Posts tagged with "Houston":

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Houston unveils post-Harvey downtown master plan

Downtown Houston released an ambitious master plan on Friday, the culmination of 18 months of work and input from hundreds of stakeholders. Creating walkable streets, a five-mile green loop around the city’s core, new design guidelines and more, the 20-year plan puts an emphasis on sustainable, resilient development. A product of the Houston Downtown Management District (Downtown District), a nonprofit focused on improving the quality of life in their district, and Central Houston Inc., the proposal is a spiritual successor to Houston’s 2012 Downtown Living Initiative. Although Houston lacks zoning codes, the original Downtown Living Initiative successfully encouraged growth in the city through a series of public/private partnerships, tax rebates for construction, and reinvestments into downtown Houston’s infrastructure. Asakura Robinson and Sasaki had consulting roles in the process, while HKS Architects and Harris Kornberg Architects were among the architecture firms involved in the plan's leadership group. With the new plan’s release in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, planners, designers and city officials have also turned their focus towards disaster mitigation. Besides increasing the amount of green space in the district, the proposal has set aside land for detention areas and has tried to shift away from car-dominated urban planning. City officials are expecting a population boom from 7,500 to 30,000 over the next 20 years, and are calling for the construction of 12,000 new residential units to deal with the demand. Along with building more schools and predicting a 20 percent increase in the workforce, the plan calls for keeping residential developments centralized and integrated with mass transit. As with the plan that preceded this one, questions over how affordable these developments would be have yet to be answered. Bob Eury, president of Central Houston Inc, spoke to the Houston Chronicle about the challenges involved with bringing affordable housing to this type of development. "Unless we can find public land so you can basically write off the land costs, it's extremely challenging to build affordable high-density housing without a continuous subsidy," he said. The project’s crowning jewel is its five-mile long Green Loop, a band of parks and bike lanes that would wrap the downtown area and connect it with further-flung neighborhoods. Aided by the ongoing North Houston Highway Improvement Project, a highway readjustment by the Texas Department of Transportation, downtown Houston has an unprecedented chance to readjust its urban borders. The complete Plan Downtown: Converging Culture, Lifestyle & Commerce presentation is available here.
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Harvey's danger lives on in the threat of petrochemical pollution

