Posts tagged with "Texas":

Urban Ecology Center Finds New Grounds at San Antonio’s Phil Hardberger Park

Last Saturday, the San Antonio community inaugurated the Lake|Flato Architects–designed Urban Ecology Center (UEC). Sited on the West Side of Phil Hardberger Park, the 18,600-square-foot UEC will be home to the Alamo Area Chapter of the Texas Master Naturalists. This latest showpiece in the city’s park system will serve as a functional ecological system, a meeting space, and an urban ecology learning facility. Parks Project Manager Sandy Jenkins explained that the center was built with the intention of informing future generations about environmental concerns and the preservation of ecological systems. Former mayor Phil Hardberger, who recognized the asset of parks in improving the general urban quality of life, originally prompted the construction of the park in 2010. Covering 311 acres on eiter side of the Wurzbach Parkway, it was built as a means to preserve San Antonio's environmental treasures and natural heritage. The UEC is a $6.3 million LEED green project and was funded by the largest municipal bond program in San Antonio history. It is equipped with water harvesting and reclamation systems, which minimize both operational costs and impacts on the environment. The center is constructed out of sustainable materials and irrigated by an extensive rainwater collection system and a bio-swale that collects run-off, stores it into a detention basin, and reuses it when needed. It is also armed with photovoltaic solar panels capable of powering three average houses. The 8:00 a.m. opening attracted more than 500 visitors, including architects, neighbors, park employees, and environmental activists. It featured guided hikes, a wide array of presentations by civic leaders, green building and recycling awareness, and hands-on wildlife activities. The center embodies San Antonio’s communal effort to preserve its natural landscape and shows how the city has developed a sense of environmental stewardship. A significant amount of work still needs to be done, as only 60 percent of the park's construction has been completed.

From The Pages of Texas Architect: Astrodome Update by Ben Koush

[ Editor's Note: For those of you who are getting excited about The Architect's Newspaper and YKK AP's Reimagine the Astrodome design ideas competition, you have until September 17 to register. Once you've done that, take the time to read the following article, which appeared in the September/October 2013 issue of Texas Architect. Written by Houston-based architect and writer Ben Koush, it covers the current status of the Dome, what it means to Harris County, and Space City's record of not bothering to preserve its architectural heritage. ] Ever since the Houston Oilers owner Bud Adams, in a snit after being refused a new stadium, took his football team to Nashville in 1997 and renamed it the Tennessee Titans, the fate of the Astrodome has been up in the air. Matters were made worse when, instead of rehabilitating the Astrodome a new, neo-traditionalist baseball stadium, Minute Maid Park, was built down-town for the Astros in 1999, and then in 2002, a hulking new football stadium, Reliant Center, was built uncomfortably close to its predecessor to house the replacement team, the Houston Texans, and the Houston Rodeo. The Astrodome, designed by local architects Lloyd, Morgan & Jones and Wilson, Morris, Crain & Anderson, opened in 1965 to national acclaim as the nation’s first covered and completely air-conditioned baseball and football stadium. It was inspired by Harris County Judge Roy Hofheinz’s visit to the ancient Roman Colosseum, where he learned that a retractable canvas cover, the velarium, was once extended to shade most of the seats from the hot Italian sun. The novelty of the covered Texas sports stadium and its one-of-a-kind AstroTurf were pivotal points in the history of sports facilities. However, the decades have taken their toll. And in comparison to the recent crop of flashy new stadiums, the Astrodome looks downright dumpy. In a city that generally equates old with bad, these kinds of situations are usually resolved by demolition. Think Shamrock Hotel (largest hotel in America when it was opened in 1949); River Oaks Shopping Center (the New Deal-era prototype for an uncountable number of strip centers in the country); the Prudential Building (Houston’s first “suburban” skyscraper); and—being demolished as I write this—the former Foley Brothers department store (the grandest and last major downtown department store to be built in any American city). Given this trend, one cannot help but be surprised by what seems to be a miraculous turn of events. Almost as soon as the Astrodome was mothballed, eager would-be developers began pushing proposals for its redevelopment. The pressure increased notably when it became clear that Harris County is using some $3 million to $4 million of public money to maintain the stadium in its unused state each year. Suggestions included hotels, casinos, movie studios, amusement parks, museums, and, my personal favorite, a scheme by recent University of Houston architectural graduate student Ryan Slattery to strip the dome to its steel skeleton and repurpose it as a gigantic, 9-acre gazebo to shade a variety of outdoor activities. Reject, reject, reject. But with the news that Houston will be the location of the 2017 Super Bowl, speculation has intensified that current Harris County Judge Ed Emmett must decide if the Astrodome is to be demolished, as seems to be the desire of the Houston Rodeo in particular, or to be rehabilitated, as seems to be the desire of most Houstonians, who increasingly see it as the city’s signature architectural landmark. Rehabilitation of the iconic building would clearly avoid national embarrassment when the anticipated hordes of visiting sports commentators and football fans descend upon Reliant Stadium. National attention to Houston’s conundrum included articles in the New York Times and the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s decision to include the Astrodome on its 2013 list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places. This summer, Judge Emmett issued an ultimatum that redevelopment proposals would have to be submitted by June 10. The Harris County Sports and Convention Corporation (HCSCC) selected one of the proposals and will put it forward for a public vote in November for bond approvals. If the proposal is rejected, the Astrodome will be demolished. In late June, the HCSCC reviewed the 19 official submissions and duly approved what appears to be a somewhat banal scheme. “The New Dome Experience,” presented by HCSCC Executive Director Willie Loston, seeks to repurpose the Astrodome as a 350,000-sf column-free exhibition space, with an estimated price tag of $194 million. Why such a large convention center? For one thing, participants of the Offshore Technology Conference, which has annual trade shows at the Reliant Center, have been pushing to exhibit ever-larger oil and gas production devices—imagine entire offshore drilling rigs. Other sug­gested uses include moving the Rodeo’s carnival under cover, housing high school football games, and providing the ever-popular emergency hous­ing in times of disaster. Emmett was recently quoted by writer Whitney Radley as saying, “I think the concept is outstanding, and at the end of it, I really believe that Houston and Harris County would become the event capital of the world.” It’s not all just boosterism, however. This scheme also proposes to include some 400,000 sf of programmed, semi-public outdoor space. So here’s to its success at the ballot boxes in November and to the hope that Houston might someday realize that its architectural patrimony is indeed worth maintaining rather than destroying. Ben Koush is a Houston-based architect and writer.

