As Harris County voters prepare to make their decision on the fate of Houston’s iconic Astrodome, some lucky locals will have an opportunity to bring home a piece of the historic stadium this Saturday. In preparation for the stadium’s pending rebirth as the “New Dome Experience” (or its possible destruction), the building’s managers are tearing a page out of Minneapolis' playbook as they put sections of the stadium up for sale. A limited quantity of seats, genuine sections of AstroTurf, furnishings, concessions equipment, and various memorabilia—including the space helmets worn by the grounds crew for the stadium's opening 48 years ago—are up for sale at the Astrodome Yard Sale and Live Auction at Houston's Reliant Center on November 2. If you live in the area, you could bring home a pair of two seats for $200, or a 12” by 12” section of turf for $20. Customers will be limited to four seats and four sections of turf, so forget about reconstructing the dome in your backyard. Proceeds from the sale will go to the Astrodome's pending renovation. While two recent polls show that voters are still split on the $217 million dollar proposal to transform the aging stadium into a sprawling 21st century event space in time for Superbowl LI in 2017, the project’s proponents are confident that they will pull through. But, if the historic structure does come to face the wrecking ball, this may be your last chance to claim a slice of the “Eighth Wonder of the World.” Either way, don't miss out on AN and YKK's Reimagining the Astrodome Award Reception on November 4th! Join us at the Grand Lobby of the Fort Worth Convention Center for the launch of our newest print edition, AN Southwest, and be there as the top teams explain their proposals for the future of the Astrodome.
Posts tagged with "Houston":
Two Polls Indicate the Disposition of Harris County Voters Regarding $217 Million Astrodome Bond Fund
The Houston Chronicle is reporting that two recent polls have given clues as to how the denizens of Harris County will vote in the matter of approving $217 million in bonds to fund the reuse of the Astrodome. Previously, the Harris County Commissioners Court set the matter of the bond fund to a November 5 referendum. If voters approve the fund, the Harris County Sports and Convention Corporation will be able to proceed with its plans to create a New Dome Experience in time for Superbowl LI in 2017. Harris County property tax will also experience a slight hike to pay for it all. If voters oppose the issue, the Astrodome will in all likelihood meet the wrecking ball. Either way, entrants to AN and YKK AP's Reimagine The Astrodome competition will be watching with bated breath. A poll conducted by Rice University political scientist Bob Stein for KUHF/KHOU shows 45 percent of voters would support the bond issue, while 35 percent would oppose it, and 20 percent are undecided. The poll surveyed 650 potential voters and claims a 3.8 percent margin of error. Another poll that was conducted by a group of save-the-dome proponents showed a tie, with 43 percent in favor, 43 percent opposed, and the rest undecided. While the polls don't suggest a landslide victory for proponents of preserving the dome, Stein told the Chronicle that he suspects the referendum will pass simply because there is no organized opposition.
Artists Dan Havel and Dean Ruck of Havel Ruck Projects have garnered attention for some interesting installation pieces in Houston, blurring the lines between art and architecture. Over the last eight years, the collaboration has constructed temporary artworks using old, wooden homes, bizarre shows of simultaneous deconstruction and reconstruction of architecture. Inversion from 2005 recreates two wood bungalows, donated to the artists by Art League Houston, into a vortex of white wooden planks. In 2010, the Houston Art Alliance sponsored Havel Ruck Projects’s creation of Fifth Ward Jam. A wooden home doomed for refuse in Houston’s 5th Ward became an imaginative community stage of vertically spewed boards.
