Posts tagged with "Austin":

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Miró Rivera Architects’ Formula (Number) One

Austin’s Circuit of the Americas gets an iconic observation tower using 350 tons of steel.

The Circuit of the Americas (COTA) in Austin, Texas, will host the United States Grand Prix from 2012 to 2021. While German Formula 1 specialist Hermann Tilke designed the racecourse and technical facilities, COTA’s owners hired local firm Miró Rivera Architects to turn out a main grandstand and amenities for the 9,000 fans expected to attend the races. In addition to imbuing the project with a variety of programmatic functions that go beyond racing, Miró Rivera created a sleek observation tower that gives spectators unrestricted views across the racetrack’s twisting expanse. “Our idea for the tower was to be able to go way up and see the track from one focal point in a structure that was an iconographic symbol for the track,” said Miguel Rivera, founder and principal of the architecture firm. “Our inspiration came from Formula 1 cars, where speed and efficiency are so important.” Just like the track’s feature attractions, the tower’s design didn’t feature any excesses. Structural engineers at Walter P Moore helped ensure every piece of steel did some kind of work so the tower was as efficient as possible.
  • Fabricator Patriot Erectors
  • Architect Miró Rivera Architects
  • Location Austin, Texas
  • Date of Completion November 2012
  • Material 8-inch steel pipes, 4-inch steel pipes, structural stainless steel, concrete, bolts
  • Process Tekla Structures, CNC milling, hand sawing, welding, bolting, craning
Working with the architects’ 2D drawings, the structural engineering team developed a three dimensional tower with all the requisite details for construction—right down to bolts and welding points—in Tekla Structures. “Everything that goes into fabrication is digitally defined in this program,” said Mark Waggoner, principal with Walter P Moore. “Generally, in our business, we deliver paper drawings for the steel fabricator to interpret and build, but we were able to bypass this step and print shop drawings directly from our model.” To increase efficacy, the engineers wrote some of their own connections for programming interfaces with steel fabricator Patriot Erectors. Waggoner also located the joints, especially for the veil, (the tubular red feature, inspired by the tracers of a car’s tail lights in the dark) in Tekla. To reduce the cost of bending each 8-inch steel tube to the architect’s initial drawings, the program helped break large radii into segmented, straight lines to achieve time and cost savings. To facilitate shipment to the COTA track, the 20- by 20- by 250-foot structure was broken into four pieces that could be stitched back together on site. Patriot Erectors welded 10- by 10- by 30-foot sections in their Dripping Springs, Texas-facility that were assembled on three different casting beds and craned into position. Reflecting on the 11-month digital design/build schedule, Waggoner said the process for the COTA Observation Tower was somewhat unconventional. “People generally like to have paper drawings for these types of projects,” he explained. “But at the end of the day, the general contractor felt this process saved us about three months of time.”
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Tunnel Rats: Does Texas Favor Building Highways Over Subways?

According to a very confidential source, engineers currently working on the Waller Creek tunnel believe that Austin sits on top of some of the most optimal conditions for tunneling in the entire U.S. These number-crunching problem solvers claimed that a subway tunnel beneath the Texas State Capital’s downtown would cost 1/10th of the amount it would in most places in the country. However, the brainiacs also said that there are those in high places who do not want that knowledge spread around (read TxDOT) because the construction of more freeways is making certain people a great deal of money.
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New Public Space Initiative Aims to Revive Austin’s Forgotten Alleyways