When Hurricane Harvey strenghtened and redirected toward Houston, refineries and other petrochemical companies began a frantic scramble to shut down facilities before impact. This process in itself produces notoriously high emissions (a lesson learned time and again from other hurricanes that have hit the Gulf Coast hard like Katrina and Ike), but the Texas metropolis faces another unique problem—Harris County and environs are home to some of the most densely-polluted superfund sites in the country, a legion of petrochemical waste pits and ponds monitored by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). 13 of the total 41 sites were flooded in Harvey's fallout, with the EPA unable to access many of the city's sites, as reported by the Associated Press last Thursday. By Saturday, the EPA had examined two sites in Corpus Christi, found no flooding or leakage, and blasted the AP's report in a public statement – notably without providing evidence to the contrary. In their exclusive, the Associated Press described the "acrid smell of creosote" filling the air in a neighborhood situated between two superfund sites, the Sikes Disposal Pits and French LTD. They also took video from a boat peering into the 3.3-acre Highlands Acid Pit nearby—entirely covered by the roiling San Jacinto River, dredging up open toxic sludge. On Wednesday, the New York Times reported that in the Manchester neighborhood of Houston, levels of a carcinogen called benzene reached 324 parts per million, above the level at which safety workers are federally required to wear breathing equipment. Scott Frickel, an environmental sociologist at Brown University's Superfund Research Program, is concerned that the coverage of Houston's post-Harvey recovery has been overwhelmingly focused on Superfund sites, important though they are. He has examined the response of federal regulatory agencies like the EPA to similar problems after Hurricane Katrina, the largest in the agency's history at that time. A potentially greater danger, he argues, are the small, scattered industrial facilities owned by corporations and private entities. In a study, Frickel and others found that 90% of historically existing industrial facilities don't appear on regulatory hazardous site lists. Although there's no certainty all these sites are contaminated, many probably are, and account for a large margin of undocumented emissions. Frickel explained: "In part these sites are 'missing' from regulatory oversight either because they are small enough to skirt the current reporting requirements or larger facilities that closed down prior to 1980's when CERCLA regulations began and were redeveloped into some other land use. Also, it may be worth noting emissions reporting now is voluntary." Their omission explains – in part, at least – why the EPA ignored historically industrial areas of New Orleans during the long recovery from Katrina, allowing the city to repurpose those same areas for housing reconstruction without risk studies carried out beforehand. This feeling was echoed by Billy Fleming from the University of Pennsylvania's School of Design, albeit with a concern about larger facilities. Fleming remarked that with facilities in almost every neighborhood of the city, he'd be hard-pressed to think of a place where residents shouldn't be concerned about pollutants. Superfund sites aside, the EPA is not required to monitor emissions from those larger petrochemical facilities. But based on past precedent, we can expect any data provided by those 500-plus facilities with potential spillage to be sparse and unreliable. Fleming also broke down the legacy of urban sprawl and superfund sites on Houston in a recent Guardian article and on Twitter: Another point raised by Frickel was that, with the proliferation of private wells in Houston (also largely unregulated), any hazardous floodwaters that infiltrate them may pose additional threats, unless there was a commitment to chemical monitoring. The long-term health consequences of a flood as devastating as Harvey's are vast, ranging from breathing difficulty to liver cancer, and therefore difficult to measure at an epidemiological scale. Flood-induced mold is identifiable as an immediate nuisance for respiratory reasons; New Orleans residents reported a "Katrina cough" years after the storm. The secondary disaster, other than immediate emissions from the shutdown of petrochemical facilities, are the chemical releases produced during the cleanup itself. These are wide-ranging and poorly understood: one example is the unexamined health outcomes of itinerant immigrant workers brought in to move debris and demolish damaged homes who are exposed to substances like asbestos from old buildings and vinyl chloride from newer ones. Because they move on to the next job in the next city, any health data disappears with them. As we look at preventing human-made disasters like Harvey's ruinous flooding from a planning standpoint, watchdogs, advocacy groups, and experts should be closely watching the EPA and the Trump administration's attentiveness to environmental regulations as the chemicals continue their slow, inexorable spread through the water supply and air of affected areas.    
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How Texas AIA chapters & cultural institutions fared during Hurricane Harvey

