Posts tagged with "Dallas":

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Thoughtbarn decorates an ethically sourced e-retailer’s headquarters like its customers’ homes

Located in the heart of downtown Dallas, 400 Record was recently given a face-lift and an entirely new look—that is, on the inside. In 2015, Gensler gutted the 17-story tower after its tenant, the media company A. H. Belo Corporation, split into two entities and left the structure downright empty. The 11th floor is now home to the first headquarters of online retailer The Citizenry, with a story-driven design by Austin-based firm Thoughtbarn. Thoughtbarn codirector Lucy Begg emphasized that the handcrafted nature of the company’s ethically sourced products was crucial to the company’s identity. “[Their story] translated into how we made these project elements, which are handcrafted by local contractors,” she explained. The maple-infused furniture and finishing elements throughout the space—including dividing-wall screening, lighting coves, recessed acoustic lighting, desk stations, conference tables, and 9-foot doors—were all custom-made by local workshops. For Thoughtbarn, the office’s organization was straightforward: Desks occupy an open area by the window, while a walled core holds meeting rooms and private offices. A hybrid break room/cafe gathering area with movable furniture can also be used as an informal breakout space or for events or product showcasing. Read the full walkthrough on our interiors and design website, aninteriormag.com.
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Diller Scofidio + Renfro tapped to restore Frank Lloyd Wright-designed theater in Dallas

Dallas’s iconic but ailing Kalita Humphreys Theater, the only completed freestanding theater designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and the only public Wright building in Texas, will be restored based on a master plan devised by New York City-based Diller Scofidio + Renfro (DS+R). Mark Lamster, architecture critic at the Dallas Morning News, writes that the announcement, which was made by the city-owned building’s longtime tenant (and original owner) the Dallas Theater Center (DTC), comes with a “combination of optimism, trepidation, and vigilance.” Reads a statement released by DTC:
“The building has been home to DTC since its opening in 1959, and the renovation efforts aim to preserve the theater’s distinct architecture while equipping it to inspire a new generation. A steering committee made up of diverse community stakeholders selected Diller Scofidio + Renfro after a thorough selection process, and the firm —with DTC—also will create a master plan for the nine-acre Kalita Humphreys site, which will include new theater spaces and a connection to the Katy Trail.
Completed several months after Wright’s death, the Kalita Humphreys Theater is one of the final projects designed by the influential American architect. The design was technically conceived, however, decades earlier for another theater company in a project that was ultimately never realized. The theater was subsequently adapted for its current Dallas site, perched on a heavily wooded bluff above Turtle Creek, when then-fledgling regional theater company DTC approached Wright to design a venue. At the time he claimed he was too busy to design something new, and suggested that DTC use the never-completed design. The theater is named after a local actress who perished in a plane crash in 1954—a year before construction kicked off—and whose parents made a significant donation to DTC to ensure the building would be named in her memory. The building famously features a revolving stage that, in the words of DTC, “exemplifies Wright’s Organic Theory of architecture,” which stressed the unification of the building’s form and function.” The theater, which has suffered through shoddy previous renovations and years of general negligence, was declared a City of Dallas Historic Landmark Structure in 2007. In 2009, DTC relocated its administrative offices from the languishing Wright-designed building along Turtle Creek to the newly-built Dee and Charles Wyly Theatre, designed by REX | OMA, at the AT&T Performing Arts Center in downtown Dallas. The Tony Award-winning organization currently stages performances at both venues. As detailed by DTC, the master plan will entail general restoration work of Wright’s deteriorating main building as well as the creation of two new, smaller performance venues to be used by other regional theater companies. The theater will also be further incorporated into the surrounding natural landscape. “By creating new spaces and opening up the site, the new master plan will boost the natural beauty of the theater’s surroundings and improve its ability to serve as a welcoming, accessible space for all,” said DTC Artistic Director Kevin Moriarty. Texas-born Charles Renfro, working in collaboration with his partners at DS+R, will lead the project. He remarked in DTC’s announcement that:
“As a native Texan, I am particularly excited to contribute to our state’s architectural heritage and partner with Dallas Theater Center, whose bold productions are equally matched by their bold commitment to architectural innovation. This project is an opportunity to restore the Kalita Humphreys—one of Dallas’s most overlooked pieces of architecture—to its rightful place in the pantheon of design masterpieces in the city. Not only is it Frank Lloyd Wright’s only built theater, but it has also made significant contributions to the way theater has been presented and seen. “Since it was built, the theater’s bucolic setting between Turtle Creek and the Katy Trail has been overwhelmed by parking lots and roadways. Our approach will seek to slow the site down and add new architecturally significant programs grown out of the surrounding urban green. The Kalita Humphreys complex will be an idyllic and iconic refuge surrounded by nature, merely footsteps away from the bustling city.”
DTC is slated to present a master plan developed by Renfro and his colleagues to the Dallas Office of Arts and Culture by the end of this year. The Dallas City Council will then vote to give the plan final approval. The public and various local stakeholders have been invited to attend an information session to be held on March 4 at the theater, and are encouraged to provide feedback. In sharing the news, Lamster pointed out that the involvement of a firm with such a high level of prestige as DS+R is agreeable, but they have a mixed track record when it comes to preservation-based projects. He mentioned the expansion of the Museum of Modern Art and the renovation of Lincoln Center, both in New York City, involved demolishing beloved nearby spaces—a neighboring museum and public plaza, respectively. In 2018, Lamster referred to the Kalita Humphreys theater as “the most neglected, misunderstood, and mismanaged building in Dallas.” Preservation architect Ann Abernathy of advocacy group Kalita Humphreys Theater at Turtle Creek Conservancy also expressed reservations, particularly with regard to the potential for overbuilding at such a bucolic site. She told the Dallas Morning News that: “The way they’re looking to sustain this property is to build more venues, and to build an income-producing garage, and an income-producing restaurant, and by the time they do that, they lose the economic value of a property of immense cultural importance.” The renovation's estimated budget has yet to be disclosed, but as Moriarty told the Dallas Morning News, he expects “it’s gonna be a lot.” “The final figure will be contingent on the master plan, which would then require the approval of the City Council. Once that happens we will move earnestly and aggressively into fundraising,” he said. While the Kalita Humphreys Theater is the only Wright-designed public building in Texas, he did design three private homes in the Lone Star State during the last decade of his career, including a Usonian house in Dallas that was featured in the 1996 Wes Anderson film Bottle Rocket. Another, located in Houston, hit the market in June 2019 with a price tag just shy of $3 million.
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Change.org petition seeks to save half-imploded Dallas office tower

