Posts tagged with "Texas":

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October 30–31: Facades+ Makes its Dallas Debut

Home to Morphosis' Perot Museum of Nature and Science, the Santiago Calatrava–designed Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge, and a starchitecture-studded cultural district, Dallas is increasingly an architectural destination in its own right. This fall, AEC industry professionals have one more reason to visit: the inaugural Facades+ Dallas conference, taking place October 30–31 at CityPlace Events. The Facades+ conference's Dallas debut is a homecoming of sorts for the native Texans on the planning team, who include AN founder and publisher Diana Darling, AN managing editor Aaron Seward, and Mode Lab founding partner Ronnie Parsons. The not-to-be-missed event begins with a symposium featuring the movers and shakers of high-performance envelope design, like keynote presenters Antoine Predock and Marlon Blackwell, plus special appearances by Jeremy Strick, Director of the Nasher Sculpture Center, and City of Dallas Assistant Director of Public Works Zaida Basora. The symposium is followed by a day of dialog and tech workshops—intimate opportunities for hands-on exposure to real-world examples and cutting-edge design tools. All three afternoon dialog workshops incorporate field trips to either the University of Texas at Arlington or the Renzo Piano–designed Nasher Sculpture Center. Facades+ Dallas attendees will have the opportunity to earn up to 16 AIA CEUs over the course of the two-day conference, as well as to meet and mingle with the leading lights of facade design and construction. To learn more and to register, visit the Facades+ Dallas website.
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5G Studio Wraps Legacy ER in a Zinc Robe

Medical clinic in the Dallas suburbs features a contemporary facade of perforated metal panels.

When Legacy ER commissioned 5G Studio to design an emergency care facility in Allen, Texas, the architects seized the opportunity to define an emerging building type. One of a growing number of freestanding emergency care centers (FECCs) popping up across the United States, the Legacy ER in Allen combines an emergency room and urgent care clinic under one roof. The Allen facility is the second collaboration between the care provider and 5G Studio, who also designed Legacy ER's FECC in Frisco. "Based on the Frisco project they saw it as a strength to their brand to design an outstanding facility," said partner Yen Ong. "Architectural identity is one of their brand hallmarks." Inspired both by traditional domestic architecture and the image of a physician's robe, Legacy ER - Allen's sculptural zinc facade punctures the monotony of its suburban surroundings. In Allen, "like in any suburban context, you have McMansions and little to excite you," said Ong. "We took the opportunity to reflect on the identity of the organization, and to try to create an episodic architectural intervention into that suburb." The architects looked at the site's context and saw a lot of single-family homes with pitched roofs. "We said, 'Let's start there,'" recalled Ong. "We began to take the idea of the sloped roof, but reflect it in a modern and a new way." They experimented with the form, and hit upon the idea of building a robe—like the physician's white coat—to enclose the program. The robe lifts at strategic points to create entrances and a mezzanine-level conference room. As at the Frisco facility, the designers chose zinc for Legacy ER - Allen's envelope. "In Frisco, we convinced Legacy ER that zinc is a good reflection on their brand," said Ong. "It's sustainable, very durable, and malleable. It had all the qualities we want and allows a lot of aesthetic freedom." Zinc holds up well under Texas's regular hailstorms. "What we found in the first building is that even if the hail scratches or dents it, it's surprising how resilient it is—it doesn't look like a damaged car body," said Ong. Ong also notes that zinc, despite its cool grey color, conveys an impression of warmth, an important consideration for a facility that serves people in crisis. In Frisco, 5G Studio found that the brightness of the interior lights at night rendered the exterior as dark and closed. To avoid a similar problem at the Allen clinic, they perforated the cladding and installed an efficient lighting system behind it. "The zinc panels essentially become light fixtures, emitting diffuse light on the exterior," said Ong. Gradients in the perforations insure a uniform distribution of light across the plane, to prevent glare. During the day, the perforations allow daylight to filter in through overhangs on the west and east sides of the building, where high-performance glazing (fritted or placed high for privacy) provides additional protection against solar gain.
  • Facade Manufacturer Rheinzink
  • Architects 5G Studio
  • Facade Installer UEB Builders (general contractor), Ramon Franklin LLC (roofing), Tepco Contract (glazing)
  • Location Allen, TX
  • Date of Completion 2013
  • System perforated zinc panels, glass curtain walls, standing seam metal roof
  • Products Rheinzink zinc panels, Rheinzink metal roofing, curtain walls and glazing from PPG and YKK AP, lighting from Eurofase (forms and surfaces) and dmfLighting (downlights)
Both the cladding itself and the roofing challenge the notion that advanced forms necessitate advanced construction techniques. "The zinc itself employed a very typical assembly; the roofing is standard metal roofing," said Ong. "We purposefully selected the very common method of standing seam metal roofing, but express it in a different way. We felt like the achievement on the exterior is not, 'Here's a sculptural form with an advanced cladding system.' It's to reinvent a standard assembly system." In contrast to Legacy ER - Allen's dynamic facade, the building's interior features blurred edges and soft natural light. The dissimilarity is meant to embody the two sides of the physician's nature. "We know that the physician owners are very competent, but, more importantly, they are human, and they are very good people. We wanted to reflect that duality in the facility," said Ong. "To achieve that we employed two different architectural languages: on the exterior, the building has very sharp geometry, which is reflective of the physician's professionalism and their ability. On the interior, there are gentle curves, and the daylight is diffuse. It's very gentle on the inside." Legacy ER took a risk in selecting a cutting-edge design for a medical clinic located in the Dallas suburbs, said Ong. "As much confidence as our client had coming into the relationship with 5G Studio, we didn't know how far we could push this next project. Frisco was nowhere close to this," he said. But the gamble paid off, and the result is a building that, beyond boosting Legacy ER's brand, sets a new standard for healthcare design. "We felt like this piece will challenge the perception that healthcare architecture is a subset of practice so burdened with technical requirements that it's nothing more than healthcare architecture," said Ong. "We hope to contribute to the notion that healthcare architecture is just architecture."
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Austin Considers Building A Light Rail-Streetcar Hybrid