[ Editor's Note: The following story, "Il Duomo," first appeared in Texas Architect's May/June 1990 issue. It was written by the late Douglas Pegues Harvey, an architect who graduated from Rice University and worked for Marmon Mok Architecture in San Antonio. It was written on the occasion of the Houston Astrodome's 25th anniversary as a sort of homage as well as a protest for the fact that the building was not chosen for the AIA Twenty-Five Year Award. Eero Saarinen's Gateway Arch was. (Incidentally, another Houston project was chosen for the 2013 25-Year Award.) We are rerunning this story, with permission, because today, September 17, is the registration deadline for Reimagine the Astrodome, AN and YKK AP's Astrodome Reuse Design Ideas Competition. Due to the overwhelming enthusiasm surrounding the competition, we've decided to extend the registration dealing to Monday, September 23. So if you were sleeping, wake up! Sign up today! (Also, if you have the chops to write articles like "Il Duomo" and want to contribute to AN Southwest, please contact Aaron Seward, email@example.com.) ] It's not every building that gets to be known as The Eighth Wonder Of The World. Texas' nominee, the Astrodome, opened 25 years ago as the world's finest interior landscape. On Apr. 9,1965, a time when the hegemony of television and the standing of the Sunbelt in American life were not yet secure, the Astrodome opening struck a telling blow on their behalf. The occasion was a Houston Astro's exhibition baseball game against the New York Yankees. With President Lyndon Johnson watching, Mickey Mantle (naturally) hit the first home run, but the Astro's (necessarily) won. The experience left visitors, well, bug-eyed. At 642 feet, the Astrodome's clear span more than doubled that of any previous enclosure. Its parking lot, the world's largest, held 30,000 cars. That sort of thing. A few miles away, NASA was making its great thrust into the infinite, silent sea. It was one of those times when events get larger than life. The Dome has had its true believers—evangelist Billy Graham, who held Crusade for Christ there its first year, and who knows something about the ancient world, has been credited with the "Eighth Wonder" phrase—and its critics—writer Larry McMurtry, for instance, described it as "the working end of the world's largest deodorant stick." In purely compositional terms, it may not have done much. Long-span technology and multi-use ingenuity have long since passed it by. All the same, there are other measures of the success of this project. Not only did it bring the pageant of stadium sports inside, its introduction of Astroturf permanently changed the "envelope of performance" of all sports previously played on grass. Its "skyboxes" represent a milepost in the evolution of the contemporary notion of "upscale," and transformed the financial structure of professional sports. It even created a new building type—a room where you could see cars colliding in mid-air. And to top it all, it was even a bargain: the construction cost of $18.7 million translates to $64 million in 1989 dollars (including financing, total cost was $107.1 million in 1989 dollars.) But to posterity, the most important test of a building is not in the continuing influence of its various innovations but in how it engages and alters the mythic landscape. By this standard, the Dome is a landmark of the first order. At its opening the Dome was an instant celebrity and since then it has maintained a star billing that few buildings of any kind ever achieve. It is, as they say, the original. It certainly wasn't just a "stadium." Only Yankee Stadium, beneficiary of decades of press exposure in the more-or-less Capital of the World, has approached a similar status. But the Dome isn't really a "building," either. Ironically, one measure of its impact is that it has never been casually thought of or described in architectural terms. It is a different category of thing, ill-defined but clearly unique and "other." In homage, equivalent buildings are customarily called "domes" even when they are not at all dome-like—the Hoosier Dome, the Pontiac Silverdome. Despite its cable suspension roof hung from four 300-foot towers, the sports and convention palace now being designed for San Antonio is persistently referred to as the "Alamodome." The story of the Astrodome's creation is a form of surrealist frontier melodrama where financial risk-taking, political deal-making, and architectural daring intersect to recast the fates of humanity redefining our perceptions about the nature of buildings, the functions they contain, and the culture they represent. The Dome was a product of the unspoken conviction that there were, and could be, no limits. Volumetrically, the Astrodome peculiarly resembles the Hyatt-Regency Hotel in Atlanta Ga., which opened about the same time. Both buildings redefined and revitalized a building type so as to create new images and possibilities, and they both did so in the same way—by going beyond Piranesi to create infinite space. One of the recurring themes in American cultural history is the quest for Zion—breaking out into infinite space to create (or regain) the ideal landscape and community—to get back to the Garden. When NASA began giving that quest its ultimate form, a conceptual boundary was created that demanded a new understanding of architectural "space." The significance of the Astrodome and the Hyatt-Regency lies in their re-presentation of this quest as an introspective one, by establishing the possibility of an infinite interior space. The Astrodome engages the sense of the infinite paradoxically. A single-space building, no matter how huge, appears larger inside than outside. Once inside, you lose the