Posts tagged with "Texas":

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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.
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Miró Rivera Architects’ Formula (Number) One

Austin’s Circuit of the Americas gets an iconic observation tower using 350 tons of steel.

The Circuit of the Americas (COTA) in Austin, Texas, will host the United States Grand Prix from 2012 to 2021. While German Formula 1 specialist Hermann Tilke designed the racecourse and technical facilities, COTA’s owners hired local firm Miró Rivera Architects to turn out a main grandstand and amenities for the 9,000 fans expected to attend the races. In addition to imbuing the project with a variety of programmatic functions that go beyond racing, Miró Rivera created a sleek observation tower that gives spectators unrestricted views across the racetrack’s twisting expanse. “Our idea for the tower was to be able to go way up and see the track from one focal point in a structure that was an iconographic symbol for the track,” said Miguel Rivera, founder and principal of the architecture firm. “Our inspiration came from Formula 1 cars, where speed and efficiency are so important.” Just like the track’s feature attractions, the tower’s design didn’t feature any excesses. Structural engineers at Walter P Moore helped ensure every piece of steel did some kind of work so the tower was as efficient as possible.
  • Fabricator Patriot Erectors
  • Architect Miró Rivera Architects
  • Location Austin, Texas
  • Date of Completion November 2012
  • Material 8-inch steel pipes, 4-inch steel pipes, structural stainless steel, concrete, bolts
  • Process Tekla Structures, CNC milling, hand sawing, welding, bolting, craning
Working with the architects’ 2D drawings, the structural engineering team developed a three dimensional tower with all the requisite details for construction—right down to bolts and welding points—in Tekla Structures. “Everything that goes into fabrication is digitally defined in this program,” said Mark Waggoner, principal with Walter P Moore. “Generally, in our business, we deliver paper drawings for the steel fabricator to interpret and build, but we were able to bypass this step and print shop drawings directly from our model.” To increase efficacy, the engineers wrote some of their own connections for programming interfaces with steel fabricator Patriot Erectors. Waggoner also located the joints, especially for the veil, (the tubular red feature, inspired by the tracers of a car’s tail lights in the dark) in Tekla. To reduce the cost of bending each 8-inch steel tube to the architect’s initial drawings, the program helped break large radii into segmented, straight lines to achieve time and cost savings. To facilitate shipment to the COTA track, the 20- by 20- by 250-foot structure was broken into four pieces that could be stitched back together on site. Patriot Erectors welded 10- by 10- by 30-foot sections in their Dripping Springs, Texas-facility that were assembled on three different casting beds and craned into position. Reflecting on the 11-month digital design/build schedule, Waggoner said the process for the COTA Observation Tower was somewhat unconventional. “People generally like to have paper drawings for these types of projects,” he explained. “But at the end of the day, the general contractor felt this process saved us about three months of time.”
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On View> “Roads of Arabia” Exhibition on Saudi Arabian Archaeology Opens December 19 in Houston

Roads of Arabia: Archaeology and History of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia The Museum of Fine Arts Houston 5601 Main Street Houston, Texas December 19 through March 9, 2014 The Museum of Fine Arts Houston (MFAH) is hosting an eye-opening exhibition this winter that will uncover the rich history of the ancient trade routes of the Arabian Peninsula. Organized by the Smithsonian’s Arthur M. Sackler Gallery in Washington, D.C., in association with the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA), Roads of Arabia will feature objects recently excavated from more than 10 archaeological sites, and give insight into the culture and economy of this ancient civilization. Recently discovered objects along the trade routes include alabaster bowls and fragile glassware as well as heavy gold earrings and monumental statues. All of the artifacts are testament to the lively exchange between Arabs and their neighbors, including the Egyptians, Syrians, Babylonians, and Greco-Romans.
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On View> Form/Unformed: Design from 1960 to the Present

Form/Unformed: Design from 1960 to the Present The Dallas Museum of Art 1717 North Harwood Street Dallas, TX Extended through December 2014 The Dallas Museum of Art is celebrating the work of prolific designers and architects from the 1960s to the present with its first comprehensive design exhibition. Some of the featured designers include Robert Venturi, Frank Gehry, Aldo Rossi, Zaha Hadid, and Donald Judd. Drawn entirely from the Museum’s own collection, the exhibition reveals the evolution of forms and ideologies that have shaped international design over the last half century. “Several of the works on view are recent acquisitions that reflect the continuing expansion of the Museum’s decorative arts and design program to include historic American and European work, as well as contemporary objects of international significance,” said Bonnie Pitman, The Eugene McDermott Director of the Dallas Museum of Art. From modern jewelry like The Golden Fleece, to iconic furniture, the exhibition spotlights the extraordinary work of some of the best designers of our time.
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Tunnel Rats: Does Texas Favor Building Highways Over Subways?

According to a very confidential source, engineers currently working on the Waller Creek tunnel believe that Austin sits on top of some of the most optimal conditions for tunneling in the entire U.S. These number-crunching problem solvers claimed that a subway tunnel beneath the Texas State Capital’s downtown would cost 1/10th of the amount it would in most places in the country. However, the brainiacs also said that there are those in high places who do not want that knowledge spread around (read TxDOT) because the construction of more freeways is making certain people a great deal of money.
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Houston Voters to Astrodome: Drop Dead (But A Better Plan Is Coming!)