As part of continuing efforts in the Southwest to develop and improve transit systems, the City of Austin has announced its intention to build an urban rail system known as UltraRail that will run through the city’s eastern downtown. Traffic in east downtown Austin is beastly. It is largely made up of drivers who have short commutes, who together create major congestion during rush hour. For this reason UltraRail is being designed as a light rail/streetcar hybrid. It will be built with sharper control sensibilities, allowing for tighter corner turns, and regularly spaced, relatively close stops along the route that will hopefully make it a viable alternative to driving. But the heavy-duty installation is no light matter. Depending on how plans solidify, UltraRail is estimated to cost $1.6 billion. Half of the money will be paid by federal dollars; the other half will come from obligation bonds. Austin is currently working with stakeholders to determine the exact length and placement of the UltraRail system, and how best to phase the project. In addition to ironing out the technical wrinkles, the usual hurdles remain: nailing down the specifics of budget, design, and pushing through the various planning stages in order to begin building. Completion is presently slated for 2020.
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One Small Step For Houston is One Giant Step Backward for Johnson Space Center

AN recently profiled the emerging architectural typology of spaceports across the country, and now there's news from the Houston site that helped launch the dream of space travel decades ago. Independence Shuttle, a full-scale replica of NASA’s iconic Space Shuttle, recently was moved from the Johnson Space Center (JSC) to its next-door neighbor, Space Center Houston. To some people, the relocation was a matter of mere logistics. To others, however, the transfer symbolized not just a lessening of power and precedence associated with Johnson Space Center, but with NASA’s space program as a whole. Johnson Space Center, formed in 1961, is one of ten major NASA field centers, and one of the most famous space travel establishments. The 40-foot deep swimming pool built for astronaut training, was, in its heyday, frequented by astronauts and the curious public alike. The control room oversaw the launch and devastating loss of the Challenger, received Armstrong’s transmission as he made his first steps on the moon, and rejoiced with the rest of America during the Apollo 13 recovery. To say that JSC is iconic, a cornerstone, and a piece of history is an understatement: it is a monolithic nexus of space travel, this world’s anchoring connection to the vast unknown. So as grand-scale space launches wane and commercial flight takes over, the creeping neglect of JSC’s facilities and consequent decline stabs into the hearts of those connected to NASA’s past—and not simply for nostalgic reasons. Astronauts associated with JSC’s glory days—men like Neil Armstrong, Gene Cernan, and Jim Lovell—have spoken out against the political shifts associated with JSC’s downsizing. One such maneuver occurred when President Obama cancelled Constellation—a Bush-era initiative to send astronauts to the moon—in order to shuttle a sizable chunk of NASA’s funding from the manned space exploration into commercial space flight. The shift denotes a decrease in specialist training aimed at greater expansion into grand scale space projects—missions to Mars, for example, or a continuation of low-orbiting space travel—towards everything that “commercial space travel” connotes: sending consumers, not specialists, into orbit; changing the pioneer frontier into a tourism industry. Armstrong and Levitt both argue that the change negates the $10 billion already funneled into Constellation. They claim that private enterprise is taking a major step backward, that government’s funding focal change will place the U.S. into a reliant relationship with Russia, thereby relegating the nation to a second-rate spot for space travel. These men are the voice, in a nutshell, of those deeply unhappy with the changes taking place. JSC countered these claims with an official statement claiming that the center is still relevant. It cited robotics projects and continued operation of Orion—a spacecraft designed to take astronauts to asteroids—as evidence. JSC, the statement said, is a cultural mainstay of Houston’s identity, and it will stay that way. Certain facts remain however, and seeing, in this case, is part of believing. The government’s retraction of funds has instilled the center with a calcified, weary demeanor.  JSC has employed far fewer people in the past two years than ever before.  Half the buildings have been torn down or consolidated. One of them is a new building, the NASA Johnson Space Center 20, which has upstaged its famous brother by being the first LEED platinum project of its kind in NASA. In comparison, the control room at JSC that once oversaw mankind’s greatest scientific achievements now has less technology than the average smart phone. “Nothing’s going on there,” said one former NASA employee. “People are leaving in waves.” The Independence Shuttle was just moved next door. But as far as interpreting symbols go, they might as well have launched it to the moon.
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Houston Offering Tax Breaks to Build Housing Downtown, Create a Vibrant City

