two steel pin connections to form a determinant structure. The result of all this effort is a unique landmark on the south side of San Antonio. Despite the weight of the concrete petals—individual petals weigh between 15 and 20 tons each—the resulting structure feels remarkably light. The space between individual petals contributes to this feeling of weightlessness, while acrylic lenses embedded in the concrete add a bit of playfulness to the overall composition. In addition to illustrating the possibilities of contemporary concrete construction, Confluence Park demonstrates what is possible when a highly collaborative interdisciplinary design team works with an educated client to create something truly unique. It is only fitting that a park built to celebrate the confluence of diverse bodies of water be created by a confluence of diverse design professionals. Pavilion Design Matsys Landscape Architect Rialto Studio Structural Engineer Architectural Eng. Collaborative MEP CNG Engineering, PLLC Lighting Designer Mazzetti Energy Consultants Positive Energy Waterproofing Consultant Acton Partners This article originally appeared in the July/August issue of Texas Architect magazine.
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Zoom Out

In Ballroom Marfa’s “Hyperobjects,” the scale of ecological crisis stretches human perception
Hyperobjects Ballroom Marfa 108 E. San Antonio St Marfa, TX Through October 14
Hyperobjects is co-organized by philosopher and Rice University professor Timothy Morton and Ballroom Marfa Director and Curator Laura Copelin. It looks at Morton’s theory in addressing the prevalent ecological crisis faced by the world today. Morton asks pressing questions of global warming, plastic in the ocean, and nuclear waste in his 2013 book, Hyperobjects: Philosophy and Ecology After the End of the World. With immersive video and sound installations, landscape interventions, and other direct sensory experiences, the artists’ pieces seek to challenge the way the audience sees and experiences the universe. The exhibition features works by Tara Donovan, Emilija Škarnulyte, Sissel Marie Tonn, and others.
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Major league

New home of the Texas Rangers has a climate-controlling, retractable roof
The Texas Rangers will move to an HKS-designed new stadium in Arlington by 2020. The new venue, Globe Life Field, will hold 41,000 seats and a 1.7 million-square-feet ballpark. It will be home to games ranging from high school and college sporting events to professional, international games. The $1.1-billion baseball park broke ground in September 2017 and is now under construction. When completed, Globe Life Field will join the Texas Live! entertainment district as a new destination for entertainment tours. Taking into consideration the hot climate of the state, HKS introduced climate-controlling infrastructure, including the massive retractable roof that would open and close depending on the weather. The design aims to improve the comfort of watching games, with wider seats and varied front-row seating design. Two concourse rings allow for easy circulation. Restrooms and concessions are receded from the seating bowl to avoid the obstruction of views. HKS designed the plaza-facing north wall with a mixture of 18 brick, Texas limestonegranite arches filled with curtain walls in between. People will be able to walk on the corridor underneath the arches, which is the main concourse, and look down onto the plaza on one side and the game on the other. The design of a large plaza and multi-level landscape outside the stadium was inspired by Texas farmhouse porches. The project also borrowed elements from other ballparks, paying tribute to the neighboring, old Globe Life Park by using arches. It also referenced other local arch-sporting landmarks, such as the historic Mission San José y San Miguel de Aguayo in San Antonio and the Kahn-designed Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth.
