Posts tagged with "Texas":

San Antonio’s “Latino High Line” opens to the public

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

Santiago Calatrava’s second Dallas bridge faces engineering questions

After a highly anticipated opening last summer, the Santiago Calatrava-designed Margaret McDermott Bridge in Dallas, Texas, has been plagued with cable rod issues, according to the Dallas Observer. The Margaret McDermott Bridge spans the Trinity River and is part of the Dallas-Fort Worth region’s Horseshoe Project, a plan meant to revitalize downtown Dallas by addressing the city’s traffic congestion. Work on the Margaret McDermott Bridge was spurred on by the public’s reception to the iconic Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge in 2012, a cable-stayed bridge supported by a 400-foot-tall, central, arched pylon. While the concrete core of the Margaret McDermott Bridge, which extends Interstate 30 and supports vehicle traffic, opened in 2013, the 1,200-foot-long suspension arches, designed by Calatrava, were appended to both sides of the bridge separately to give it a “signature element.” The east span was supposed to support the bike and pedestrian lanes, but has remained closed due to safety concerns after several engineering issues came to light. In a bid to save as much money as possible, the construction contractors and city of Dallas worked out an agreement to skip stress testing for the design, which would have spotted the vulnerability earlier. The use of smaller, cheaper adjustment rods, has led to the cables vibrating in the intense wind over the river, and both the walking and bike paths remain closed since the bridge’s completion. Heavy dampers were later installed to minimize the movement of the cables after several failed, owing to the undue stress caused by the vibrations. Both lanes currently remain blocked with notices that threaten legal action against trespassers. The spans have been causing problems since their inception. After Calatrava initially proposed a $200 million bridge with four arches, the city was only able to wrangle $92 million, knocking the two interior archways off the bridge. The cost soon ballooned to $115 million, which the city promised to make up for through donations and value engineering; it now seems that original decision will end up costing the city even more money down the line. Calatrava argued that the testing should have gone ahead and offered to pay out of pocket. Some have questioned the installation of a suspension bridge near Dallas, real or fake, in the first place. “We are not a city with a large navigable river that would warrant a suspension bridge,” said Dallas City Council member Scott Griggs. “This is Texas, not Spain.” Calatrava's projects are no stranger to controversy, from the highly publicized leaks in the lower Manhattan Oculus to the recent halt in construction on the World Trade Center complex Saint Nicholas Greek Orthodox National Shrine. It remains to be seen how much it will cost to fix these engineering oversights, or how much of the blame will fall on Calatrava.

2017 Best of Design Awards for Unbuilt – Infrastructure

2017 Best of Design Award for Infrastructure: The Regional Unified Network Designer: ReThinkStudio Location: New York 
The Regional Unified Network (RUN) is a multistage proposal to unlock the full potential of the Tri-State area’s mass transit system by making a few crucial investments at key choke points. With the creation of new transit hubs and more useful service patterns, RUN will allow the region to develop as a connected whole rather than a series of parts. RUN repurposes existing infrastructure, reallocates or redirects proposed spending, and fits within the overall funding commitments already made. When fully built, RUN will enable travelers to get to any point in the region via mass transit, either directly or with seamless and easy connections just like London’s Crossrail or the Paris RER. “The idea that this is a game changer for New York is obviously an understatement. This city needs bold and big ideas to wrestle with its failings in infrastructure.” —Nathaniel Stanton, principal, Craft Engineer Studio (juror)   Honorable Mention Project: Houston-Galveston Area Protection System Designer: Rogers Partners Location: Galveston Bay, Texas The Houston-Galveston Area Protection System (H-GAPS) is a regional surge protection system. The H-GAPS strategy involves multiple lines of defense, combining a coastal spine-type barrier system with an in-bay barrier system. Once complete, HGAPS will contribute 9,000 acres of publicly-accessible waterfront destination for the enjoyment of residents and visitors.