Houston is set to double the amount of tax breaks it gives to developers for downtown apartments and condos to try to lure people to the city's sleepy business district. The City Council unanimously agreed to expand the Downtown Living Initiative, which first launched a year and a half ago, to offer tax breaks for 5,000 residential units, up from a previous cap of 2,500. Houston will now offer developers up to $15,000 for each residence they build in a complex of at least 10 units, provided they meet design guidelines focused on getting retail built at street level. The idea is to lessen the hurdles to developing downtown, such as high land costs, and to draw in retailers to serve the new residents and create a more vibrant street scene. "We made a judgment that it was needed when we looked at the extra cost of construction downtown," Andy Icken, the city's chief development officer, told the Houston Chronicle. "Retail follows rooftops, and it's our view that critical mass is needed. We've had a lack of retail in downtown. We believe that will follow and we believe this is needed to make it happen, to really continue the momentum that's on right now." In the decade preceding the subsidy, only one new residential development was built. After the subsidy initiative launched, 13 new projects have been announced, including six recent proposals that could add more than 2,200 new apartments to the urban core. The momentum is hard to miss. The total cost of the tax breaks could reach $75 million.
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Pelli Design to Transform Uptown Dallas into Class-A Office District

Crescent Real Estate Group is making a play to bring high-end business tenants to Uptown Dallas—an area better known for twenty somethings living above their means than big-name office tenants. In order to attract this kind of clientele, the developer has hired architect Cesar Pelli to design a dramatic new building that is promising to change the face of the neighborhood. “We didn’t want it to look like just another suburban building that you’d plopped down in Uptown,” Crescent CEO John Goff told the Dallas Morning News. “Rectangles are boring, and we have a building that is much more interesting.” The building is dramatically different from any other structure around the Big D. The 24-story tower rises from the corner of McKinney Avenue and Olive Street like a giant glass wave crashing down on the southwestern architectural scene. Sited across Olive Street from the Ritz-Carlton, the high-rise portion of the project slants nine degrees over a podium base, which includes space for shops, restaurants, and a parking garage. This two-story volume—one of the largest retail centers in the area—is clad in large glass windows offering spectacular views of a new street-side park. The $200 million project is the most ambitious in Uptown since Crescent built the Philip Johnson–designed 400 Crescent Court in the 1980s. The two Crescent structures could not be more different, however. Johnson looked toward the past for inspiration, while Pelli’s structure is decidedly more modern. “Buildings have changed, and the technology has improved dramatically,” said Crescent senior vice president Joseph Pitchford. “This will be a more contemporary expression than you see in Uptown.”
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REX’s Joshua Prince-Ramus Unwraps His Approach to Facade Design