scalar cues the landscape and sky normally provide and have only the structure itself as a frame of reference. But our personal and evolutionary experience with the natural world have conditioned us to interpret the background as all-encompassing. Therefore we read the distant walls as the natural background, and perceptually "overscale" any uncommonly large interior; the larger the room, the more pronounced the effect. The Astrodome simply raises this effect to a higher order of magnitude. It encloses so much volume that the roof's visual weight is inadequate to delimit the scale, and the space becomes perceptually unbounded. Viewed through our prejudice in favor of overscaling, it reads as bigger than immeasurably big—infinite. The roof is no more than a gossamer web of steel clouds drifting above the field, completing a vision of the cosmos. Because an infinite space cannot be "inside" anything, in the Astrodome, you are not, therefore, "inside." A parallel physiological effect then reinforces this message. When we gaze into the distance, the alignment and focus of our eyes gives us a certain neuromuscular feedback that we associate with the wide-open spaces. In neuromuscular terms, a sufficiently distant roof is the same as the sky. The meaning derived from these phenomena are profoundly different from those evoked by the sense of being inside. Freed of ultimate closure, the Astrodome becomes a microcosm, as though it were a colony in space or on society's conceptual frontier (which, in a sense, it was), with a wholeness independent of the outside world. It is even a dome—a form loaded with historical references to the sacred and the infinite. Its location at the edge of the limitless prairie, in a nearly infinite parking lot, heightens the air of surrealism while its name appropriates the aura of outer space on behalf of inner space. Subjecting the building's functions to such an articulate vastness gives them a jamais vu quality. By its association with the cosmic vision, any mass spectator event instantly becomes a grander, more intense, more focused spectacle; its emotional equations are transformed. The first indoor baseball game became, figuratively, the first game of all time. However, intensifying the ritual to such a degree also transforms it into entertainment. Beginning with that first indoor baseball game, the sense and even the pretense of continuity and reciprocity between participants and spectators (such as that postulated by the Texas A&M "twelfth man" tradition) were forever abandoned. The first spectators in the Astrodome became the live audience in the world's largest television studio, furnished with theater seats, not bleachers, with a scoreboard that lit up like a game in an arcade. Finally the Caesars in the skyboxes had a suitably spectacular barbarity to entertain them. Success, it is said, has a thousand fathers. It may already be too late to establish with certainty who originated the idea for a covered, air-conditioned baseball stadium. It is clear that various business owners in Houston during the 1950's were campaigning to bring major league baseball to town. There were studies for a "War Memorial Stadium" that even became the Astrodome in order to cement the design with the National League. Public sentiment credits Judge Roy Hofheinz, the Dome's guiding genius and co-owner of its master lease. One story has it that he got the idea for a sports stadium as a tourist in Italy, on learning that the Colosseum (home to blood sports and human sacrifices) had a retractable sunshade. Prior to getting involved in baseball, certainly, the Judge was in a race (won by Frank Sharp at Sharpstown) to develop Houston's first air-conditioned shopping mall, and was thoroughly familiar with the design and construction of long-span, air-conditioned assembly spaces. Moreover, the idea was already in the air. Tycoon Glenn McCarthy may have proposed a covered stadium during the 1940s. Walter O'Malley considered building a covered stadium for the Dodgers while they were still in Brooklyn, and Harris County officials met with him in Los Angeles in the late 50s. But in mythological terms the Colosseum connection is true, regardless of its actuality. It invokes the laying-on of hands, conveying the splendor of ancient Rome from its Pantheon to the new cathedral of America's sports religion. In an article in Architectural Design in 1970, Peter Papademetriou equated the Astrodome to St Peter's as a gigantic urban-edge project that established a defining physical and social form. In the beginning, the glory of Rome gave a desirable gloss to the Astrodome's image. But today comparisons to either St. Peter's or the Colosseum are redundant. The Dome, not Rome, is the archetypal social form across the land. With the coming of the Dome, spectacle at last reached the intensity necessary to bridge the mythic distance from baseball, diffuse and subtle, to football, especially professional football, a gladiatorial contest worthy of the first Colosseum. The elevation of the spectacle also transformed the nature of the "occasion" surrounding football as ritual event. Formerly, the game itself was only the zone of greatest density of meaning imbedded in an extended activity. In the ancestral pattern, getting there was half the fun—the journey, visits to relatives or friends, the tailgate party, the post-game celebration. (The old ways survive in Dallas the night before the Texas-Oklahoma football game and during "Texas Week" at Texas A&M.) Even the game's prostration before the elements, though sometimes inconvenient, was symbolically meaningful. Through this, the larger event maintained its ties to, and signified its place in, a world larger than the game itself. No longer. Thanks