2017 Best of Design Awards for Adaptive Reuse

2017 Best of Design Award for Adaptive Reuse: The Contemporary Austin, Jones Center Architect: Lewis.Tsurumaki.Lewis Architects Location: Austin, Texas Formed from the merging of Arthouse and the Austin Museum of Art, the Contemporary Austin is a 23,800-square-foot museum in the heart of Austin. The building presents a fresh identity for the new organization, while preserving and adding to the century-old building’s history of transformations from a theater, a department store, and a local art center to a highly refined exhibition space. The most public aspect of the renovation comprises a perforated aluminum canopy that floats 23 feet above the roof deck, providing shelter from the elements and framing site-specific art installations on the parapet. The canopy supports a retractable weather curtain, monumentally scaled at over 5,600 square feet. Key to the renovations, though less visible by design, are alterations that provide increased capacity for large-scale artworks and exhibitions, including enlarged access panels, a high-capacity scissor lift, environmental control upgrades, and improvements to the building envelope. "Simultaneously serious and whimsical, the project is a beacon not only for Austin, but for adaptive reuse in general—inspiring for its inventiveness." —Eric Bunge, Principal, nARCHITECTS (juror) Construction Manager: Zapalac/Reed Construction Company MEP Engineer: Kent Consulting Engineers Structural Engineer: MJ Structures Lighting Designer: Lumen Architecture Curtain Fabricator: Contract Workroom   Honorable Mentions Project: New Lab at the Brooklyn Navy Yard Firm: Marvel Architects Location: Brooklyn, New York The New Lab transforms Building 128 at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, once a shipbuilding factory, into a high-tech design and prototyping center. A variety of classes and educational programs will provide job training for Navy Yard tenants and other high-tech manufacturers, as well as local entrepreneurs wishing to advance their skills. Honorable Mention Project: Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MASS MoCA), The Robert W. Wilson Building Architect: Bruner/Cott Architects Place: North Adams, Massachusetts Mass MoCA breathes new life into a 17-acre industrial complex built in the late 1800s with this pioneering adaptive reuse project. The museum was completed in three phases, with the Robert W. Wilson Building being MASS MoCA’s final realization of its “museums within the museum” concept.

New border wall documents show path of destruction through Texas homes, wildlife preserves

Newly released records have cast light on the Army Corps of Engineers’ assessment of border wall plans in South Texas. Spanning 33 miles across the Rio Grande Valley, the 15 proposed walls would tear through wildlife habitats, RV parks and involve costly legal battles over the Trump administration’s efforts to acquire privately held land. The documents, obtained by the Texas Observer with a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, have broken down the ease of building each segment into “least challenging," “challenging” and “most challenging.” Only seven of the proposed 21 sections are rated as “least challenging,” with challenges for the other tracts ranging from existing infrastructure to unequal terrain. “Nice RV park, many retirees live there permanently. Western half of segment will impacts upward of 100 homeowners,” reads a two-mile-long “most challenging” entry. Another notes that the wall will need to cut through a dam that holds back a nearby town’s reservoir of drinking water. Others comment on the proximity of housing along the wall’s route, leading to questions over how the federal government will try to reconcile building on private land when there are already 320 cases in the Rio Grande Valley pending from a similar 2007 expansion. This wouldn’t be the first time the Trump administration has tried to push through border wall construction in the area. The 2,088-acre Santa Ana Wildlife Refuge in South Texas is one of the largest refuges in the country, but the federal government has already begun plans to bisect the park with a levee wall. Despite the backlash from the public and government officials, the government owns the refuge and work is moving forward. Labeled as a pilot project, the images released today depict a concrete based wall topped with 18-foot-tall steel bollards. Reportedly costing $15 million per mile, the Army Corps anticipates a completion date of July 2019. However, these new documents show that the levee wall isn’t Santa Ana’s only concern. The administration now wants to add a 150-foot-wide paved enforcement zone running south of the levee wall, complete with 120-foot surveillance towers, lights, and underground motion sensors. Scott Nicol is co-chair of the Sierra Club’s borderlands team, and put in the original FOIA request. “With this type of construction it would be difficult for Santa Ana to stay open,” said Nicol. The enforcement zone isn’t just limited to the refuge, according to the Army Corps’ analysis. Several entries comment on the difficulty of acquiring the land required for the zone, with one stating “Church and cemetery directly impacted by enforcement zone.” The release of this feasibility study closely follows the recent unveiling of eight border wall prototypes. Although funding for the border wall is still being fiercely contested, it seems the Trump administration is moving ahead in any way it can.