Joshua Prince-Ramus, principal at REX, has a bone to pick with modernism and its legacy. “For the last 100 years, architecture’s been involved in a silly tension between form and function,” he said. While high modernism privileged function over form, some of today’s top designers argue that architecture is about aesthetics and not much else. REX has a different take: architecture, the firm claims, is both function and form. “We really believe that architecture can do things. It’s not just a representational art form,” said Prince-Ramus. “We talk about performance. Aesthetics are part of performance [as is function.]” Prince-Ramus, who will deliver the afternoon keynote address at next week’s facades+PERFORMANCE New York conference, approaches facade design as an integral part of the design process as a whole. That process, in turn, revolves around a concept he calls agenda. “We set out in our projects to figure out what the project’s agenda should be, then we set out to delimit the constraints,” he said. “Then we try to find the embodiment of the agenda that will fit seamlessly within those constraints.” REX’s current projects include a pair of headquarters buildings for sister media companies in the Middle East. The stone-clad towers are covered in retractable sunshades that reference a traditional Arab Mashrabiya pattern. As an example of how constraints can influence facade design, Prince-Ramus cited the Dee and Charles Wyly Theatre in Dallas. REX (with OMA) slashed the project’s envelope budget in order to build a theater that changes shape to suit different arts events. The money they were left with, said Prince-Ramus, was about what standard aluminum siding would cost—so they started there. “We made a dummy design where we spent a lot of effort trying to not design something aesthetically, but that we’d put it out to the market and uncover what in the market drove costs,” he said. In Dallas that turned out to be weight, since frequent hail storms require thick siding. REX/OMA developed a facade system of extruded tubes that would protect against hailstones while minimizing the amount of aluminum required. “We made something that was very beautiful and very unique,” said Prince-Ramus. “Certainly if we’d come back to the client with flat aluminum siding they would have said, ‘Put the money back into the facade.'...The success of the facade is why we were able to build a building that’s renowned for its ability to transform.” While the Wyly Theatre facade was shaped by financial constraints, the client’s particular vision informed the envelope for the Mercedes Benz Future Center in Stuttgart. “Part of the collective agenda was that the building should be very transparent, as opposed to museums, which tend to be very cloistered,” said Prince-Ramus. But the automaker also wanted the Future Center, which will display its vision for the future of automobile technology, to be “a beacon for sustainability.” REX’s current solution (which may change as the design develops) is to create a curtain-like sunshade that wraps around the all-glass building. The shade is opaque on one side of the building and nearly transparent on the other, and rotates with the sun’s movements. The curtain is a metaphor for the unknowability of the future: Prince-Ramus recalled the uncertainty principle in quantum mechanics, which says that it is impossible to simultaneously determine the value of certain variables. “The more you know of one, the less you know of others,” he said. “In discussions about the future, that idea seemed really inherent in what they’re doing [at Mercedes Benz].” Whatever the origin of a particular facade design, for Prince-Ramus it always comes back to performance, the standard that for him encapsulates both function and aesthetics. “The more we’ve used the word performance, the more I’m convinced it does have that dual meaning,” he said. “When [they] talk about a high-performance auto, they don’t just mean it goes from 0 to 60 in 3.2 seconds. They mean it’s sexy, too.” To hear Joshua Prince-Ramus speak next week, visit the facades+PERFORMANCE New York conference website.
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Demolishing Dallas’ I-345 To Make Room for Economic Growth