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Save The Bay

BIG, James Corner, SCAPE and Bionic unveil final proposals for Bay Area resiliency challenge
The year-long Resilient By Design | Bay Area Challenge ideas competition has sought to utilize community-led ecological design to “develop innovative solutions that will strengthen [the Bay Area’s] resilience to sea level rise, severe storms, flooding, and earthquakes.” Last week, the nine teams working with local communities and organizations on the competition unveiled final proposals for a collection of sites scattered around the San Francisco Bay.  The nine sites represent a collection of some of the most ecologically fragile areas in the region, places that may see dramatic change in coming decades as climate change takes hold. The initiative seeks to begin to reposition these areas—some are densely-populated while others host vital regional infrastructure—for a climate change-addled future. For the competition, design teams led by Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG), James Corner Field Operations (JCFO), Tom Leader Studio (TLS) and others pursue efforts to restore regional wetlands and riparian floodplains while reorienting infrastructural investments and development to suit these new landscapes. The proposals were developed with an eye toward being implementable strategies. Next, communities and designers will work together with regional, state, and federal agencies to fully implement their plans. All nine proposals are broken down below: The Grand Bayway The Common Ground team led by TLS Landscape Architecture proposes to extend Highway 37 across San Pablo Bay by designing an elevated scenic causeway that would allow riparian landscapes to flow beneath the new multi-modal artery. The team proposes to deploy the causeway with flair by breaking out various lanes of travel into whispy overpasses that thread through the landscape including a grand, “mobility loop” encircling rich recreational areas.  The design team is made up of Exploratorium, Guy Nordenson & Assoc., Michael Maltzan Architecture, HR&A Advisors, Sitelab Urban Studio, Lotus Water, Rana Creek, Dr. John Oliver, Richard Hindle, UC Berkeley, and Fehr & Peers Transportation Consultants. ouR-HOME The ouR-HOME project proposes to deploy a package of land-use reforms to incentivize small lot housing, community land trusts, social impact bonds, and new community infrastructure to prepare the community of North Richmond for climate change. The proposal calls for the construction of a new “horizontal levee” around the city that will protect it from potentially toxic runoff that could emanate from a nearby gasoline refinery during a flood. The vision also calls for planting 20,000 new trees to help “bring the marsh to Main Street,” an effort that aims to preserve and build upon existing community wealth in the majority African American and Latino enclave.  The team is led by San Francisco-based architecture firm Mithun and includes the Chinatown Community Development Center, ISEEED/Streetwyze, BioHabitats, Integral Group, HR&A Advisors, Moffat & Nichol, ALTA Planning, Urban Biofilter, and Resilient Design Institute. Estuary Commons The Estuary Commons plan creates a new network of ecologically-focused public spaces along areas surrounding the estuaries of San Leandro Bay in Alameda County. The proposal calls for investments in bicycle greenways, secondary housing units, and inclusionary zoning reforms in order to “build resiliency within the community.” The social and environmental justice-focused bid also calls for burying a stretch of Interstate-880 running through Downtown Oakland in order to remedy past planning errors.  The All Bay Collective—made up of AECOM, CMG Landscape Architecture, University of California, Berkeley- College of Environmental Design, Berkeley Center for New Media, The Terner Center, California College of the Arts, IDEO, Silvestrum, SKEO, modem, and David Baker Architects— is behind the scheme. Public Sediment for Alameda Creek The Public Sediment for Alameda Creek plan calls for reconnecting sediment flows between Alameda Creek and the bay’s wetlands in order to create a natural and ecologically-rich defense against floodwaters. The scheme revisions the currently-static flood control channels that criss-cross the southwestern edge of the Bay into redesigned estuaries, sediment traps, and berms that facilitate the build up of sediment while still allowing for public use and natural habitats.  The team is led by SCAPE Landscape Architecture and also includes Arcadis, Dredge Research Collaborative, TS Studio, UC Davis Department of Human Ecology and Design, UC Davis Center for Watershed Sciences, and Buoyant Ecologies Lab. South Bay Sponge The South Bay Sponge proposal aims to use a mix of cut-and-fill excavations and zoning swaps to build densely on high ground along the southern edge of the Bay in San Mateo and Santa Clara counties. The plan would create networks of “sponge” landscapes that absorb tidal flows and run off, efforts that would involve reorganizing urban fabric in these areas into dense nodes of habitation surrounded by water-friendly landscapes.  