Austin, Texas–based architects Dan Cheetham and Michelle Tarsney have given a new face to some of the city's underutilized spaces: alleyways. Their one-of-a-kind community art installation, 20ft WIDE, seeks to resolve conflict between architecture, art, and humanism in order to create places of lasting value. The once forgotten alley between Ninth and Tenth streets, which connects Congress Avenue and Brazos Street in Downtown Austin, has been transformed into a collaborative space to bring attention to public urban places and foster discussion about the new possibilities for their uses The name 20ft WIDE stems from Austin’s original 1839 master plan, which called for each of the city’s alley to measure, well, 20 feet wide. Austin’s structure consists of many open spaces and side streets that are not being used solely because they go unnoticed by nearby wanderers. Cheetham and his associates argue that these alleys are, in fact, vital components of the city that are being menaced by super-block development that will ultimately alter the grain and scale of the urban fabric. The initial stimulus of the installation was to bring awareness about the role of these spaces and to generate communal discussions about possibilities for their use. Cheetham explained that "most alleys are overlooked as something that is just a necessity—they serve a utilitarian function, such as trash collection for instance." For him, alleys are a valuable urban asset. They create a gap in mid-blocks, meaning that buildings do not go over them: "they break up the grain which allows for more sunlight and air to penetrate the city street. This is a reason why they feel so nice." In an interview, Cheetham told AN that 20ft WIDE was part of a larger collaborative project. When asked why the installation had been set up in that specific alley, he explained that the group had initially identified six or seven different urban alleys, and that in order to settle for just one "the trick was to find an alley that had an intersection of several things. It should be located in an area that is not in conflict with people or security measures. Moreover, we were looking for an alley that had some kind of historical significance or interest." He noted, "we were on a very limited budget and were given a quick time frame. Therefore, we needed an alley that had enough quality esthetic to stand on its own with minimal interruptions." The project was initiated last April, when the team began installing twines of bright colors and different shades all across the alley. They also worked with an Austin-based art education organization, Creative Action. The group created “Peace Cranes”, a project which involved young individuals who folded over 1,000 pieces of origami a week prior at the city’s arts festival. The cranes were integrated in the 20ft WIDE installation as a symbol of peaceful community building. The alley is also filled with stacked pallets, burlap sacks in which people have generously given away clothing, polystyrene shipping foam as well as donated plant materials. The jovial and creative nature of the installation is meant to give rise to thought provoking conversations about the role that unused spaces and tucked-back streets play within the city center. Dan Cheetham attended The University of Texas, and later founded Fyoog, a firm inspired by his passion and love for music, the arts, and all things pertaining to architecture, urbanism, and their sub-disciplines. Fyoog’s underlying principles are to combine architectural design and functionality into abandoned or under-utilized urban space, in order to give them a new purpose. Cheetham is deeply concerned with the public realm, and seeks to engage individuals within their city’s creative process. The group hopes the project can be made permanent in the future.
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Austin’s ‘Ghost Tree’ is a Symbol of Drought in the Lone Star State

Austin’s new temporary art installation, THIRST, is inspired by Texas’ ongoing periods of severe drought since 2011. According to studies conducted by Texas A&M Forest Services, over 300 million trees have succumbed to the state’s extremely dry conditions over the past three years. Located between the Pfluger Pedestrian Crossway and the Lamar Boulevard Bridge, a white-ghostly tree now hovers over Lady Bird Lake and is surrounded by a floating barrier. The public art installation symbolizes the lack of water that plagues Austin and other Texas territories. Its purpose is to trigger emotion and dialogue about the tragic number of trees that have died due to a serious lack of rainfall and increased human water usage in the region. The tree was staged by Women & Their Work, a visual and performing art organization founded in 1978 and best known for their pioneering artistic spirit and commitment to the enrichment of the Texan cultural experience. Through their work, they seek to engage the community at large in issues that pertain exclusively to the local culture and the built-environment. The tree is a 35-foot cedar elm which has been painted white and stands atop a pedestal over the water. Another major component of this art piece is the installation of 14,000 prayer flags on which black trees have been imprinted. THIRST on Lady Lake seeks to acknowledge the devastating impacts of drought in Austin and to address water conservation issues in Texas. Its striking appearance and levitating stance aims to trigger a discussion about the impacts of climate change and seeks to promote action for conservation, sustainability, and the general well-being of the eco-system. This project is also unique in the sense that it did not receive any city funding. Contributing artists include Beili Liu, Emily Little, Norma Yancey, and Cassie Bergstrom. THIRST will on view publicly until December 26, 2013.  
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Austin Unveils Top 10 Competition Entries for Seaholm Intake