Big spaces, big cities, big freeways. This equation has held ground since the boom of major road developments in the 1970s. But a Dallas group lead by urban designer Patrick Kennedy is fighting that conception. He and his initiative, A New Dallas, are pushing a proposal that has been steadily gaining support since it began two years ago. Interstate 345 is an eight lane, 1.4 mile stretch of elevated highway that serves roughly 200,000 commuters weekly. Kennedy wishes to demolish the structure completely, replacing it with a major surface street, four new parks, $4 billion in new private investment, and homes for 25,000 Dallas residents. Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings met with TxDOT's district designer, Bill Halson, on April 1 to discuss the project. He issued a written statement applauding TxDOT for looking into the issue, while also noting that the city has no control over the department. Meanwhile, Kennedy called the decade-long investigative report a stalling tactic. TxDOT, however, claims that the thousands of commuters who use I-345 every day are part of an ongoing need that has to be taken into consideration. The first question many ask is how demolishing the expressway will affect traffic. Counterintuitively, the removal of major expressways actually improves traffic conditions. Structures like I-345 operate under the principle of induced demand, which dictates that if something is there, people will use it. Major traffic jams, long commutes from work to home, and decentralized modes of commercial space (a.k.a. strip malls) do not occur because freeways are not big enough or long enough. Rather, they grow in proportion to the size of the freeway itself. Indeed, this demolition trend is catching on throughout the country, as more and more people realize how major expressways hinder growth. I-345 was born in 1974, a time when developers believed that a commute's efficiency was defined by how fast one could get into and out of the city. The consequent boom in highways throughout the nation resulted in residential developments expanding outward from a city's business district, with strip malls and small businesses popping up in the vast concrete wake. Now, however, experts say that urban sprawl can actually hinder, not contribute to, economic growth. They also note that removing the structure would not back up or halt traffic altogether. Rather, it would disseminate it through city side streets, creating a more even flow and possibly completely eliminating the type of traffic problems that are encountered, not in developed urban areas, but in the suburban sprawl enabled by major highways. Indeed, at least six other cities have removed their traffic-chugging arteries. The resulting spaces have been reinvented into parks, cultural centers, public transit, and industrial developments. Kennedy said that the nearby side streets could handle the traffic flow, and that the installation of a major surface road could encourage the use of public transit, as well as facilitate the type of foot traffic seen in Klyde Warren Park. These types of highway removal initiatives, which allow for a more harmonious blend of office, residential, and commercial space, result in more localized living that reduces the need to drive as frequently or as far. Less traffic also equals less pollution, an environmental bonus that Kennedy's initiative has not addressed, but seems wholly feasible. Kennedy's plan also makes Dallas a safer city, considering the risk factor of accidents resulting from high-speed traffic. As several other U.S. cities throughout the nation are considering similar removals, Kennedy's observation that “this is a political and economic discussion more than it is engineering” may be spot-on. So logistically, what would a demolition look like? On the financial side, $10 million dollars and ten years to research the demolition of I-345, after which an approximate 1.9 billion dollars would be funneled into its removal. Meanwhile, TxDOT’s $100 million dollar renovation of the highway is underway.
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UT Student Installation Takes SXSW

A room-filling parametric design makes its way from the classroom to Austin's famous music festival.

When Kory Bieg and his students at The University of Texas at Austin School of Architecture began working on Caret 6, they had no idea that it would wind up at this year’s South by Southwest (SXSW) music and arts festival. But the rippling, room-filling installation soon took on a life of its own. Within months, Bieg’s undergraduates—who had little previous exposure to digital design—had designed and fabricated Caret 6, and assembled and disassembled it twice, first at the TEX-FAB SKIN: Digital Assemblies Symposium in February, and then at Austin’s most famous annual gathering in March. Caret 6 developed out of a research studio taught by Bieg, who is also associate director of the regional digital fabrication and parametric design network TEX-FAB. Selected to chair TEX-FAB’s annual design competition, Bieg knew that he would soon face a problem: how to display the winning entry in a gallery much larger than it. He put his students to work on a solution. “The idea was to create a kind of counterpoint to the winning entry. [We] needed to fill space,” said Bieg. At the same time, the studio would teach the fundamentals of digital fabrication. “It was really just an experimental exploration of what these tools could produce,” he said. Caret 6’s white and grey diamond-shaped cells cascade from a central catenary vault with three column bases. Two secondary vaults project from either side. The front face of the structure flows down to the floor. “The idea is, we didn’t actually know who the winner [of TEX-FAB: SKIN] would be,” said Bieg. “We wanted to design a ground surface that was modular so that we could replace some of the cells with bases for their models.” The 17 students enrolled in Bieg’s course first created individual study models of aggregations and weavings amenable to digital fabrication. In an internal competition, they narrowed the field to three. Bieg broke the studio into teams, each of which experimented with creating volumetric versions of the designs. In a departure from typical parametric installations, Bieg and his students decided to stay away from patterns that gradually expand and contrast. “Our interest was not [in] doing subtlety, but local variations that are quite abrupt, like going from a large cell to a small cell,” said Bieg. “So part of that was a result of the way we structured it. Instead of aggregating cells, we designed a series of ribs.” The primary ribs form the vaults’ seams, while the secondary and tertiary ribs divide the structure into asymmetrical pockets. Halfway through the semester, Bieg called Alpolic Materials, whose Aluminum Composite Material (ACM)—a thin polyethylene core sandwiched between two sheets of aluminum—he had worked with on an earlier project. Alpolic agreed to donate supplies for Caret 6, “so we refined the design according to the material we had,” said Bieg. He also drafted students from UT engineering to calibrate the structure’s thickness, scale, and cantilever distances. “It kind of just evolved from these different processes coming in,” said Bieg.
  • Fabricator Kory Bieg and UTSOA Design Studio V
  • Designers Kory Bieg and UTSOA Design Studio V
  • Location Austin, Texas
  • Date of Completion February 2014
  • Material Alpolic Materials ACM, polypropylene, high-density polyethylene, binder clips, bolts, o-rings
  • Process Grasshopper, Kangaroo, 3ds Max, CNC milling, manual assembly
Back in the studio, Bieg’s students used 3ds Max for form studies and Kangaroo, a Grasshopper plug-in, to fit the tessellated diamond pattern to the vaults. They also used Grasshopper to develop an assembly system of binder rings, bolts, and o-rings. Bieg and his team fabricated the installation using UT’s CNC mill. They cut the vault pieces out of Alpolic ACM. The elements closest to the floor are polypropylene, while the intermediary pieces are high-density polyethylene. The students assembled and disassembled Caret 6 manually. At first, they tried working with a QR-code system, scanning each component to determine its location. When this took too long, they projected a digital model of the form on a screen, then called out each piece by number. For SXSW, where they had only six hours for assembly, they subdivided the structure into sections that could be quickly recombined on site. Caret 6 travels to Houston in September, where it will rejoin the entire TEX-FAB: SKIN show. But while the installation has already moved beyond its original context, Bieg insists that it remains rooted in the SKIN competition brief, which focused on building envelopes leveraging metal fabrication systems. “[Caret 6 is] not really a program per se, but more of an experiment about the same concepts that were part of the exhibits at TEX-FAB,” he said.
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Is that Musk in the Air? Electric Car, Space Guru Has Plans For Texas