to the possibilities for artifice liberated by the Astrodome, the Event has been freed from its dependency on Nature's caprice and God's sky. The Game has achieved purity of essence. It is reborn as a feature attraction in the world of focused entertainment values based on network television and the ultimate macho voyeurism of Monday Night Football. The feat of mythic transformation wrought by the Astrodome is acknowledged by the attitudes of professional sports leagues towards indoor play. Even though baseball is always postponed for bad weather, major-league baseball will not consider indoor locations for prospective expansion teams. On the other hand, football, which is traditionally played regardless of the weather, has wholly embraced indoor stadiums. Whereas baseball is a ritual celebration of mythic space, football possesses and defines it. So while baseball needs the presence of the outside world and is diminished indoors, football is only rendered more intense and primal by the technical refinement that indoor play makes possible. So where has the Astrodome been all these years? Somewhere at once beneath the notice of the architecture profession and beyond its imagination. What if the Astrodome didn't further the "ennobling" of architecture—it forcefully, purposefully, massively, irredeemably changed the social landscape. If any building merits the AIA's 25-year award, it's the Astrodome. That the architecture profession has failed to recognize it as a key monument offers strong evidence that our criteria for measuring architectural quality remain woefully narrow, drawing so heavily on fineness of composition and on an abstract view of form that they blind us to the emotional, experiential character of our relationships with buildings. Douglas Pegues Harvey
With less then 8 weeks remaining before Harris County voters cast their ballots to decide the fate of the “Eighth Wonder of the World,” a group of prominent Houstonians has established a political action committee with which they hope to raise public support for the ailing Astrodome. Launched at a press conference on Thursday, The New Dome PAC has begun efforts to raise upwards of $200,000 for a media campaign intended to persuade the public to vote in favor of Proposition 2, the $217 million project that aims to preserve, repurpose, and modernize the historic stadium. While no opposing organization has yet been formed, some worry that many donors may be tapped out at this point in the political season, and polls conducted by local stations KHOU 11 News and KUHF Houston Public Radio show that the public is still split, with younger voters who may have never attended an event at the Astrodome showing less enthusiasm for putting down the cash to save it. Meanwhile, don't forget that the Architect's Newspaper and YKK AP are hosting an Astrodome Reuse Design Ideas Competition: Reimagine The Astrodome. The registration deadline is September 17, so sign up today! The members of the PAC include former and current Harris County judges Robert Eckels and Ed Emmet, Harris County Commissioner El Franco Lee, Beth Wiedower of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Stephanie Anne Jones of Preservation Houston, Irma Diaz Gonzalez, and Dene Hofheinz, daughter of State Representative, Houston Mayor, County Judge and driving force behind the creation of the Astrodome, Roy Hofheinz. Together, they hope to transform the decaying 9.5-acre stadium into a multi-purpose special events center, dubbed the “New Dome Experience,” capable of hosting a wide array of large scale events, from trade shows and conferences to high school sporting events and Indy car races. The proposed transformation focuses on removing the stadium’s seating and raising its floor level to create 350,000 square feet of unimpeded event space, as well as updating its mechanical systems, installing glazed walls to bring in more natural light, and creating 400,000 square feet of public plaza surrounding the stadium. As Judge Ed Emmet told KUHF News, there is nowhere else in the world with a facility like the envisioned dome. “Once you take all the seats out, think how large of a space that is going to be, and just the opportunities it presents to bring all sorts of events. We have 7,500 festivals every year… You can put those inside the dome. They are weather proof, and it would be a huge attraction.” Despite the seemingly enormous potential of the Astrodome, it has sat empty since the rodeo moved out in 2003. Since then, the pressure to do something with the space has mounted, leading to the National Trust for Historic Preservation's inclusion of the stadium on its 2013 list of 11 most endangered historic places. But those behind the PAC firmly believe in both the tremendous economic potential of the structure as well as its historical and cultural significance. “Every effort should be made to preserve the dome,” Beth Wiedower said to KUHF. “Our coalition and our local partners recognize the Harris County Domed Stadium, the Astrodome, as a nationally significant landmark, not only for its architectural and engineering feats at construction or because it was the first dome stadium in the world and set the standard for stadiums for decades to come, but also because of the tremendous cultural significance it holds for Harris County.” According to Robert Stein, Rice University political science professor and KHOU’s political analyst, despite challenges, things don’t look all that bad for the New Dome PAC and the future of a national landmark. “It’s a little late,” Stein told KHOU. “However, if the supporters of the referendum are organized, spend a lot of money, and there is no organized and vocal opposition, I don’t see this having great difficulty in passing.”