Texas pushes ambitious $61 billion resiliency plan after Hurricane Harvey

A wide-ranging $61 billion proposal by Governor Greg Abbot and other Texas leaders for rebuilding in the wake of Hurricane Harvey was released last Wednesday, and is already being met with uncertainty by Washington, D.C. officials. Two-and-a-half months after Harvey made landfall in Texas as a Category 4 storm, the official damages estimate has risen to $180 billion while residents and institutions are still struggling to adjust. Calling for enhanced infrastructure measures to prevent future coastal flooding, coupled with buyouts for homes in vulnerable areas, the governor’s request goes far beyond just rebuilding what had been destroyed. Future-proofing the Gulf Coast will mean building detention lakes, dredging canals, and maybe most ambitiously, the construction of the “Ike Dike,” a $12 billion series of “coastal spines.” Meant to mainly protect the Houston-Galveston area, the three large coastal barriers have been proposed to both prevent incoming storm surges as well as allow water to be pumped out more easily. As Houston is the fourth largest city in the U.S., home to one of the largest ports in the country and situated near a high concentration of petroleum refining plants, the area is uniquely exposed to flood risks. With a major hurricane hitting the Gulf Coast every fifteen years on average, the governor’s office has placed precedence on hardening critical coastal infrastructure. But over $1 billion is also set aside for buying out properties in the most vulnerable areas, similar to New York State’s post-Sandy acquisition program meant to turn destroyed residential areas into waterfront buffers. Despite only being one-third of the predicted total reconstruction cost, government officials have demurred when asked about the price tag, the Houston Chronicle reported. “We're working on a number. We don't have a number,” said Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas). He remarked that coming up with such a large funding request is difficult at a time when so many other states are also asking for disaster relief coming off of a particularly active hurricane and wildfire season. Texas is currently facing years of recovery as designers have called attention to the historic residences, businesses and cultural institutions damaged during Harvey. With state and local governments outlining their plans for disaster mitigation, it will be worth watching to see how Texas moves forward. Read the full Rebuild Texas plan below:

Texas Harvey Presentation by Houston Chronicle on Scribd

Architects organize as Harvey recovery begins

As flood waters begin to recede in Texas and daylight illuminates the destruction caused by Hurricane Harvey, many architects are wondering what the next steps will be as recovery plans begin to take shape. The short-term work will be to assess the damage and make the built environment safe for families to return; however, the long-term planning may take months or likely years of advocacy and design to fully implement. The Houston chapter of the AIA, the Texas Society of Architects, and FEMA will begin this week to train architects and engineers as part of the AIA’s Safety Assessment Program (SAP). This program helps to ensure the safety of the public as thousands of families return to their storm-battered houses and business in the coming weeks. Architects can help save millions of dollars for cities along the coast by volunteering to evaluate the habitability of these structures, freeing up funds for life safety and other emergency services. These volunteers will also help to compile data that will be used to develop new response strategies and better inform residents about how to manage the reconstruction of their houses. The last major hurricane to hit Houston was Ike back in 2008 in which the flooding conditions were not as severe, though many consider it an early warning of what was to come. According to Rusty Bienvenue, the executive director of AIA Houston, there are a variety of opinions about why the flooding was so extensive, but ultimately, “no city in America is prepared for 35 inches of rain all at once.” Bienvenue cautioned against blaming the extensive flooding wholly on Houston's zoning codes, or rather lack of code, arguing that approach is a narrow analysis of the complex environmental conditions. “We need to look at codes and strengthen them in some cases, but I get grumpy when some blame everything on supposedly bad design in Houston,” he said. Bienvenue indicated that poor regional planning and overbuilding around the reservoirs may have had detrimental effects on Houston's ability to drain its floodwaters during the worst of Hurricane Harvey. He also pointed towards a more pernicious problem, which is the likelihood that the severity of this storm was the result of global climate change. Resiliency planning and design has been a topic of great debate among Texas’ academic institutions, particularly at Rice University’s SSPEED Center in Houston, Texas and Texas A&M’s Hazard Reduction and Recovery Center in College Station, Texas. These and other issues will be at the forefront of the discourse as designers look for solutions to safeguard American coastal cities.