Almost two weeks after Hurricane Harvey made landfall in Texas as a Category 4 storm, museums, theaters, and local AIA chapters are reporting widely varying degrees of damage. Some of the best-known museums and other attractions in Houston were relatively unaffected by the rain and flooding that overwhelmed the region, and their collections are secure. Institutions that were mostly spared by the storm include The Menil Collection, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, and the Blaffer Art Museum. Others weren’t so fortunate. Close to where the storm first struck on August 25, the Rockport Center for the Arts in Rockport, Texas, was hit hard. “From images I have been provided and third-party accounts, it appears the building has sustained serious external damage,” director Luis Purón said in a statement posted on the institution's Facebook page shortly after the storm landed. “One image demonstrates that the front porch is completely gone and a roof structure in the front of the building is exposed and thus compromised ... We won’t know about internal damage until we are able to re-enter and inspect the building. The timeline for that is uncertain.” In Houston, Bayou Bend, the house museum of American decorative arts that is part of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, suffered “inundated gardens, flooded outbuildings and significant water in the basement of the main house,” museum director Gary Tinterow reported in an email message to colleagues.  Rienzi, the house museum for European decorative arts, had flooding in its gardens, according to the museum’s website. The collections in both buildings are safe but the structures remain temporarily closed to the public and most of the scheduled programs have been canceled, the website notes. In Houston’s Theater District, a 17-block area downtown that is home to a variety of arts organizations and sees more than two million visitors a year, many of the performing venues experienced water penetration, including Jones Hall, home of the Houston Symphony, and the Hobby Center for the Performing Arts. Houston’s Alley Theatre “has been devastated” by the hurricane, with its Neuhaus Theatre and Mitchell lobby under 10 feet of water, and is closed for “the foreseeable future,” according to its website. “We are forced to move to other spaces around Houston to produce our shows, though we expect to be back by the holidays,” one message said. Even the home of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) chapter in Houston was flooded.  AIA Houston had also been renovating a 1906 structure, the B.A. Reisner Building, for Architecture Center Houston, and it took on four feet of water. According to the chapter, the space at 902 Commerce Street was within three weeks of completion and flood mitigation features weren’t fully installed when the storm hit, so the space suffered “almost total devastation.” AIA Houston has launched a $100,000 GoFundMe campaign to help finish construction. Anecdotal examples fail to convey the widespread scope of the damage. Throughout south Texas, houses, stores, and other commercial buildings were damaged either by winds or flooding or both. NBC called it “the greatest rainfall event in the continental United States,” with almost 52 inches of rain reported in one area outside Houston. More than 40,000 people went to shelters and more than 400,000 have sought federal funding assistance. The economic impact has been estimated at more than $100 billion. “This is the largest hurricane to hit Texas in close to 20 years,” said Paul Dennehy, president of the Texas Society of Architects. “We’re talking about 50 inches of rain falling in one place. It’s the equivalent of two weeks of flow of the Mississippi River. No infrastructure can withstand that.” Even though it was eventually downgraded to a tropical storm, Dennehy said, Harvey caused damage in two ways. When it first hit land near Corpus Christi and Rockport, it brought high winds as well as rain, and that alone knocked down trees and destroyed buildings. Then as Harvey became a tropical storm and lingered over Texas, the rain caused massive flooding. The hit-and-miss nature of the damage was due to many factors, from the age and location of buildings to the adequacy of storm drains.  Rural, suburban, and urban areas all were affected. “All of it is terrible,” Dennehy said. “Houston is getting the focus [of national attention] because it’s an urban area. It’s the fourth largest city in the country. But the damage is widespread. There are other areas that are equally devastated. Rockport. Port Aransas. These are areas of total devastation. They were right at ground zero of the hurricane.” As the flood waters recede and efforts shift from rescue to recovery, the AIA is playing a major role in disaster assistance. The National Endowment for the Arts and other organizations have become involved as well. According to public relations manager Matt Tinder, AIA National wants the Texas Society of Architects to take the lead during the initial stages of recovery.  The Texas Society is a statewide AIA organization and oversees 17 chapters around the state. The AIA’s national office has the ability to bring in experts from around the country through its Disaster Assistance Program, which was established in 1972 to “equip architects with the knowledge and skills to mitigate, prepare for, respond to and recover from a disaster.”  But there is little point in sending teams from other states until the flooded areas dry out more, Tinder said. For now, “it is being done through the Texas chapter of the AIA,” Tinder said. “There is going to be a larger effort. But there are architects who are already in Texas and prepared.” Dennehy said it’s appropriate to utilize Texas-based architects first because they are licensed to practice in the state and already familiar with the damaged areas. He said the Texas Society has architects throughout the state who are trained in disaster assistance and has already begun training even more, starting with a session in Austin last Friday. “We are working to mobilize our members,” Dennehy said. “The Texas chapter has more than 7,000. We have had an outpouring of firms that have asked to help. “ Because of the specialized nature of disaster assistance, the Texas Society wants to be sure participants are properly trained, he added. “It’s not that people can just come down to help. You have to have training and be qualified.” Around the country, hundreds of architects and other design professionals and companies have offered to do what they can, said Carl Elefante, the AIA’s 2017 First Vice President and 2018 President Elect, in a posting on Facebook. “AIA National, the Texas Society of Architects, AIA Houston and hundreds of architects around the country are rallying to make a real difference at this time of great need,” he said. For cultural organizations such as museums and theaters that suffered damage, the National Endowment for the Arts announced that it is coordinating efforts to provide assistance. “The NEA expresses its deepest concern and most heartfelt sympathies for the millions of people in Texas and Louisiana affected by Hurricane Harvey,” said agency chair Jane Chu,  in a statement. “We are working to coordinate support for arts organizations in the regions designated a disaster area by FEMA, and we stand ready to support the recovery of the arts and cultural communities in the devastated areas” The NEA has responded to other national emergencies in the past, such as Hurricane Katrina. In this case, “we are coordinating with the Texas Commission on the Arts and the Division of the Arts in the Louisiana Office of Cultural Development to assess the situation and those arts organizations hardest hit by Hurricane Harvey,” Chu said. “As the current situation stabilizes, the National Endowment for the Arts is prepared to direct additional funds to these state arts agencies for re-granting to affected organizations, as we have done in the past.” The U. S. General Services Administration has also taken action to aid in relocation and rebuilding efforts. On Friday, officials announced that the department has raised monetary thresholds for certain purchasing and leasing activities. Raising the thresholds, they say, will help contracting officers gain access to the resources they need. Dennehy, who is based in Fort Worth and heads his own firm there, Dennehy Architects, said Texas architects can benefit from the experience of other states that have been struck by hurricanes and forced to rebuild. “We are joining the ranks of Florida and New Jersey and New York and Louisiana that have been devastated by these storms,” he said. “We have a lot to learn from them.” It won’t be a short process, he warned. “The assessments will go on for months. The recovery efforts will go on for years.” Dennehy said the Texas Society plans to concentrate its efforts initially on storm-damaged areas in Texas, including Rockport, Houston, Beaumont and Port Arthur. But if a neighboring state needs assistance, he said, it will respond as well. “Because of the enormity of it, we are focusing on Texas,” he said. But “nobody is going to draw a hard line when it comes to helping. We are going to help each other.”   
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The Architecture Center Houston reveals designs for its new home