[ Editor's Note: For those of you who are getting excited about The Architect's Newspaper and YKK AP's Reimagine the Astrodome design ideas competition, you have until September 17 to register. Once you've done that, take the time to read the following article, which appeared in the September/October 2013 issue of Texas Architect. Written by Houston-based architect and writer Ben Koush, it covers the current status of the Dome, what it means to Harris County, and Space City's record of not bothering to preserve its architectural heritage. ] Ever since the Houston Oilers owner Bud Adams, in a snit after being refused a new stadium, took his football team to Nashville in 1997 and renamed it the Tennessee Titans, the fate of the Astrodome has been up in the air. Matters were made worse when, instead of rehabilitating the Astrodome a new, neo-traditionalist baseball stadium, Minute Maid Park, was built down-town for the Astros in 1999, and then in 2002, a hulking new football stadium, Reliant Center, was built uncomfortably close to its predecessor to house the replacement team, the Houston Texans, and the Houston Rodeo. The Astrodome, designed by local architects Lloyd, Morgan & Jones and Wilson, Morris, Crain & Anderson, opened in 1965 to national acclaim as the nation’s first covered and completely air-conditioned baseball and football stadium. It was inspired by Harris County Judge Roy Hofheinz’s visit to the ancient Roman Colosseum, where he learned that a retractable canvas cover, the velarium, was once extended to shade most of the seats from the hot Italian sun. The novelty of the covered Texas sports stadium and its one-of-a-kind AstroTurf were pivotal points in the history of sports facilities. However, the decades have taken their toll. And in comparison to the recent crop of flashy new stadiums, the Astrodome looks downright dumpy. In a city that generally equates old with bad, these kinds of situations are usually resolved by demolition. Think Shamrock Hotel (largest hotel in America when it was opened in 1949); River Oaks Shopping Center (the New Deal-era prototype for an uncountable number of strip centers in the country); the Prudential Building (Houston’s first “suburban” skyscraper); and—being demolished as I write this—the former Foley Brothers department store (the grandest and last major downtown department store to be built in any American city). Given this trend, one cannot help but be surprised by what seems to be a miraculous turn of events. Almost as soon as the Astrodome was mothballed, eager would-be developers began pushing proposals for its redevelopment. The pressure increased notably when it became clear that Harris County is using some $3 million to $4 million of public money to maintain the stadium in its unused state each year. Suggestions included hotels, casinos, movie studios, amusement parks, museums, and, my personal favorite, a scheme by recent University of Houston architectural graduate student Ryan Slattery to strip the dome to its steel skeleton and repurpose it as a gigantic, 9-acre gazebo to shade a variety of outdoor activities. Reject, reject, reject. But with the news that Houston will be the location of the 2017 Super Bowl, speculation has intensified that current Harris County Judge Ed Emmett must decide if the Astrodome is to be demolished, as seems to be the desire of the Houston Rodeo in particular, or to be rehabilitated, as seems to be the desire of most Houstonians, who increasingly see it as the city’s signature architectural landmark. Rehabilitation of the iconic building would clearly avoid national embarrassment when the anticipated hordes of visiting sports commentators and football fans descend upon Reliant Stadium. National attention to Houston’s conundrum included articles in the New York Times and the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s decision to include the Astrodome on its 2013 list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places. This summer, Judge Emmett issued an ultimatum that redevelopment proposals would have to be submitted by June 10. The Harris County Sports and Convention Corporation (HCSCC) selected one of the proposals and will put it forward for a public vote in November for bond approvals. If the proposal is rejected, the Astrodome will be demolished. In late June, the HCSCC reviewed the 19 official submissions and duly approved what appears to be a somewhat banal scheme. “The New Dome Experience,” presented by HCSCC Executive Director Willie Loston, seeks to repurpose the Astrodome as a 350,000-sf column-free exhibition space, with an estimated price tag of $194 million. Why such a large convention center? For one thing, participants of the Offshore Technology Conference, which has annual trade shows at the Reliant Center, have been pushing to exhibit ever-larger oil and gas production devices—imagine entire offshore drilling rigs. Other suggested uses include moving the Rodeo’s carnival under cover, housing high school football games, and providing the ever-popular emergency housing in times of disaster. Emmett was recently quoted by writer Whitney Radley as saying, “I think the concept is outstanding, and at the end of it, I really believe that Houston and Harris County would become the event capital of the world.” It’s not all just boosterism, however. This scheme also proposes to include some 400,000 sf of programmed, semi-public outdoor space. So here’s to its success at the ballot boxes in November and to the hope that Houston might someday realize that its architectural patrimony is indeed worth maintaining rather than destroying. Ben Koush is a Houston-based architect and writer.