Forget football, frozen margaritas, and the Texas State Fair. It would appear that the one thing capable of truly bringing the entire city of Dallas together is a failed mid-rise demolition. In the seconds following a much-anticipated planned implosion of the former Affiliated Computer Services tower on February 16, it became abundantly clear that 300 pounds of dynamite wouldn’t be enough to bring the dogged 11-story building completely down. Located north of downtown Dallas off of the Central Expressway, the otherwise forgettable 1970s-era office tower in question is being razed to make way for a $2.5 billion mixed-use development dubbed The Central. But the demolition went awry, leaving the building’s concrete-and-steel core standing a distinctive tilt that's not too dissimilar from a certain Tuscan bell tower. Just like that, Dallas gained itself an instant, internet-famous photo backdrop. Now Dallasonians—tongues firmly planted in cheeks—are rallying to save the half-demolished building now known as the “Leaning Tower of Dallas.” A “dank meme"-seeking Dallas resident has even launched a Change.org petition calling for the inclined tower to be bestowed with Texas Historic Landmark status as well as UNESCO World Heritage Site designation. Reads the petition:
Over the past few days, The Leaning Tower of Dallas has become the city's largest cultural icon. After making national headlines, we are finally famous for something other than the JFK Assassination. Unfortunately, the demolition will be completed soon to make way for even more hideous shops and condos for the bourgeois residents of Uptown Dallas.
As of this writing, over 900 people have signed the petition, which is directed toward Texas Governor Greg Abbott, Texas Historical Commission executive director Mark Wolfe, and noted reprieve-giver President Donald Trump, among others. In all fairness, there is some cultural significance to the Affiliated Computer Services tower. Although owned by Xerox in its final years, the building was once home to the Southland Corporation, the parent company behind one of Dallas’s greatest contributions to modern society: 7-Eleven. While obviously unserious in its intent, the petition does serve as a sort of battle cry against The Central, a dense and upscale project that will ultimately span 30 acres. As reported by The Dallas Morning News, the first phase of development will include a 17-story office tower, two hotels, two large apartment complexes, a 3.5-acre park, and 110,000 square feet of retail, entertainment, and restaurant space. Dallas architecture firms GFF and BOKA Powell are both involved in the project, as is New York-based Perkins Eastman.