Austin is getting its own “smart” street

Smart city technology is a burgeoning but embryonic field: Kansas City has its "Living Lab," New York City has its LinkNYC, and Toronto may get an entire Sidewalk Labs–developed smart city tech testing ground—and that's just to name a few. While each project is different, many involve using a network of sensors, wi-fi stations, and smartphone apps to better connect residents (and tourists) with local businesses, events, and public transportation. Now, Austin is joining this cadre of smart city testers. Austin CityUP Consortium—an alliance of businesses, government agencies, nonprofits, and other organizations—is behind the Smart 2nd Street Living Lab, an effort to bring a similar smart city network to five blocks of Austin's 2nd Street. (The Lab will extend from Guadalupe Street to Trinity Street on 2nd Street, to be exact.) This system will, according to the Consortium, "collect [and] analyze data such as: pedestrian, traffic, sound, air quality, video, and more to determine safety, quality of life, and other needs." Helping to power this undertaking will be Connecthings, a French company that has already implemented similar technology in European cities such as Lyon and Barcelona, and even farther afield in Rio de Janeiro. How does it work? Generally, it goes like this: many already-existing apps benefit from knowing your location. If they know where you are, the apps can show you geographically-relevant information on local events, transit notifications, security alerts, etc. That's what Connecthings does: it deploys small battery-driven sensors and software that ensures location-specific information gets to the relevant apps on your phone. In the case of Austin, Connecthings is just providing elements of the software while BlueCats is deploying the beacons. Additionally, the Austin test won't initially involve apps—instead, when users with Bluetooh and Chrome approach certain bus stations, they will receive the option (in their notifications/widget panel) to connect to a location-specific URL. Selecting that URL will provide real-time bus schedules for that stop. This feature will be operational as soon as the sensors are installed in September. Down the line, as early as October, other apps will enable the project's full range of "use cases," which includes the ability to find open parking spots, locate alternative transportation options (e.g. ride-shares, public bicycles, taxis), receive wayfinding assistance, or learn about pop-ups and public art. Additionally, the city can use the sensors to record the street's environmental conditions and learn how people are using the streetscape itself. “Austin embraces new technologies that empower its citizens and visitors to get access to real-time information—hence facilitate daily life in helping navigating transportation services,” said Laetitia Gazel Anthoine, CEO and founder of Connecthings. “AustinCityUP is Austin’s key innovation enabler that fosters partnerships and helps make an impact in the city, right away.” If successful, according to the Consortium, this network could extend beyond 2nd Street.

Two Ai Weiwei sculptures come to Texas

According to the League of American Cyclists, Austin is the only “Gold Level” city in Texas. The cycle group, Bike Austin, currently boasts approximately 13,000 members—more than one percent of Austin’s population. So perhaps a sculpture titled Forever Bicycles has found the right home.

Forever Bicycles comprises, well, you guessed it, a lot of bicycles—1,200, to be precise.

The large-scale work from Chinese artist Ai Weiwei is part of The Contemporary Austin’s Museum Without Walls program and its ongoing partnership with Waller Creek Conservancy. It can be found adjacent to the Waller Creek Boathouse at 74 Trinity Street.

The steel bikes have not been painted or colored, resulting in a gray monolith that recalls Weiwei’s childhood memories and dadaist principles. In particular, it seems to reference Marcel Duchamp’s subversions of the everyday object such as the Bicycle Wheel, one first of the French artist’s “readymades.”

However, while Duchamp toyed with the mode transport in a singular fashion, Weiwei exhibits it in excess, recalling the bike brand “Forever” that dominated the streets of China during his childhood, yet were out of his, and many others’, price range.