The design team behind the proposal includes JCFO, Moffatt & Nichol, Magnusson Klemencic Associates, SF BAY National Estuarine Research Reserve, Romberg-Tiburon Center, SFSF, Andrea Baker Consulting, James Lima Planning + Development, The Bay Institute, SeArc / ECOncrete, HT Harvey and Associates, Playhou.se, and Adventure Pictures. Resilient South City The Hassell+ team proposes to create additional public green space and a continuous public access route along South San Francisco’s Colma Creek that would double as storm surge-absorbing infrastructure. The plan aims to reduce the impacts of flooding by utilizing a network of greenways and municipal parks to restore native ecologies. These areas would manage runoff from existing neighborhoods, creating new public open spaces along the way. The plan would revamp the city’s urban waterfront and make restorative alterations to Orange Memorial Park.  The project team includes Lotus Water, Civic Edge, HATCH, Brown & Caldwell, Idyllist, and Page & Turnbull. Islais Hyper Creek The BIG, ONE, and Sherwood have teamed up for the Islais Hyper Creek  Vision, a plan that aims to restore native landscapes around the creek while creating new nodes of waterborne urbanism. The team envisions transforming vast swaths along the creek into natural habitats and parks, with new clustered technology and industrial hubs scattered around the city. The proposal is dubbed as “an opportunity to bring the existing industrial ecosystem into the next economy.” The design team also includes Moffat & Nichol, Nelson Nygaard, Strategic Economics, The Dutra Group, and Stanford University. Designing our Own Solutions The Permaculture and Social Equity Team is proposing to utilize social design as a way of building a vision for Marin City, a diverse working class enclave located just north of San Francisco. The team’s social design project involved extensive community engagement and is focused on equity, placemaking, and public ownership.  The team is made up of Pandora Thomas, Antonio Roman-Alcala , the Urban Permaculture Institute, Ross Martin Design, Alexander J. Felson, and Yale School of Architecture. Elevate San Rafael The Elevate San Rafael plan put forth by the Bionic team that proposes to reorganize the small city of San Rafael, pulling in its edges from flood-prone shorelines while building up higher elevations with dense housing and public infrastructure. The proposal would repurpose underutilized lots into flood planes flanked with housing, add floating recreational islands within the bay, and build up artificial reefs along the bay floor.  The plan proposes to pair “time-tested approaches to coastal adaptation with a moral, financial, and infrastructural agenda” as a way of adequately planning for the city’s future. The team is made up of landscape architects Bionic, WXY, PennDesign, Michael Yarne, Enterprise, Moffatt & Nichol, WRA, RMA, SF State, Baycat, Studio for Urban Projects, RAD Urban, and KMA. For more information on the proposals, see the Resilient By Design Bay Area Challenge website. 
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Low Line

San Antonio’s “Latino High Line” opens to the public
The first part of phase 1 of the San Pedro Creek redevelopment in San Antonio, Texas, is now open to the public, and the waterway’s rejuvenation has been touted as a celebration of Latino culture in the city. San Antonio-based Muñoz and Company was tapped in 2015 to design the 2.2-mile-long restoration of what was then a concrete drainage ditch. The completion of phase 1.1, a 2,200-foot-long stretch of riverwalk christened San Pedro Creek Culture Park, marks just one part of a four-phase plan to revitalize the 2.2-mile-long creek. “As the Trump administration boasts about building a wall between us and our Mexican roots, San Pedro Creek will be a national symbol for Latino and Anglo communities actually coming together to celebrate their shared values, history, and future,” said Henry R. Muñoz, Principal in Charge at Muñoz and project lead. “This unveiling marks the start of San Pedro Creek’s restoration, turning this neglected creek into the ‘Latino High Line,’ which exemplifies the community’s rich heritage and stands for a national dialogue playing out in nearly every city across the country.” The opening of the first phase on May 5 coincided with the 300th anniversary of San Antonio and was commemorated by the unveiling of Rain from the Heavens, a public art installation cut on stainless steel panels depicting what the stars looked like that night in 1718. Also on display in the Cultural Park are murals that honor the local culture of San Antonio and surrounding Bexar County, by artists Adriana Garcia, Katie Pell, Alex Rubio, and Joe Lopez. San Pedro Creek once flowed freely through the city but has been deepened, rerouted, and sometimes covered entirely since the 1700s. Each area of the river will eventually have its own design and accompanying visual identity, but retain a focus on the local ecology, history of San Antonio, and the water itself. The San Pedro Creek Culture Park section is hemmed in by historic limestone walls, and features widened walkways, a new boardwalk overlook, benches, and new landscaping that uses indigenous aquatic plants and trees. The widening and deepening of the creek also boosted the waterway’s ability to sequester stormwater, in addition to the five new bioswales that were installed. Phase 1.2 of the project is under construction and set to finish in 2020.