Project developer De La Vega Development plans to break ground during the third quarter of this year—that is, provided that the remaining portion of the tower fully comes down when a crane and wrecking ball finish the job at some point this week.

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LandDesign will bring a park to the site of a former Dallas mall

The nationally-based LandDesign has been named the landscape architect for the Park Heritage portion of the Dallas Midtown development, which will turn a former mall in the city into a new, centrally-located mixed-use community. Park Heritage, designed in conjunction with architecture firms 505 Design and OMNIPLAN, will include 1.8 million square feet of office space, 600 multi-family residential units, a boutique hotel, 350,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space, and a 3-acre park. Dallas Midtown is a 430-acre redevelopment of the former Valley View Mall site. Park Heritage will take the place of the former Sears store and is the first phase of the $3 billion project. Owned by Seritage Growth Properties and developer KDC, the first phase will convert 25 of the 430 acres into a residential mixed-use community. The development off Preston Road and the Lyndon B. Johnson Freeway will be the first new office space on the major commuter artery in the last 30 years. LandDesign, a firm currently working on over a dozen mall redesigns across the country, aims to transform the site into a vibrant community with a balance of open green space and pedestrian walkways that connect green roof shade structure, seating, and garden spaces. Brent Martin, partner and landscape architect at LandDesign, said the design reduces the footprint of the existing vehicle corridor to create a new urban setting. “The site is located just off the LBJ Freeway, a major commuter artery,” said Martin in a press release, “so we had to be sensitive to Dallas-area transportation needs even as we maximize the green space and devote more room to parks and pathways activating the site and carrying foot traffic toward retailers.” The master plan of Park Heritage was completed by the Dallas-based OMNIPLAN and is designed to both integrate the miniature “neighborhood” into Midtown and to function on its own. “Pedestrian design is key to making the mix of office, residential, hotel, retail and entertainment uses complement one another, instead of compete,” OMNIPLAN told AN over email. “The pedestrian aspect permeates throughout the project so each building—no matter the use—flows down into a central park, which is the heart of the development.” Heth Kendrick, principal at LandDesign, credits the park as the transformative concept that turns the development into a community. “Our mission is creating places that matter, where people come together for work, play, and celebration,” Kendrick said in a press release. “Helping to realize this vision for Park Heritage is very rewarding for us as designers and as members of the Dallas metro community.”
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5G Studio Collaborative brings trapezoidal sintered stone to Dallas

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Downtown Dallas is undergoing a remarkable process of development, ranging from new office towers to prestigious cultural facilities. 5G Studio Collaborative, an architecture and design firm founded in 2005, has consistently expanded its body of work within its home city over the last decade-and-a-half. Completed in 2018, the AC Marriott Hotel Dallas is another addition to that ensemble, bringing a Catalan Modernisme-inspired sintered stone facade to the city center. The massing of the nearly 170,000-square-foot project is defined primarily by the northern elevation's slightly curved rectangular volume. Sintered stone and glass are the main facade elements for the elevation, and approximately 400 custom panels were used in total. The panels themselves are angular and protrude outward from the primary structure, giving the facade further depth while passively shading the window modules.
  • Facade Manufacturer Neolith Alucobond Trulite Vitro Cardinal Glass
  • Architect 5G Studio Collaborative
  • Facade Installer Holland Marble NOW Specialties
  • Structural Engineer DCI Engineers
  • Location Dallas, Texas
  • Date of Completion 2018
  • System Neolith StrongFix system
  • Products Neolith Calacatta Alucobond FR Vitro Solarban 60 Cardinal Low-E 366 & 270
According to the design team, the initial material choice for the project was white marble—a light-colored facade is a useful tool for reflecting the sun's rays in a hot state like Texas. However, it was soon learned that the delicate composition of marble would not fare well in Dallas's emission-cloaked environment, or under the significant temperature variances of north Texas. While sintered stone proved to be a more durable material than marble for the purposes of the project, the weight and complexity of the panels brought its own challenges to the project. The project team struggled with the rain screen system and its application to the sloped soffits of the exterior. The solution was to use an internal truss system located behind each individual panel. Additionally, the edges and intersections of each panel were custom-measured onsite following the actual evaluation of site conditions. The slabs were produced by Neolith and assembled by Holland Marble, a local fabricator and installer. Utilizing Neolith's StrongFix system, the design and fabrication teams were able to maintain a continual dialogue to adjust the anchoring components and assembling services to conform to the largely unique panels. "The design journey was an enjoyable one as we were able to maintain the initial concept right from the beginning until completion," said 5G Studio collaborative associate Lauren Cadieux. "We are very happy with the end result: a seemingly 'floating' facade that transitions effortlessly across the front, west, and east sides of the exterior."      
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5G Studio brightens up a mid-century bank with a ceramic tile recladding