The Architecture Center Houston will soon be opening its doors at a new location: The 1906 B.A. Riesner Building, located at 900 Commerce Street at the center of the city's original downtown area. Houston practice Murphy Mears Architects is leading the building's renovation. The current center can be found at 315 Capitol Street. 900 Commerce Street, according to Rusty Bienvenue, executive director at the American Institute of Architects (AIA) Houston Chapter, is due to open in September or October. AIA Houston received 28 proposals in May 2016 for the design. An advisor to the awarding jury, Bienvenue told The Architect's Newspaper (AN) that Murphy Mears "hit a sweet spot," submitting the "most workable floor plan" with lots of open space and staff programming condensed together. Rolling steel panels allow for various exhibition configurations while conference rooms can also double-up as a board room. One of the main issues to address, however, was the fact the building sits in a 100-year-old floodplain. Speaking to AN, Kyle Humphries, a partner at Murphy Mears, said it was a "matter of when, not if" Commerce Street would be under water. Imagining it as a "bath tub," the architects added a quarter-inch-thick aluminum plate around the interior perimeter on two sides. "Our storefront system that faces Commerce Street is sealed and uses structural steel panels up to 3.5 feet long all along that facade," described Humphries. Furthermore, custom fills and seals on the doors (the profiles of which were manufactured in Switzerland) were prescribed with a custom-designed drop-in flood panel that can be operated by one person standing outside. In addition to this work, the building's facade is also being brought back close to its original state. "We're not creating an exact replica of the old facade," stressed Humphries. "We are making it contemporary compatible." "They understood the place has windows on one side and they wanted to activate those windows," Bienvenue told AN. "This was great as we wanted to send a message to people on the street." Inside are two main spaces: a former boiler room that boasts an existing skylight and the main area that houses staff and looks onto Commerce Street. "We wanted to leave the boiler room as a large, open, [and] flexible space and use the character we were given," said Humphries. "We simply needed to figure out how to access it, with it being below ground." For that, Murphy Mears designed a ramp that spirals around the perimeter and then drops down into that space from the street level. "The design is really about that procession, circling around as it allows that space to host lectures, exhibits, and parties," added Humphries. Humphries went on to say that the team, having created this undulating floor, applied those same undulations to the ceiling. This move would create a unifying character for the entire project. Seen in the interior renderings, this perforated ceiling on the ground floor level also serves as an acoustical device. As for events and exhibits, Bienvenue said that the Center's programming wouldn't be changed straight away but would be "revamped" in a "couple of months, maybe early 2018."
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Porcelanosa creates near-seamless facade at new Houston showroom

For its Houston showroom, Porcelanosa put its best product forward—literally. The building was the first time Porcelanosa’s Krion material has been used as a solid surface with a ventilated facade. Designed by an in-house team, the objective was to showcase all the ways Krion could be used as a facade system. “We wanted to show the potential and possibilities of the material,” Ignacio Vidal Traver, an architect and Porcelanosa’s facade national director told The Architect's Newspaper. “You can create seamless panels, use a CNC-machine to create louvers or allow for ventilation, and even melt it to create a curve, which is what I did for the canopies above the door.” The 32,291-square-foot interior exhibition space was designed to be consistent with Porcelanosa’s company-wide interior showroom branding and will be updated to reflect new offerings. Porcelenosa Showroom 4006 Richmond Avenue, Houston Tel: 281-605-2770 Architect: Ignacio Vidal Architect