As enthusiasm continues to build for The Architect Newspaper and YKK AP's Reimagine The Astrodome design ideas competition, which accompanies the launch of the forthcoming AN Southwest edition as well as YKK AP's expansion into the region, we thought we'd take the opportunity to share a collection of excellent black and white photographs of the Astrodome from the Library of Congress. These pictures document the dome as it looked in 2004, after its last tenant, the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, had moved out in 2003, before it was used to house refugees from Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and well before it was declared unfit for occupancy in 2008. Take this opportunity to subscribe to AN Southwest and sign up for the Reimaging The Astrodome competition. These pictures show off several of the more impressive architectural and engineering features of the venerable structure, including the trusses and compression ring that support the 642-foot clear span of the lamella roof, the mechanisms that drive the movable seating sections, and the sensual 1960s modernist character of the exterior concrete screen wall with its stacked parallelograms.
During construction on the Buffalo Bayou Partnership's (BBP) Buffalo Bayou Park Shepherd to Sabine project—which began in 2010 and is seeking to transform the downtown park into a catalyst for making Houston a more livable city—workers rediscovered an underground concrete cistern that had been built in 1927 as the city's first drinking water reservoir. It performed decades of service before springing a leak that couldn't be located or contained, at which point the 87,500-square-foot subterranean chamber was sealed up and forgotten. Today, the old piece of infrastructure is an inspiring, if somewhat erie space. Accessed through manholes and 14-foot ladders, the man-made cavern features row upon row of cathedral-like 25-foot-tall columns standing in several inches of still water. BBP would like to see the space adaptively reused, but such an endeavor currently lies outside the scope of its Shepherd to Sabine project. So to drum up interest in renovating the space, the organization commissioned Houston company SmartGeoMetrics to create a 3D fly-through of the cistern.
To launch the forthcoming Southwest edition of the Architect's Newspaper, and to kick-off YKK AP's expansion into the region, AN and YKK AP have teamed up to host Reimagine The Astrodome, an Astrodome Reuse Design Ideas Competition. The competition is open to anyone who wishes to participate, whether it be professional architects and engineers or students and artists. Registration opened yesterday afternoon and will close on September 17. Entrants who register by September 6 will get $10 off the registration fee, which is $50 for professionals and $20 for students. The top five proposals, which will be selected by a jury of prominent architects and educators in Houston on October 4, will receive cash prizes and be published in the first issue of AN Southwest, cover date November 6, which will be distributed at the Texas Society of Architect's 2013 design expo and convention in Fort Worth. Register today!