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Downtowns across the United States are littered with mid-century concrete office buildings reaching the end of their lifespans; the question facing cities is how to repurpose these aging assets while enlivening their public-facing street walls. Located in the center of Dallas, 5G Studio Collaborative’s 1217 Main Street breathes new life into a former bank with a vivid ceramic facade cladding a five-story, office-and-retail space.
  • Facade Manufacturer Cerámica Suro
  • Architects 5G Studio Collaborative
  • Facade Installer TST Construction Services Ramon Franklin
  • Facade Consultants Studio NYL
  • Location Dallas, TX
  • Date of Completion December 2017
  • System Ceramic tile rain screen over aluminum grid
  • Products Custom Kawneer Curtain Wall with T-shape mullion Agnora Structural Glazing Ellison Bronze Balance Doors
For the design and fabrication of the 36,215-tile facade, 5G collaborated with Mexico-based artist Jorge Pardo. Ceramica Suro, a ceramics manufacturer in Guadalajara produced the tiles. An initial challenge for the project was the fabrication of a ceramic tile suitable for Dallas's climate—the standard 9 percent water absorption rate of tiles produced by Ceramic Suro is appropriate for Mexico’s arid climate but not for the freeze and thaw cycles of northern Texas. The design team worked closely with the fabricator to develop a tile with an absorption rate at a much lower .2 percent. Grafting the new atop the old is not a straightforward operation. “As with most renovation projects there are surprises throughout construction that must be addressed,” said 5G Studio Principal Josh Allen. “As a result, the design process extends into the construction phase due to the unexpected surprises of a renovation project.” The western and eastern elevations of the original building are composed of concrete masonry units while those to the north and south consisted of glass and stucco over metal studs. 5G Studio reached out to engineering and facade consultation firm Studio NYL for help on the installation of the tiles. The rain screen system rests on a matrix of custom-fabricatedaluminum rails, and the gridwork provides spacing between the existing wall and tile. The tiles come in two different sizes: nine by nine inches, and six by six inches. There is a quarter-inch joint between each tile. "The modular framing is prefabricated to support the weight of the individual tiles offset to permit the airflow behind them and offer a substrate for the tiles to be mounted using adhesives rather than mortar," said Studio NYL founding principal Chris O'Hara. "The project is a success not just for the dynamic vision of the architects and artist but also in developing a higher performing system faster and less costly than the traditional construction method for this material." 5G Studio Collaborative's Josh Allen will be presenting a further dive into 1217 Main Street at the upcoming Facades+ Dallas on March 1.
 