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Immersive LED installation by artist Pipilotti Rist goes on view at Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

After a smashing success as part of a retrospective of visual and multimedia artist Pipilotti Rist at New York’s New Museum, Pixel Forest and Worry Will Vanish were acquired by the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. The Swiss artist created Pixel Forest with lighting designer Kaori Kuwabara, constructing thousands of hanging jewel-toned LED lights that shift in waves of color. Worry Will Vanish is a projected video that occupies a corner of the room and takes the viewer through dreamy nature scenes and distorted views of the human body. Conceived separately but displayed together, the immersive experience transports the viewer into Rist’s world.

Pipilotti Rist: Pixel Forest and Worry Will Vanish Museum of Fine Arts, Houston 1001 Bissonnet, Houston Through September 17

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Ground breaks on Steven Holl's design for the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

Steven Holl's design for the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (MFAH) has started construction. In 2015, Holl described the commission as "the most important" of his career.

Steven Holl Architects was awarded the job back in 2012, seeing off competition from Morphosis and Snøhetta, but working out the design has been a drawn-out experience. “What you see here is the culmination of a 36-month design process,” Holl said at a design unveiling two years ago. In addition to the 165,000-square-foot Nancy and Rich Kinder Building, and the Glassell School of Art, the architect also worked on the museum's master plan.

The 14-acre campus will also include the Sarah Campbell Blaffer Foundation Center for Conservation, designed by Lake|Flato Architects of San Antonio. The two-storey facility will sit above MFAH's existing parking garage and provide conservation labs and studios, and a street-level cafe. Holl's translucent Nancy and Rich Kinder Building, meanwhile, will see two floors of galleries circling a top-lit three-level atrium added along with a restaurant, theater, reflecting pools, vertical gardens, meeting rooms, and underground parking.

The building will have etched glass tubular cladding that will allow daylight to filter through and also give the building a soft glow come sunset. At ground level, six reflecting pools of water will amplify the luminous qualities of the structure's skin, which will also include seven vertical gardens. These will be cut into segments of vision glass instead of the translucent tubing. Inside, the two galleries will total 54,000 square feet. The upper level is to be shielded by a luminous canopy roof, which has concave curves inspired by Texas' billowing clouds. All of the gallery spaces feature natural light. Holl is working with New York–based lighting design firm L’Observatoire International on the project.

Furthermore, Holl's new Glassell School of Art will connect with the water pools and connect the campus to The Brown Foundation, Inc. Plaza. All in all, MFAH's additions will come to $450 million. Construction is touted for completion in 2019.
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First look at Michael Maltzan’s Moody Center for the Arts in Houston