The bikes are connected and arranged in a seemingly disorderly manner, yet this pattern of partially tessellating bicycles is repeated 11 times, with each iteration being equidistant from the next. From certain angles, the density of the sculpture obscures the cycle motif and the artwork is instead perceived as a metal mesh. However, this isn’t putting off Bike Austin, which says it will be incorporating the sculpture into the daily cycle routes.

Forever Bicycles is actually one of two Weiwei works that now fall under the Museum Without Walls program. The second, titled Iron Tree Trunk, is located at the museum’s Betty and Edward Marcus Sculpture Park at Laguna Gloria and sees a replica dead tree trunk rise 15 feet.

On a visit to the Chinese town of Jingdezhen, Weiwei observed how locals trade dry wood by basing the value on the wood’s form and general aesthetic. This inspired Weiwei to experiment with wood in a large-scale format. By 2009, he was exhibiting works that used twisted timber, and Iron Tree Trunk, conceived in 2015, continues this thought. The sculpture uses the remains of a large tree that have been pieced together to form a new “tree” that, at a glance, looks as if it is from oxidized iron.

“With beautiful and outspoken conceptual work fused to his own larger-than-life persona, Ai Weiwei has become one of the most important artists working today,” said Louis Grachos, executive director of The Contemporary Austin in a statement. “And his relevance is only deepening given the current political climate in the United States and throughout the world.”

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.

This “barn” uses traditional red wooden planks and copper to produce a striking, long lasting facade

Part of a larger master plan funded by the North Dallas Lamplighter School’s “Igniting Young Minds for a Lifetime of Learning” campaign, a new Innovation Lab and Lamplighter Barn are aimed at marrying technology and the school’s storied cooperative learning curriculum. Both buildings were designed by Arkansas-based architect Marlon Blackwell and represent his first built works in North Texas. The Innovation Lab will be home to a new teaching kitchen, environmental science spaces, a robotics lab, and a woodworking shop. The Lamplighter Barn will replace the campus’s former chicken coop and with it add an adjacent outdoor space for the animals of the campus to graze. Although the Lamplighter Barn continues to use the traditional red wooden planks, in line with the beloved existing barn it replaces, the Innovation Lab takes a striking visual direction through linear design moves and the introduction of copper in a broad stroke. “Copper is a durable and elegant material,” Blackwell said. The patina that will form over time will create variation in the facade as it responds to the movement of the sun overhead. The intent to use a long-lasting material was essential to the campus’ direction from the outset. Blackwell’s team developed a profile and standing seam system in line with their experience through the use of similar materials and articulation on past projects. With contractors Hill & Wilkinson and Sterling Roof Systems, details and methods were coordinated prior to fabrication. The resulting concealed-fastener, flat-panel system provides a high-performance facade that minimizes the amount of maintenance required over the long-term life of the building. Though visually striking, the copper is not completely foreign to the campus—the material relates back to the details that adorn the original structures designed by O’Neil Ford. “The school’s curriculum is progressive, rooted in strong values, and proven to be one of the best in the country,” Blackwell explained. “The material choice not only complements the existing O’Neil Ford campus, it presents a new and substantial language for the school, one of permanence, and value, that continues to change and withstand the test of time.” Both the Lamplighter Barn and Innovation Lab are set to open summer 2017. Resources Roofing manufacturer, facade fabricator and installer: Sterling Roof Systems Facade collaborators: Hill & Wilkinson

A controversial master plan for The Alamo causes debate among architects and the public alike