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Amazon in "advanced talks" with three cities for HQ2 as info leaks

Sources close to the selection of Amazon’s future second headquarters (HQ2) have reportedly released details that the company’s refined shortlist comprises New York, Dallas, and Crystal City in Arlington, Virginia. While nothing is set in stone, Amazon seems to be furthest along in the selection process with Crystal City—up to the point of scouting out potential real estate locations in the city and discussing how long it would take to move in a first wave of employees. At the time of writing, the Wall Street Journal and New York Times have reported that Amazon may be splitting its future HQ2 across two cities, New York and a location in Arlington, with 25,000 employees in each. Amazon first announced the search for a second home in September of 2017, and 238 cities from across the U.S. and Canada all put in their bid to attract the online retail giant and its shiny new $5 billion headquarters and associated 50,000 jobs. The process certainly hasn’t been rushed, as it took Amazon until January of 2018 to release their 20 city shortlist. No major announcement will come until after the midterm elections on November 6, but the selection of the final site is slated to be revealed before the end of the year. Northern Virginia was always a favored contender to receive HQ2 owing to its proximity to Washington D.C. (and as sardonic Twitter posters noted, the location of Jeff Bezos’s newly renovated mansion) and other major eastern cities, and the available stock of occupiable office buildings. Although talks are still advancing with representatives in New York and Dallas, this could be to prime a backup location in case Crystal City falls through. HQ2 is slated to start operating in 2019, which means that Amazon will have to be ready to hit the ground running with their new headquarters. Lending credence to the Crystal City speculation was a tweet from Mike Grella, Amazon’s director of economic development, who lashed out at the leakers, saying they weren’t “doing Crystal City, VA any favors.” If Crystal City or the Northern Virginia area really have been favored all along, it could raise questions of whether the other cities wasted their time and money in putting together bids. Worse yet, critics have alleged that Amazon had been sussing out what incentives they could wring from each city, and has even gone against their own selection criteria in drawing up the shortlist. AN will follow up on this story later this year when the final location of HQ2 is made public.
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Golfer Jordan Spieth opens inclusive, accessible children's park in Dallas

As the Dallas Morning News reported, professional golfer Jordan Spieth, 2015 U.S. Open and Master Tournament winner, backed the new Flag Pole Hill Park in Dallas, Texas, which opened this week. The park is designed to be accessible to as wide a range of children as possible, with special attention to the abilities of young people with special needs. The park includes several pieces of playground structures designed and produced by Austin, Texas–based Kompan, a sports and play equipment company. Kompan has partnered on other projects with the Gehl Institute, an international consultancy that advises on the relationship between people's wellbeing and the built environment. The pieces used in the new Dallas park are designed to be engaging but safe, and accessible by children with a board range of physical and mental abilities. Spieth's younger sister, Ellie, attended the ribbon cutting with her older brother and her fellow cheer squad members, according to the Dallas Morning News. The golfer subsequently posted online several photos of the squad enjoying the park. Inclusive design is an approach to designing for people who may have radically different physical and intellectual abilities. The term can refer to things like adjusting lighting and acoustics for people with sensory sensitivities, adding braille labels to exhibits, or making playgrounds ADA accessible. The park was jointly produced by the Jordan Spieth Family Foundation, the City of Dallas, the Lake Highlands Junior Women's League, the Lake Highlands Exchange Club, and For the Love of the Lake, a local neighborhood-improvement project.
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New Cityplace tower could finally come to Dallas, Texas

A new tower could finally join the existing Cityplace tower in Dallas, Texas. The current 42-story building was originally planned in the 1980s as part of a massive 140-acre development that included plans for twin towers on either side of North Central Expressway, but an economic downturn foiled those plans and only one tower was ever built. But Dallas News reported this week that the site's current owner, Cityplace Co., is planning a large new hotel and office tower for the site north of Lemmon Avenue and south of Blackburn Street. The developer is pursuing a tower larger than the site's current zoning allows and will presumably not match the original tower with a twin, as the now 30-year-old plans intended. The existing Cityplace tower is the tallest building in Dallas outside of downtown and has housed office space since it was designed by Cossutta & Associates and opened in 1988. At the time it was Dallas's most expensive tower to build. The surrounding development was originally planned to house over 60 other office towers, but plans for the complex fell through after the savings and loan crisis of the late 1980s hit the region and tempered the area's oil-fueled growth over the previous decade. Today, Dallas, along with the rest of Texas, is enjoying a building boom as jobs continue to grow in the region. In 2017, Texas led the nation in corporate office construction projects, and the Dallas-Fort Worth area was among the most active metropolitan regions. Cityplace Co. is slowly developing properties across the original development's neighborhood, and other developers have gotten in on the game as well. Forest City Realty Trust is partnering with Cityplace Co. to build a 23-story luxury residential tower in the area, and earlier this year Highland Capital Management bought the Cityplace tower and announced plans to upgrade the building and add restaurant and amenity spaces.  
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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