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Born to be Mercantile

A retail district in Houston reimagines the strip mall, one building at a time
Caution and timidity have been the ruling traits of Houston’s commercial real estate market for the past three decades. But, in the last few years, local developer Steve Radom and his team at Radom Capital have been working almost single-handedly to bring architectural sophistication back with their recent series of commercial developments. From the 1970s through the mid-1980s, Houston was an international architectural mecca. During these years, developers famously competed with one another to commission the best architects to design ever more sensational projects in a crowded real estate market. Then, a collapse in oil prices wrecked the city’s economy. In the decades since, with its high-flying developers grounded, Houston’s architectural scene has stubbornly trailed that of its nearby neighbors, Austin, San Antonio, and Dallas. The recent fracking oil crash has only exacerbated the situation. Even Gerald Hines, Houston’s greatest modern developer, has turned away from the outstanding architecture that brought him fame and success. Today, his buildings are tasteful, yet completely unremarkable. In this milieu, Radom’s commercial retail projects are noteworthy. Radom and his team commission talented architects on the basis of their design excellence. They insist on rigor and quality in concept and execution. Rather than follow an established set of safe but boring development rules, their projects cleverly reimagine the most banal of building types: the strip mall. The results are exciting. The fact that they have leased immediately in Houston’s unsteady economic climate demonstrates again that good design is a good business practice. Radom’s largest project to date is Heights Mercantile, a low-rise retail center partially located inside the Houston Heights Historic District a couple of miles northwest of downtown. Austin-based Michael Hsu Office of Architecture designed the shell-and-core build-out and some of the interiors. Up-and-coming Houston architects Schaum/Shieh and Content Architecture designed additional interiors. The Houston branch of the international SWA Group was the landscape architect, while Houston-based graphic design firm Spindletop devised the graphic identity. Heights Mercantile includes a mixture of six new and remodeled buildings—two of which are protected historic landmarks— spread across eight properties that were acquired in four separate transactions over a 14-month period. From 1967 to 2007, Pappas Restaurants, a local restaurant group, used three of the existing buildings as their headquarters. Two of the former Pappas buildings were remodeled to include a suite of shops and a wine bar. The third Pappas building, a one-story prefabricated metal warehouse used for cold storage, was demolished and replaced by a two-story building containing retail and restaurant space on the ground floor and a fitness club and offices on the second floor. The two protected historic buildings are one-story wood frame bungalows. They were converted into a clothing boutique and an ice cream shop. A small one-story wood frame building was built behind one of the bungalows and houses a cafe. Although Houston lacks zoning, it has other methods of land-planning. Among the most onerous are its excessive off-street parking requirements, which forced the design team to be creative in organizing the site. By reusing instead of replacing the Pappas buildings, the developers were able to maintain the existing, but now illegal, head-in parking. The bulk of the additional required parking was fitted between the bungalows and the new two-story building. According to the developer, the city requested that the final property Radon bought directly north of the bungalows facing Heights Boulevard be devoted completely to parking. Fortunately, the 140 parking spaces do not overwhelm the development, thanks to creative landscape and siting decisions. Houston Heights, like the city of Houston, is a tattered collection of heterogeneous residential and commercial buildings. Platted in 1891 as a streetcar suburb, it actually contains very few pre-1900 Victorian houses. What remains of its historic architecture is mostly Queen Anne worker cottages from the 1910s and bungalows from the 1920s and ’30s. These are interspersed with garden apartments from the 1960s and ’70s and the occasional one or two-story postwar commercial building. Up until 2010, when the city’s preservation ordinance was changed to prohibit demolition in designated historic districts, the last Queen Anne cottages and bungalows were quickly being replaced by townhouse developments and lot-filling faux-Victorian houses. Heights Mercantile wittily addresses its motley neighborhood by providing its own assorted mix of buildings. Rather than replicating the same building across the site, as most recent strip developments in and around Houston Heights have done, the architects consciously worked to make each building look and feel different. Furthermore, they casually spread them across the site, which is split up in a very ad hoc Houston manner by an active street, a popular hike and bike trail, a drainage easement, and an abandoned alley. The results celebrate the mess that is Houston. And, along with some clever landscaping interventions, they feel inviting and fresh rather than chaotic and dreary. If this is the vision Radom and his team want to promote for Houston, then I’m all for it. And judging from its completely filled lease spaces, so is the real estate market.