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The Moody Center for the Arts, designed by Los Angeles–based Michael Maltzan Architecture (MMA), is a 50,000-square-foot, $30 million center located on the campus of Rice University. It serves the campus and general public as an experimental platform for making and showcasing works across disciplines through deliberately flexible interior spaces.
  • Facade Manufacturer Endicott (brick units)
  • Architects Michael Maltzan Architecture
  • Facade Installer Linbeck (contractor); Dee Brown, Inc (masonry subcontractor); Duke Glass (glazing systems)
  • Facade Consultants Thornton Tomasetti (facade consultant); Guy Nordenson and Associates (structural engineer)
  • Location Houston, TX
  • Date of Completion 2017
  • System steel frame, masonry veneer, curtain wall
  • Products Manganese Ironspot norman masonry brick units by Endicott; first floor curtain wall & second floor windows by Oldcastle; Glazing by Guardian
The building is generally composed of three long narrow blocks, set along an east-west campus grid. The structure references typological buildings and their related exterior quadrangle spaces on Rice University’s campus, which stem from an early 1900s masterplan by Boston architect Ralph Adams Cram. "We had this fantasy that, if you could take all of the campus and squish together its long rectangular buildings with its exterior quads, you would combine both formal and informal ways of making connections and learning," said Michael Maltzan, founder of Michael Maltzan Architecture. "In that regard, we were alluding to the Moody as a microcosm of the entire Rice campus." The facade appears quite massive from far away, but as you get closer, it is revealed that the facade is actually quite thin and permeable. This is most apparent through a "floating" outdoor canopy that frames an arcade running parallel along the building's primary north elevation. The facade here is framed by steel and integrates a secondary steel web that spans from the second floor to the roof continuously along the entire facade. This web encloses “lanterns,” or volumetric voids in the massing of the building, and wraps around starburst-shaped columns which bookend the composition. These iconic columns carry the load of the steel and masonry structure at each end of the building. A double angle detail provides a crisp bearing shelf for the brick facade. At the east lantern, the brick surface is installed as screen wall configuration. To achieve this, threaded stainless steel rods were integrated into the hollow cells of the brick units, which were installed in a 1/3 running bond pattern. Andrea Manning, associate at Michael Maltzan Architecture, said this allowed for selective bricks to be omitted, producing a unique perforated floating masonry screen. "It was a technical challenge to make brick work this way while maintaining a light and delicate structure," she said. Maltzan said this building uniquely brings together a lot of programmatic elements they have worked on in the past. "There aren't that many examples of this new type of building whose ambition is to be [a] extremely cross-disciplinary hype-collaborative center where lots of different unexpected individuals, groups, artists, technical people all come together. One of the biggest challenges is to anticipate the wide range of activities that might take place without any of that being determined yet when designing the building. To try and build in the right amount of flexibility without flexibility completely taking over the building in such a significant way that it compromises any parts of the program. Getting this right was a big learning curve for everyone involved on the project." The brick is a dark manganese ironspot brick, which Maltzan says produces a surface that is animated by the dynamic quality of the atmosphere of the site. “Brick often feels like it is very stable and unchangeable. The manganese brick is black, but over the course of the day with changing lighting conditions, it can take on the appearance of metal, deep purple, or sky blue. That quality, along with the thinness of the assembly gives a new reading and character to brick which we are very excited about.” Beyond the facade, at the heart of the Moody is a double-height “Creative Open Studio” that anchors the building in plan and section. This space was imagined by the architects as an interior version of the typical campus quad. “This interior landscape brings the most diverse programmatic functions into contact with one another, while opening views out to the campus,” said Maltzan. The cross-disciplinary building establishes a new arts district on campus, with proximity to the Shepherd School of Music and the James Turrell Twilight Epiphany Skyspace on the Suzanne Deal Booth Centennial Pavilion. The facility will be programmed, but it’s also a place where the public can be inspired, with public shows and free admittance year-round.
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Take a look at the new Emancipation Park in Houston

[UPDATE 6/13/2017: This article has been updated with images of the finished project.] Emancipation Park in Houston has undergone a major transformation courtesy of Chicago-based Perkins + Will. The revamp to the 10-acre park has been a long time coming. Preliminary work began in 2011, but now the project is finally complete, offering a new "Recreation Center" and spiraling sculpture that reflects the vision of the park's founders. Opened to the public in 1872 by its founders, Reverend John Henry “Jack” Yates, Richard Allen, Richard Brock, and Reverend Elias Dibble, Emancipation Park is firmly rooted in African-American history. At the time of its opening, the park was the first truly public park in Houston. In the years that followed, it became a vibrant space, hosting games of tennis and volleyball as well as numerous other community activities. Boasting a swimming pool from the 1930s, the site was also the only place where African-Americans could swim in the city. Come the 1960s however, times had changed and the cosmopolitan aura had run aground. After construction of U.S. Route 59 and policies of segregation carved up Houston's Third Ward district, the park's state drastically declined as affluent African-Americans left the area. Friends of Emancipation Park, however, started to make changes in 2007, initially by cleaning up the place. By 2011, Philadelphian architect Phil Freelon with his North Carolina–based firm, The Freelon Group, were working on a much bigger plan to give the park a much-needed facelift. Freelon has a well-established pedigree in such typologies. Of late, he has worked on almost all buildings dedicated to black heritage  in the Eastern Seaboard: The International Civil Rights Center and Museum (Greensboro, NC); the Museum of the African Diaspora (San Francisco); the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture (Charlotte); the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History & Culture (Baltimore); the National Center for Civil and Human Rights (Atlanta), and finally the crown jewel to date: the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC). Now acting as project principal and design director at Perkins + Will (since 2014), Freelon has seen Emancipation Park finally completed. Along with the aforementioned Recreation Center and sculpture, the rejuvenated park now has a new pool and a canopied plaza which provides a welcoming front porch and cover for the park's main entrance. On the north side of the new building—which faces the major event lawn—the canopy functions as the band shell. Down the south side, the roof structure provides shading and filters daylight into the gymnasium that is housed inside the Recreation Center along with a fitness center and a multi-purpose room which can accommodate meetings, banquets, and balls. "The design of the new Emancipation Park Recreation Center is a reflection of the community’s goals and aspirations," said Freelon speaking to The Architect's Newspaper. Freelon added that new sculpture was meant to symbolize hope. "It looks forward, to the future. It's a positive symbol," he added. The exterior of the Recreation Center comprises a series of panels that range in earth tones. "From a deep brown to a rich rust color, the varying shades are reminiscent of the historic painted tin roofs that remain prevalent in the Third Ward today," Freelon continued. "This 'patchwork' texture also symbolizes the coming together of the community in support of the revitalized Emancipation Park, its programs and the celebration of Juneteenth."
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Artist Analia Saban gets her first solo show at the Blaffer Museum