Speaking of rumors, Texas Monthly spread the word that Silicon Valley billionaire visionary Elon Musk may be locating facilities for two of his future-looking companies in the Lone Star State. Musk’s SpaceX has been buying up land in Cameron County in South Texas with the implicit purpose of building a space facility on the site to launch an expedition to Mars. In more terrestrial affairs, the South Africa native is also considering building a battery factory in the state for his electric car company, Tesla Motors.
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On View> The Contemporary Austin presents CATALIN through April 20

CATALIN The Contemporary Austin 700 Congress Avenue, Austin, Texas Through April 20th Charles Long’s latest exhibition CATALIN—aptly named after a toxic plastic material fabricated in the 1930s—uses a multi-media approach to simulate a feeling of impending doom. In this Gesamtkunstwerk, Long combines sculpture, film, music, fragrance, theater, performance, and grand spectacle to create a mystical and magical Wagnerian world. The artist was inspired to create CATALIN by the writings of Timothy Morton, a leading thinker in ecology and philosophy whose canon is focused on the ultimate demise of the environment and art’s reaction to this loss. During the exhibition’s run, Long will interact with local organizations and artists while engaging the Jones Center’s second floor space for films, lectures, theater, and community events. To complement the exhibition in downtown Austin, there will be an outdoor installation of his 2012 work Pet Sounds at Laguna Gloria (3809 West 35th Street). This installation, which takes its name from a 1966 Beach Boys album, contains a multitude of morphed blobs that let out faint murmurs when touched. CATALIN and Pet Sounds walk the thin line between dignity and humor while asking many questions—most of which are left unanswered—concerning the fragility of the human condition.
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Our Crisis: Engineer Considers Options for Houston’s Transportation Future

It’s no secret that Houston is going through a growth spurt. The city currently has four central business districts that, if separated, would each be among the country’s top 15 employment centers. In the next 30 years, 3.5 million people are projected to move to the 8-county region, with two million of those concentrated in Harris County. In a recent presentation to the Livable Houston Initiative, Kimley-Horn Associates engineer Sam Lott characterized the increased traffic that this population growth will entail as an impending crisis. “Our crisis is that we cannot build enough capacity,” said Lott. “TxDot is reaching the limit of what they can do. They’re now at a point where it’s going to be a challenge to maintain the capacity we’ve got. More traffic will move to city streets and the congestion on the freeways…is going to last all day long. The light rail and bus system, as important as it is and as we need to build it, is not in itself going to be able to provide the necessary capacity.” Lott put forth a three-fold solution to this congestion forecast. 1) Establish protected right of ways to increase the capacity of the freight rail system. 2) Create a regional commuter rail system as an alternative to the freeways with stops every five to 10 miles. 3) Build a grade-separated transit circulator system to work in concert with the light rail and regional commuter rail. Lott posited that a grade-separated circulator that connected the city’s four employment centers would be a boon for Houston. “I believe we would have the economic equivalent of Manhattan if this system were built,” he said.