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Birdhouse Ranches

The “birdhouse ranch” legacy of L.A. suburb builder William Mellenthin
The work of prolific mid-20th century developer and architect William Mellenthin is largely unknown outside of the greater Los Angeles area, where the builder erected more than 3,000 homes over an illustrious career spanning between three decades. Mellenthin, the subject of an informative new book by historian Chris Lukather titled A Birdhouse in Paradise: William Mellenthin and the San Fernando Valley Ranch Homes, pioneered the distinctive “birdhouse ranch” style of the single-family home, a housing variant marked by the decorate application of pitched-roofed dovecote components, back-to-back fireplaces, board-and-batten siding, and other traditional stylings. With his development company—Wm. M.Mellenthin Builder—Mellenthin revolutionized single-family housing design in the city’s San Fernando Valley by delivering affordable new semi-custom homes in eye-catching styles. By combining the indoor-outdoor domestic spaces, rambling floor plans, and sturdy construction methods, the Midwesterner became a force to be reckoned with during the nascent real estate bonanza that engulfed the region in the immediate postwar era. Until recently, however, Mellenthin’s work had been largely forgotten due to its humble qualities and the ubiquity of the dovecote style in the San Fernando Valley, following the wholesale adoption of his “birdhouse” treatments by other contemporaneous builders. Nonetheless, interest in Mellenthin’s work is increasing, especially as real estate prices continue to climb around the region. West editor Antonio Pacheco connected with Lukather to talk about Mellenthins’s distinctive stylings, his most notable works, and the somewhat malleable nature of the homes he built.   The Architect’s Newspaper: Who was William Mellenthin and why should architects care about his work? Chris Lukather: William Mellenthin was a prolific builder. He began building homes in Los Angeles in 1923, and built over 3,000 homes in Los Angeles and the San Fernando Valley. [He also] created designs for “Birdhouse” ranch homes that featured a cupola or dovecote built prominently into the roofs of the homes. The undeniable charm and curb appeal of these homes was very popular with home buyers, and, as a result, he created something of a trend. With returning World War II veterans, families wanted a home and lifestyle that epitomized leisure and fun. Mellenthin’s success brought many imitators. Today there are hundreds of “Birdhouse” homes throughout the Valley—many by builders who borrowed the cupola style. But there is only one original, and that is William Mellenthin. Mellenthin was one of several prominent architect-developers of the postwar era—Cliff May and Joseph Eichler are others—How does a Mellenthin home differ from other ranch houses of this period? Mellenthin homes were more “midcentury traditional” than midcentury modern. They featured diamond-paned windows, dual fireplaces, high beamed ceilings, hardwood floors, and wood paneling throughout the house. He usually built floor-to-ceiling windows in the rear of the house to allow more natural light into the home. One trademark of a Mellenthin home was how low it looked from the street. “The lower, the better,” was their motto. Most homeowners I meet today talk about the quality build of his homes. These homes were built to last. Most Mellenthin homes have withstood the major earthquakes, and fared better than other homes built during the same time. What are a few of his more notable works? His most notable work is in the Sherman Oaks area, [where he also designed] the layout of the streets. He created one development in the early 1950s, with only two entrances and nine cul-de-sacs, creating a private, exclusive area of beautiful tree-lined streets and homes. It’s like an oasis in the Valley. These homes, in a variety of styles and sizes, make up the prime Mellenthin development of the era. He [also] built many custom homes in the hills above Studio City, south of Ventura Boulevard. These homes had unique features, and custom-designed cupolas that his homes on the Valley floor usually did not have. You mention in your book that Mellenthin’s son Michael continued the family business and even worked on projects with the architect Cliff May after the elder Mellenthin’s death. What direction did Michael take Wm. Mellenthin Builder when he was in charge? Michael went to the University of Southern California and received a degree in Engineering. He began building homes in the mid-1950s, joining his father’s company and continued working through the 1970s. The family business officially closed in 1978. Although William is known for the quality build of his homes, Michael is known to have built homes better than his father. In the early 1960s, Michael built homes with a more midcentury modern style, and eventually phased out the “Birdhouse” design. Michael also built some commercial buildings in the Valley. Mellenthin worked to provide his clients semi-custom homes—Did he himself envision the buildings as remaining static over time or did he consider them malleable? Mellenthin’s homes were built to suit, so I don’t think he envisioned a lot of remodeling or updates to the homes later on. What would Mellenthin make of some of the changes that some owners have made to his structures? I’m sure he would not be happy with some of the second stories that have been added to his homes today. [However,] a lot of homeowners have knocked out the walls that separate the kitchen from the den or living room. I’m sure he would have welcomed these changes that help create a more open floor plan. This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.  A Birdhouse in Paradise: William Mellenthin and the San Fernando Valley Ranch Homes Chris Lukather Writing Disorder $35.00
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Spicy!!