Analia Saban, the first solo museum survey of Analia Saban’s career, calls into question the very notions of painting, sculpture, drawing, and photography as valid art forms, challenging the limits and capacities of each medium by exposing the ideological repercussions for gender and labor that are embedded within. For example, The Painting Ball uses strips of fabric from unraveled paintings and rolls them into a sphere, while the Draped Marble series employs broken marble fastened to crafted wooden sawhorses, evoking towels left out to dry. As the artist insists on a speculative condition for her work within the context of media determinacy, sculptures such as these, together with the others on display, displace classic associations of material and application within narratives of art history and consumer culture.

Analia Saban The Blaffer Museum University of Houston 120 Fine Arts Building, Houston Through March 18, 2017

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SWA's plan to integrate a mile-long informal market with nearby Houston

Airline Drive in Houston is (unsurprisingly) located a 20-minute drive from George Bush Intercontinental Airport and just short of that from Houston’s city center. Since 2005, the area has been known as the Airline Improvement District (AID), part of a scheme from Harris County to revitalize the four-square-mile area and improve “its desirability for residents, consumers and businesses.”

While the AID has been running for more than a decade, issues such as a lack of centralized water service, poor road and pedestrian infrastructure, and bayou flooding still hamper the area’s development. In fact, 50 percent of the district’s land lies within a floodplain—a problem that impacts water and sewage services as well as housing.

“There is no money dedicated to flood relief coming for another 50 years,” said Kinder Baumgardner, managing principal at Dallas-based landscape architecture, planning, and urban design studio SWA. “As a result, all the major urban development that one would want to do is not going to happen until the flooding is dealt with.”

SWA is in the process of implementing a master plan that will maximize the pre-existing communal infrastructure at the AID with the long-term aim of using revenue generated by the resulting businesses to combat flooding in the future. A key part of this plan involves the five major flea markets that can be found on Airline Drive between Gulf Bank Road and Canino Road. Baumgardner said that on weekends, approximately 50,000 people travel to these markets—dubbed Market Mile—“doubling, if not tripling the vicinity’s population.” Though quiet during the week, he described it as a weekend “festival,” albeit blighted by “unresolved” pedestrian circulation.

To SWA, these flea markets are a potential source of infrastructure capital—if the tax base can be expanded that is. (The district currently generates revenue through a one percent retail sales tax). Baumgardner explained that the studio took two approaches to boost the area.

Rebranding Market Mile would advertise the flea markets to a wider audience. The Harris County-Airline Improvement District Livable Centers Study carried out by SWA in 2009 found that just over half of the visitors frequent the market weekly, 46 percent of visitors stay two to four hours each time, and 41 percent visit other businesses in the area while at the market. And of this demographic, which is 90 percent Hispanic, only two percent either cycle or walk in.