Yesterday, Houston voters killed a $200 million ballot initiative to renovate the unused Astrodome. Fifty-three percent opposed the measure and 47 percent supported it. The plan would have turned the stadium—the first domed and air-conditioned professional stadium—into a multi-use event and convention space. Houston's professional sports teams now play in Reliant Stadium next door and Minute Made Park in downtown Houston. Without funding for renovation, the dome appears destined for demolition. Tomorrow, AN will release the results of the "Re-imagine the Astrodome" competition, which includes both pragmatic and visionary ideas for re-using the Space Age structure. To celebrate, join us for coffee and refreshments at the Texas Society of Architects in the Grand Lobby of Fort Worth Convention Center from 10:00-11:00 a.m. We'll also be launching the inaugural issue of the Southwest edition. Stop by meet AN's new Southwest Aaron Seward.
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New Public Space Initiative Aims to Revive Austin’s Forgotten Alleyways

Austin, Texas–based architects Dan Cheetham and Michelle Tarsney have given a new face to some of the city's underutilized spaces: alleyways. Their one-of-a-kind community art installation, 20ft WIDE, seeks to resolve conflict between architecture, art, and humanism in order to create places of lasting value. The once forgotten alley between Ninth and Tenth streets, which connects Congress Avenue and Brazos Street in Downtown Austin, has been transformed into a collaborative space to bring attention to public urban places and foster discussion about the new possibilities for their uses The name 20ft WIDE stems from Austin’s original 1839 master plan, which called for each of the city’s alley to measure, well, 20 feet wide. Austin’s structure consists of many open spaces and side streets that are not being used solely because they go unnoticed by nearby wanderers. Cheetham and his associates argue that these alleys are, in fact, vital components of the city that are being menaced by super-block development that will ultimately alter the grain and scale of the urban fabric. The initial stimulus of the installation was to bring awareness about the role of these spaces and to generate communal discussions about possibilities for their use. Cheetham explained that "most alleys are overlooked as something that is just a necessity—they serve a utilitarian function, such as trash collection for instance." For him, alleys are a valuable urban asset. They create a gap in mid-blocks, meaning that buildings do not go over them: "they break up the grain which allows for more sunlight and air to penetrate the city street. This is a reason why they feel so nice." In an interview, Cheetham told AN that 20ft WIDE was part of a larger collaborative project. When asked why the installation had been set up in that specific alley, he explained that the group had initially identified six or seven different urban alleys, and that in order to settle for just one "the trick was to find an alley that had an intersection of several things. It should be located in an area that is not in conflict with people or security measures. Moreover, we were looking for an alley that had some kind of historical significance or interest." He noted, "we were on a very limited budget and were given a quick time frame. Therefore, we needed an alley that had enough quality esthetic to stand on its own with minimal interruptions." The project was initiated last April, when the team began installing twines of bright colors and different shades all across the alley. They also worked with an Austin-based art education organization, Creative Action. The group created “Peace Cranes”, a project which involved young individuals who folded over 1,000 pieces of origami a week prior at the city’s arts festival. The cranes were integrated in the 20ft WIDE installation as a symbol of peaceful community building. The alley is also filled with stacked pallets, burlap sacks in which people have generously given away clothing, polystyrene shipping foam as well as donated plant materials. The jovial and creative nature of the installation is meant to give rise to thought provoking conversations about the role that unused spaces and tucked-back streets play within the city center. Dan Cheetham attended The University of Texas, and later founded Fyoog, a firm inspired by his passion and love for music, the arts, and all things pertaining to architecture, urbanism, and their sub-disciplines. Fyoog’s underlying principles are to combine architectural design and functionality into abandoned or under-utilized urban space, in order to give them a new purpose. Cheetham is deeply concerned with the public realm, and seeks to engage individuals within their city’s creative process. The group hopes the project can be made permanent in the future.
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Austin’s ‘Ghost Tree’ is a Symbol of Drought in the Lone Star State

Austin’s new temporary art installation, THIRST, is inspired by Texas’ ongoing periods of severe drought since 2011. According to studies conducted by Texas A&M Forest Services, over 300 million trees have succumbed to the state’s extremely dry conditions over the past three years. Located between the Pfluger Pedestrian Crossway and the Lamar Boulevard Bridge, a white-ghostly tree now hovers over Lady Bird Lake and is surrounded by a floating barrier. The public art installation symbolizes the lack of water that plagues Austin and other Texas territories. Its purpose is to trigger emotion and dialogue about the tragic number of trees that have died due to a serious lack of rainfall and increased human water usage in the region. The tree was staged by Women & Their Work, a visual and performing art organization founded in 1978 and best known for their pioneering artistic spirit and commitment to the enrichment of the Texan cultural experience. Through their work, they seek to engage the community at large in issues that pertain exclusively to the local culture and the built-environment. The tree is a 35-foot cedar elm which has been painted white and stands atop a pedestal over the water. Another major component of this art piece is the installation of 14,000 prayer flags on which black trees have been imprinted. THIRST on Lady Lake seeks to acknowledge the devastating impacts of drought in Austin and to address water conservation issues in Texas. Its striking appearance and levitating stance aims to trigger a discussion about the impacts of climate change and seeks to promote action for conservation, sustainability, and the general well-being of the eco-system. This project is also unique in the sense that it did not receive any city funding. Contributing artists include Beili Liu, Emily Little, Norma Yancey, and Cassie Bergstrom. THIRST will on view publicly until December 26, 2013.