These are AN’s best hot takes of 2017
2017 was a tumultuous year for the news, but it was also a controversial one for architecture. We saw many of the same weird 2017 phenomena (social media, privatization, the post-truth) affecting AN and the subjects we cover. Here are some of our most controversial and critical opinion pieces, from the lackluster Chicago Architecture Biennial to the way that media is changing how we see and make architecture. (See the rest of our Year in Review 2017 posts here). Why are we wrecking our best modernist landscapes? by Audrey Wachs "Just as chokers and platform sandals are cool again, designers are expressing renewed interest in successful 1990s postmodern landscapes, like Wagner Park or Pershing Square. Despite their significance, these parks are now threatened by thoughtless development."

Architects must redesign their profession before technology does

by Phil Bernstein "Since society created the professional class to codify and distribute professional expertise, shouldn’t this trend to democratization be embraced? And since architects design a small percentage of the built environment, isn’t this trend, in theory, all for the good? Should architects cede our authority to algorithms, it’s likely we’ll lose all control and influence over the forces that often reduce great design aspirations to mediocre results."   Five fundamental problems with the 2017 Chicago Architecture Biennial by Matt Shaw "Some projects were about 'signs' or about 'steel construction,' but that label was more or less the extent of it. There was not much criticality in each individual project, and the overall idea of history seemed to simply be about picking a precedent. Precedent and history are two different things: the former is about legal or argumentative justification, while the second is about all the interesting social, political, and formal ideas. Perhaps the exhibition should have simply been 'Use Precedent (101).'" Splashy renderings hide the flaws of this shipping container house by Mark Hogan "While it would be easy to criticize yet another shipping container project on the basis of it being made out of shipping containers, what is more remarkable is the publicity one can get for renderings of a structure that has no connection to its site or program."   Does architecture have a crisis of ideas? by Matt Shaw "Where are the relevant ideas in architecture? While taking the latest philosophy or digital technology and applying it to architecture is at least a stab in the right direction, what happened to innovative formal ideas, or cultural innovations in architectural form? Where are the radical ideas that might spark our imagination and make us think differently about the discipline and the world in which it exists?"   The town hall as democratic monument: a manifesto by Adam Nathaniel Furman "We are living through what is perceived to be one of our democracy’s most intense crises in generations, which means it is in fact the perfect moment to build monuments to its rebirth. In crisis lies the greatest opportunity for reinvention... It is time for the town hall as a democratic monument: architectural plurality in compositional unity."       What happened to speculation in architecture? by Matt Shaw "While the discipline might be struggling to imagine new ways of living, it is not a boring time for architecture. The world around us is changing quickly, and we can see several new futures simultaneously developing before our eyes. It may not be about predicting or producing new futures, but about reflecting on the present and what plausible near futures could be on the horizon and how they will affect our cities." As the American Dream dies, we must rethink our communities  by Keith Krumwiede "Any new ideas about the way we live, if they are to dislodge us from our long-habituated connection to the single-family detached house, must be accompanied by new architectural models and delivered through compelling new narratives that situate the needs and desires currently manifest in the house within new patterns that make collective life more desirable."   Architects must do more to protect our threatened public lands by Antonio Pacheco "In the same way that architects have led the way in saving architectural relics via support for historic preservation and the National Register of Historic Places—also administered by the Department of the Interior—we must become more vocal in our support for retaining and, in fact, expanding public access to public lands."