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Gensler’s design at the University of Houston is realized in a cloud-inspired, sound-absorptive ceiling solution.Gensler and Ceilings Plus have brought a touch of the Big Apple to the University of Houston’s recently completed Quiet Hall in the Classroom and Business Building. Gensler drew its design inspiration for a ceiling in the new building from the New York Central Library’s Rose Reading Room. The firm hired the California-based Ceilings Plus to translate its interpretation of this classical interior, which includes perforations and geometric folds, into an affordable, buildable, and installable ceiling solution. Ceilings Plus used digital software to marry the design architect’s vision with a workable model that offered minimal joint tolerances and maintained compatibility with HVAC systems. “Since the architect was interested in doing something completely new, it was important to realize that process together,” said Michael Chusid, who works in marketing and business development for Ceilings Plus. Gensler produced three conceptual renderings in Revit, then turned them over to project engineer Robert Wochner, who developed sound-absorptive perforations and a suspension system that could support the various angles of the Quiet Hall’s multi-planar ceiling. Wochner used AutoCAD to reconcile Gensler’s rendering, which depicted a cloud of perforations across the ceiling for sound absorption. Acoustically there was an ineffective number of apertures, so Wochner filled in the original design with smaller, carefully angled perforations. By leaving an ample amount of space between the dropped ceiling and the planchement, the perforations are able to absorb vibrations in an efficient and lightweight system. Nearly 50 configurations were considered before arriving at a final design, which was modeled in SolidWorks. Ceilings Plus fabricated the panels using stock products and a CNC router. The architect’s chose the company’s PVC-free Saranté laminate in a henna-toned wood finish, which is affixed to an aluminum sheet. A punch press knocked out the perforations, revealing a blue felt backing. Despite the ceiling’s complex appearance, Ceilings Plus developed a suspension system based on a conventional T-bar system, making it easy to install. Since the ceiling is not flat, attachment points were individually set to hang each of the 280 panels from between six and eight torsion springs. “With this firm pressure downward, you can extract the panel and lower it out of place to gain access to the ceiling cavity to maintain the HVAC system, ductwork, and other mechanicals,” said Chusid. Custom-fabricated brackets help support the unique angles. Ceilings Plus deployed several expert installers to assist the installation process. “Any time there’s a slope on the ceiling and it interfaces with something round, like a column, it goes from a circle to an ellipse,” said Wochner. “Though we have precise information about the field location, it’s not uncommon to make adjustments on site.”
New York-based landscape architecture firm Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates (MVVA) has been selected to develop new designs for The Menil Collection’s 30-acre campus in Houston, Texas. The appointment kicks off the Menil’s “neighborhood of art” master plan, designed in 2009 by London-based David Chipperfield Architects. Chipperfield's scheme attempts to tie together a group of six buildings spread across several blocks and interspersed with outdoor sculpture gardens and green spaces. The museum anticipates that groundwork for the initial stage of MVVA’s design will begin this September. Chipperfield Architect's master plan calls for new visitor amenities, such as a cafe, as well as new buildings for art. The first of these, The Menil Drawing Institute designed by Los Angeles-based Johnston Marklee, will be dedicated to the display, preservation, and study of modern and contemporary drawings. MVVA will design a new entry on the north side of the Menil’s campus. The firm’s scheme will usher guests from the parking area to a new Menil café, which will be housed in one of the campus' historic bungalows, and the Renzo Piano–designed museum building. Mr. Van Valkenburgh told the New York Times that “it’s always a challenge to take a landscape that has evolved incrementally and a landscape that has a subtle and modest character and to somehow succeed in improving it.” Outdoor garden space is indispensable to the collection and the museum aims to do a better job in curating the landscape. Menil director Josef Helfenstein emphasized in a statement that appreciating art is linked to the entire experience of where it is viewed, including the journey between disparate buildings in an institution like the Menil.
As cities across the country struggle to bring new life to aging athenaeums and cash-strapped local libraries, the AIA has honored six outstanding examples of library design in this year’s AIA/ALA Library Building Awards. In the past we have seen a Walmart transformed into a library, a controversial starchitect renovation in New York, and an interactive, LED light-show—now take a look at these honored projects. From democratic design in the nation’s capital to a stunning Beaux-Arts restoration in St. Louis and high-tech solutions in North Carolina, this year's winning projects present a range of answers to the challenges facing our fading repositories. The jury for the biannual award included Jeanne M. Jackson, FAIA, Chair, VCBO Architecture; John R. Dale, FAIA, Harley Ellis Devereaux; Charles Forrest, Emory University Libraries; Kathleen Imhoff, Library Consultant; J. Stuart Pettitt, AIA, Straub Pettitt Yaste and John F. Szabo, Los Angeles Public Library. Anacostia Neighborhood Library Washington, D.C. The Freelon Group From the AIA: The small-scale residential context provided the inspiration for