The City of Austin Parks and Recreation Department recently hosted a competition (ended July 12) to attract concepts for the adaptive reuse of the Seaholm Intake Facility, the pump house of the decommissioned Seaholm Power Plant (the turbine hall of which is undergoing another adaptive reuse project). The Seaholm complex is located prominently on Lady Bird Lake in downtown, not far from Waller Creek, whose landscape is being redesigned by Michael Van Valkenburgh, and adjacent to the Ann and Roy Butler Hike and Bike Trail. Some of its buildings, including the intake, are solid examples of the heroic period of American cast-in-place concrete Art-Deco municipal architecture and stand as civic icons in Austin. Competition entrants were asked to envision a new use for the structure and the surrounding land that would engage park users, the trail, and the water. Austin Parks received 76 proposals and is displaying its favorite 10 entries at Austin City Hall from now until August 2. The top three will be announced on August 9. The ideas from the top three proposals will "help inspire subsequent design phases of the project," according to Austin Parks' website. Following this competition, Austin Parks will release a request for proposals for public-private partnerships with ideas of how to reuse the facility.








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Preservationists Mob Austin for Density, Community, and Tacos

The National Preservation Conference landed in Austin, Texas, last week under the banner "Next American City, Next American Landscape." Exploring preservation's role in the future of the country's urban, suburban, and rural landscapes, the 2010 conference showed that preservationists aren't all stuck in the past. (In fact, they're pretty savvy when it comes to new media. Check out the NTHP's Austin Unscripted on their website, Twitter, and YouTube to see how preservation can appeal to a new generation.) The opening plenary was held at the Long Center for the Performing Arts, which is sited to take advantage of the unobstructed views of downtown Austin. After a warm welcome from Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell and a performance by local musicians Phoebe Hunt, Seth Walker, Susan Torres, and Ryan Harkrider (check out the rehearsal video here - skip to 7:25 for a sample of some of Austin's famous live music), the packed house of preservationists heard remarks from the new NTHP President Stephanie Meeks, former First Lady Laura Bush, and New Yorker architecture critic Paul Goldberger. Some attendees seemed surprised by the choice of Mrs. Bush, but she's been involved in preservation for some time. On Tuesday evening, she spoke about her passion for the preservation of the historic courthouses of Texas, including the one where she and former President Bush got their marriage license many years ago in Midland.

In her speech, Meeks mentioned that since taking over leadership of the NTHP and meeting with preservationists and architects all over the country, three themes kept coming up: 1) The need to make preservation more accessible, 2) The need to make preservation more visible, and 3) The need to ensure that preservation is fully funded. By addressing those three things, she said, historic preservation can be a "visible, dynamic, broadly inclusive movement." However, I thought the most salient point she made was that places are powerful: Whether a landscape like the Hudson Valley or a historic site like the Alamo, every place has a story to tell and, as Meeks said, "they help us tell our stories, as individuals and as Americans."

For his part, the New Yorker's Goldberger spoke about how Austin embodied the Next American City, making it a fitting location for the conference. Unlike Detroit and St. Louis, which represent the Old American City, Austin is both connected to history and “energetically forward-thinking” thanks to the presence of the University of Texas as well as the corporate headquarters of Dell and Whole Foods. He pointed out that it’s not a city dependent on the so-called "meds and eds" solutions -- healthcare and education -- that many cities rely on in postindustrial America, and that Austin does not have the “new pseudo-urban landscape" of Tyson’s Corner or the Buckhead section of Atlanta, or the Galleria area of Houston, which he cited as "new places that aspire to urbanity but don’t really possess much of it and which show us that a certain amount of density and tall buildings alone do not a city make.” Goldberger also pointed out that “poverty is a great friend” of historic preservation, simply because there’s less money and therefore less of an impetus for building big and tossing aside historic buildings because they aren’t shiny and new. In light of that, he felt that Austin was yet again a good role model for the Next American City, since it has prosperity but also pays heed to its architectural past: Its “solid economy has not led to a complete indifference to preservation.” Hopefully, as the city goes forward with developing a denser downtown, especially in the residential sector, the powers that be will remember that historic buildings or streetscapes are of significant value to the community.