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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.
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The hidden story of water's importance to Texas urbanism

As I drive down into the future lakebed, the terrain on either side of the gravel road becomes haggard and unkempt. Signs of the area’s past as farm and ranchland are evident, but shrubs and gnarled trees have grown high to create a deserted, post-apocalyptic landscape. This is the future site of Lower Bois d’Arc Creek Reservoir, a 16,600-acre lake soon to be constructed in rural Fannin County that will provide water to the North Texas Municipal Water District (NTMWD), serving Dallas suburbs in Collin, Dallas, Kaufman, Rockwall, and Hunt Counties. This lake recently received its permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, making it the first major reservoir in Texas since Lake Gilmer was constructed in 1999. Reservoirs provide the majority of Texas’s drinking water. Texas has been building reservoirs since 1893 (Lake Austin), with the majority created in the 1940s through the 1960s. There are currently 188 in the state, according to the Texas State Historical Association. In the Dallas area, with the limited availability of river water and an aquifer too low to be practical on a large scale, reservoirs have been the main strategy for providing water to a growing region. During a recent visit to Bonham, the Fannin County seat and nearest town to the proposed lake, a passive acceptance of the forthcoming project was evident among a number of residents. There are those who oppose it, most notably the landowners whose land will soon be flooded. However, in rural unincorporated areas, there are few options for organized resistance when a powerful water authority decides to plant a reservoir in your backyard. Yet the impact on Fannin County extends beyond the boundaries of the lake itself. The NTMWD is required to mitigate the habitat destruction caused by the new reservoir by creating new habitat nearby. Thus, an area slightly larger than the reservoir has been purchased to this end. In total, 33,441 acres of private land has been appropriated from local landowners (5 percent of Fannin County). This situation in Fannin County magnifies a common but overlooked tension in the field. Despite the extreme impact, large-scale water infrastructure is strangely absent from the architectural conversation. Architects employ water conservation and collect stormwater at a building scale, but, like most, take the availability of water for granted. They know their project simply has to tap into the existing water main in the adjacent street. Yet the construction of buildings is an extremely water-intensive process, regardless of the water-efficient fixtures they specify. A significant amount of water is used during the production of concrete, with yet more added at the building site. To complete the curing process, concrete requires approximately one pound of water for every three pounds of concrete. Unfortunately, little data is available for water use in construction sites in the U.S. Furthermore, under current infrastructural constraints, cities have no capacity to provide the resources for their own sustenance. Most cities do not generate power or harvest their drinking water within their boundaries. In light of this, cities can be seen as having a parasitic relationship with their surrounding rural areas. The ugly and unpleasant realities of power generation are located far out of sight of the cities themselves, and the inundation of private land for drinking water is undertaken in rural areas because, after all, they have plenty of land. This leeching of resources from the countryside enables cities to exist, but it is a reality that the design profession should begin to address. In February 2018, the residents of the NTMWD used an average of just under 3,000 gallons per capita. A few months earlier, in August 2017, the water use was approximately 6,200 gallons per capita, which equates to 200 gallons per day per resident. Watering St. Augustine lawns accounts for much of that summertime use in this suburban water district. While the NTMWD champions the new reservoir as critical to its supplies, it will only meet the demand for the year 2022 through 2040, a span of 18 years. At that point, additional reservoirs will be required. While Texas is a large state, land is still a finite resource, and new prime reservoir locations are very limited. Climate change also poses problems for the continued reliance on reservoirs. Record-breaking drought in 2011 meant nearly all the reservoirs were significantly below capacity, with some municipalities enacting mandatory water conservation measures. Future droughts will be harsher, posing severe challenges to water provision. As architects strive to address the challenges of building in our current environment, a knowledge of the complex and connected relationship of water to development and construction is important. Architects and planners, water officials, and more will need to be creative in solving the complex problem of providing water to future populations. While American cities have not yet had to deal with the scale of catastrophic water shortage that occurred in Cape Town, South Africa, it should give us all pause as a similar situation in North Texas is quite possible.