the design of this new branch library, located in a low-income, underserved neighborhood in Washington, D.C. The project not only fulfilled programmatic needs but also provided a stimulus for community pride and economic development. The residential scale is reflected in the library design as a series of pavilions for program areas that require enclosure: the children’s program room, the young adults’ area, support spaces, and public meeting rooms. The remainder of the level one plan is high, open space for the main reading room, stacks, computers, and public seating areas. A large green roof structure provides shelter over all program areas. Central Library Renovation St. Louis Cannon Design From the AIA: Cass Gilbert’s grand Beaux-Arts library, now 100 years old and a St. Louis cultural landmark, was in need of a transformative restoration that would increase public access and modernize it for the 21st century. On the interior, the centrally located Great Hall is surrounded by five wings, four dedicated to public reading rooms and the fifth, the north wing, to a multistory book depository closed to the public. The transformation of the north wing truly rejuvenated the library and brought it into the next century. Old book stacks were removed, and a new “building within a building” was inserted. Now, a multistory public atrium provides an accessible and welcoming entry. The new “floating platforms” surround the atrium without touching existing interior walls. Glass-enclosed upper levels house the collection with compact high-density bookshelves. The windows of the north wall, now clear glass, bounce natural light deep into the interior and provide striking views. New York Public Library, Hamilton Grange Teen Center New York City Rice + Libpka Architects From the AIA: The center, located on the previously empty third-floor space of Harlem’s Hamilton Grange branch library, designed by McKim, Mead and White, is NYPL’s first full-floor space dedicated to teens. In an effort to attract and engage neighborhood youth, the 4,400-square-foot space challenges the norms of library design. The light-filled floor is divided into specific zones that foster small-group interaction and socialization. Visibility is maintained across the entire floor. Two programmatic elements—a 20-foot-diameter Media Vitrine and a bamboo bleacher—occupy the center of the space and work to define the seven zones between and around them. The vitrine’s open-top glass enclosure upends the notion that multimedia spaces must be dark, hyperisolated rooms. The bleacher allows views out to the street from the existing high south-facing windows and provides a sunny hang-out for a range of group sizes. Custom L-shaped lounge benches bracket this space and can be rolled away to allow for other uses and activities. James B. Hunt Library Raleigh, North Carolina Snøhetta and Pear Brinkley Cease + Lee From the AIA: An $11 million reduction in the budget for this library during the schematic design phase prompted the design, construction, and client teams to formulate a range of new ideas to maintain functionality and quality. The building would need to be highly programmed and reasonably versatile as well as comfortable and stimulating to visitors. One innovation was the introduction of an automated book delivery system (ABDS), which effectively reduced the total area of the building by 200,000 gross square feet and allowed more space for collaboration and technology. The ABDS is supported by user-friendly browsing software that matches and even enhances the traditional pleasure of browsing a collection. Oak Forest Neighborhood Library Houston NAAA + AWI + JRA From the AIA: This 7,600-square-foot modern brick and glass structure opened in 1961. Fifty years later, there was still great nostalgia for the library’s mid-century modern design, but the building no longer met the standards of the Houston Public Library system or the needs of the surrounding neighborhood. The 2011 renovations and additions respect the character of the existing library and enhance its accessibility and functionality. The original building’s restored signature green tile mosaic still graces the parking entry area on the north, but now the neighborhood is welcomed by a tree-shaded second entry and outdoor reading room framed by new dedicated adult and teen areas on the west. The original tile mosaic and globe light canopy of the old circulation desk were restored to create a toddler-sized reading nook. Each age group—from toddlers through teens and adults—now has appropriate facilities, furnishings, and technology. A new lobby and circulation space, lit by a continuous shaded clerestory, occupies the seam between old and new and unites the two entries. South Mountain Community Library Phoenix richärd+brauer From the AIA: The building integrates the varied uses of a contemporary public library with the needs of a state-of-the-art central campus library, allowing each to function both independently and collaboratively. The design is modeled after that of an integrated circuit, providing insulation between disparate functions and promoting interaction and connection between like functions and spaces. The simple massing of the building is attenuated to focus views on the surrounding mountains and provide shade and transparency. The site was once home to fertile agricultural valleys and citrus groves, and the building consciously merges interior and exterior spaces to connect to the area’s rich history. A series of rooftop monitors and light shafts flood natural light into the first-level core. The rain screen, formed of bent planks of copper, calls to mind the pattern of an abstracted bar code. Variegated cedar strips reinforce the digital aesthetic of the building. Further echoing the design of a circuit board, building systems are organized and expressed within an internally lit independent distribution soffit.