A $450 million plan for the treasured historic site of The Alamo in downtown San Antonio is causing a stir. Architects, planners, professors, patriotic preservationists, and the public are in disagreement over a rejuvenation scheme that looks to open up the plaza but relocate a historic cenotaph in the process. The Alamo Mission (commonly known as just "The Alamo") is home to the 18th Century chapel, Shrine of Texas Liberty, and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A 1930s cenotaph erected in tribute to the Texian and Tejano defenders who were killed in an 1836 Mexican onslaught is at the center of the debate. The plan devised by nonprofit Alamo Endowment, the Alamo Commission, the city of San Antonio, and the Texas Land Office, looks to move the cenotaph to declutter the plaza and allow it to become a space for events. To improve access, perimeter walls that enclose the state-owned Alamo Gardens would be removed. These, unlike the cenotaph, are not historic and their removal, according to officials, would add approximately five acres to the site. The walls would also be partially replaced by glass walls too. Of the $450 million, $110 million will be used to renovate and repurpose three buildings (owned by the state) as a museum. The historic battlefield site is a top destination for Texans and tourists alike, attracting around 1.6 million every year. Plans to modernize the site aim to triple these figures over a decade and add 2,000 jobs to the area. "A lot of the children that will be going to this museum and to the compound are not even born today," Gene Powell, an Alamo Endowment board member told the City Council. "Technology is going to change. Children are going to want things that are more exciting and more fun. They want to be able to see things." Some, though, are not impressed: "This proposal represents a failure to address the real concerns and needs of visitors and heritage tourists who are asking to see more of the Alamo—not aesthetic landscaping," wrote Glenn Effler in the San Antonio Express-News. "The re-created acequia and the trees are little more than window dressing, a cosmetic treatment to a historic battlefield that is in dire need of inspiring interpretation." Effler is a senior member of the Alamo Plaza Project and board member of the Alamo Society. His letter in full can be read here. Local resident Susan Green, speaking to the San Antonio Express-News, was also skeptical of the proposed master plan. She was worried that the glass walls would be "a stark, modern looking contrast to the architecture in all of downtown." In light of the scheme's criticism, though, a number of architects and others in the architecture discipline penned a letter of support for what they described as a "great beginning to a plan that should lead to a transformative place."
As architects, we believe that the Alamo Master Plan in its final form can restore both the Alamo and the integrity of this historic place in our city. We applaud this incredible effort. All the residents in our city and our state want this plan to succeed. To be a vital destination for everyone, it is equally important to have the plaza be a dynamic and welcoming civic space as it has been for the past 200 years—perhaps the most memorable place in the state. Like all good master plans, the first plan is the beginning of the conversation. We should honor the Alamo and Alamo Plaza by having a thoughtful “listening” period to allow the plan to get better (building upon the successes of the River North, Broadway, Hemisfair and South Town Master Plans). Alamo Plaza should be a memorable place for residents and visitors to return to again and again. A place that strengthens our city. On May 11, we hoped the City Council will approve the master plan conditional on the need for a continuing process that keeps the plaza as a connected civic space rather than a controlled-access outdoor museum. The plaza must be a welcoming and integral part of our city, balancing the historic aspects of the Alamo with the civic needs of the plaza.
Thirty-one architects signed the letter, including David Lake and Ted Flato from Lake/Flato Architects and Lawrence Speck, professor, School of Architecture at the University of Texas at Austin. The letter can be read in full here. The day after this letter was posted online, however, David Lake published a critique of the master plan in The Rivard Report. He responded to elements in the master plan that in his view, were not addressed in an appropriate manner, notably the proposed glass walls. Here are a few of the key faults he noted:
The master plan creates new walls to the north and a west acequia which are not in historic locations and confuse the integrity of the battlefield. The arbitrary location of the north wall and the west acequia disrupt the plaza’s original character implying a much smaller space, which is not historically accurate. The walls exclude the community and disrupt connectivity, creating a place for visitors but inflexible to events that occur today. In this plan, it is no longer a community gathering place.
Lake also argued that the plan only honored the Alamo Plaza of 1836 and "not the history of commerce in the plaza post-1836." His critique in full can be found here. If the master plan is approved, half of the sum required will come from San Antonio and the state, while the rest would be privately funded. A decision is due to be made on May 11. [UPDATE, 5/2/2017] This text has been updated from a previous version, published yesterday that did not include architect David Lake's critique of the master plan, which was also published that day. Further text from the signed architects' letter has been added to clarify their support for the "master plan process" rather than the master plan in its current form.