In 2009, Harris County pledged $2.9 million to be spent on pedestrian improvements, a scheme that involved two new, signalized crosswalks on Airline and sidewalks on much-used streets. Harris County, however, does not view sidewalks favorably. The county has a policy of only installing sidewalks on new roads if a city or another source finances it. “It’s an expense that doesn’t have to do with transportation,” Mark Seegers, a spokesman for Harris County commissioner Sylvia Garcia told the Houston Chronicle. “The county does not do sidewalks; it’s not what gets cars from point A to point B.” Subsequently, planned sidewalks from SWA will be financed by Airline Improvement District.

SWA’s logic is that, if more people can come to the popular flea markets, more revenue will be generated due to more businesses being set up as a result of greater demand. SWA’s plan works both ways. If the market can’t come to the people, then the market can come to them through what they call “mobile community infrastructure.”

A fleet of retail and food trucks would be able to extend the services of Market Mile to those who don’t have access to it. Taking advantage of regulations (or lack thereof) found outside the city of Houston, such trucks could set up chairs and canopies, becoming a permanent location if they find success in a particular area, Baumgardner explained.

In the future, these trucks could provide more than just goods. SWA’s survey found that just over 30 percent of the AID population had an education no higher than ninth grade. Baumgardner went on to say how the trucks could provide educational facilities too, thus attracting more than just shoppers to the mobile market.

Additionally, 57 percent of people said they would take part in health awareness programs if given the opportunity to do so. Meanwhile, 43 percent said they would participate in job training and finance and business development programs.

“There’s a food truck culture that’s sweeping the country, especially in Houston,” said Baumgardner who added he met someone who already has a bookmobile in the area– perhaps a sign that the project is slowly taking off. Baumgardner concluded: “We want this district to have all the things that a livable center should be planning toward, but we also wanted to look at how a project could get going, even at a limited scale.”

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Houston's newest theater has its own two-story open-air “street”

To tell a story, three elements are crucial: setting, plot, and characters. To tell a story well, these three essentials require refinement and time to reveal them. The setting—Houston—provides the context, and the plot—how to design and build a new theater in Midtown—is compelling. The characters—a vibrant mix—complete the challenge that’s been thrown to Lake|Flato Architects and Studio RED.

Located off Main Street at the Ensemble/HCC MetroRail stop, the site was formerly a chain-linked parking lot for the city permit building. After years of planning and fundraising with a strong arts board and consultant and philanthropic pledges, the Midtown Arts and Theater Center Houston (MATCH) came to life as a nimble metal-skinned building with glass-box theaters bisected by a double-height breezeway.

The $25 million community arts complex provides a central home base in Midtown for a spectrum of leading and emerging arts and culture organizations. The 59,000-square-foot facility consists of four dedicated theater spaces, rehearsal classroom spaces, and several gallery spaces, along with back-of-house support and office space.

Ryan Jones, an associate partner at Lake|Flato, knew that the building’s breezeway, with its grandstand and functional connective artery, was key, but it took some convincing that a two-story open-air “street” for media projections would thrive given the heat and humidity that swallow most days in Houston. The solution was to install six Big Ass Fans, which keep outdoor public spaces comfortable by exhausting hot air through the chimney effect.

The building’s agile presence does not overtake its program. For this new Midtown theater and arts center, the soul of the building is internalized, and life illuminates from within the breezeway, theaters, rehearsal spaces, and control booths. The building remains in the background, allowing the exuberance of theater life and the visual arts to stand in the limelight. Its skin and structure have a subdued, protective strength amid the bustle and frenzied transactions of Travis Street traffic that includes Main Street light-rail interruptions, bus stops, church, college, and urban passersby, daily logistics, ticket sales, and cafe pauses. For Lake|Flato and Studio RED, the decision to invite the street into the building is best exemplified by their addition of graffiti art by GONZO2047 where patrons’ names are tagged on the bathroom walls to merge high art and street culture.

Houston, as described by Barrie Scardino, Bill Stern, and Bruce Webb in their book Ephemeral City, was “built around characteristic features of modern life such as rapid change, built-in obsolescence, indeterminacy, media orientation, a culture of style, and instant gratification.” It is indeed an ephemeral city, hard to pin down and understand at large, but perhaps easier to encapsulate in one permeable space.