Ceilings Plus Soars in Texas

Brought to you with support from:
Fabrikator
 

Gensler’s design at the University of Houston is realized in a cloud-inspired, sound-absorptive ceiling solution.

Gensler and Ceilings Plus have brought a touch of the Big Apple to the University of Houston’s recently completed Quiet Hall in the Classroom and Business Building. Gensler drew its design inspiration for a ceiling in the new building from the New York Central Library’s Rose Reading Room. The firm hired the California-based Ceilings Plus to translate its interpretation of this classical interior, which includes perforations and geometric folds, into an affordable, buildable, and installable ceiling solution. Ceilings Plus used digital software to marry the design architect’s vision with a workable model that offered minimal joint tolerances and maintained compatibility with HVAC systems. “Since the architect was interested in doing something completely new, it was important to realize that process together,” said Michael Chusid, who works in marketing and business development for Ceilings Plus. Gensler produced three conceptual renderings in Revit, then turned them over to project engineer Robert Wochner, who developed sound-absorptive perforations and a suspension system that could support the various angles of the Quiet Hall’s multi-planar ceiling.
  • Fabricators Ceilings Plus
  • Designers Gensler
  • Location Houston, Texas
  • Date of Completion October 2012
  • Material Illusions ceiling system, sheet aluminum, Saranté PVC-free laminate, non-woven acoustical fabric, recycled cotton batt, blue felt, modified tee-bar system, torsion spring clips
  • Process AutoCAD, Revit, SolidWorks, CNC milling, punch pressing, cutting, folding
Wochner used AutoCAD to reconcile Gensler’s rendering, which depicted a cloud of perforations across the ceiling for sound absorption. Acoustically there was an ineffective number of apertures, so Wochner filled in the original design with smaller, carefully angled perforations. By leaving an ample amount of space between the dropped ceiling and the planchement, the perforations are able to absorb vibrations in an efficient and lightweight system. Nearly 50 configurations were considered before arriving at a final design, which was modeled in SolidWorks. Ceilings Plus fabricated the panels using stock products and a CNC router. The architect’s chose the company’s PVC-free Saranté laminate in a henna-toned wood finish, which is affixed to an aluminum sheet. A punch press knocked out the perforations, revealing a blue felt backing. Despite the ceiling’s complex appearance, Ceilings Plus developed a suspension system based on a conventional T-bar system, making it easy to install. Since the ceiling is not flat, attachment points were individually set to hang each of the 280 panels from between six and eight torsion springs. “With this firm pressure downward, you can extract the panel and lower it out of place to gain access to the ceiling cavity to maintain the HVAC system, ductwork, and other mechanicals,” said Chusid. Custom-fabricated brackets help support the unique angles. Ceilings Plus deployed several expert installers to assist the installation process. “Any time there’s a slope on the ceiling and it interfaces with something round, like a column, it goes from a circle to an ellipse,” said Wochner. “Though we have precise information about the field location, it’s not uncommon to make adjustments on site.”  

Austin Unveils Top 10 Competition Entries for Seaholm Intake

The City of Austin Parks and Recreation Department recently hosted a competition (ended July 12) to attract concepts for the adaptive reuse of the Seaholm Intake Facility, the pump house of the decommissioned Seaholm Power Plant (the turbine hall of which is undergoing another adaptive reuse project). The Seaholm complex is located prominently on Lady Bird Lake in downtown, not far from Waller Creek, whose landscape is being redesigned by Michael Van Valkenburgh, and adjacent to the Ann and Roy Butler Hike and Bike Trail. Some of its buildings, including the intake, are solid examples of the heroic period of American cast-in-place concrete Art-Deco municipal architecture and stand as civic icons in Austin. Competition entrants were asked to envision a new use for the structure and the surrounding land that would engage park users, the trail, and the water. Austin Parks received 76 proposals and is displaying its favorite 10 entries at Austin City Hall from now until August 2. The top three will be announced on August 9. The ideas from the top three proposals will "help inspire subsequent design phases of the project," according to Austin Parks' website. Following this competition, Austin Parks will release a request for proposals for public-private partnerships with ideas of how to reuse the facility.








Edmonds International Designing Potential 58-story Mixed-use Tower in Midland, Texas

As the business hub of oil and gas operations in the Permian Basin, Midland, Texas, is on the cusp of a growth spurt. With the opening of the Cline Shale oil play, petroleum production in the region has increased 49 percent since 2007 to 1.29 million barrels per day and is expected to reach 2.2 million barrels per day by 2022. Betting on the influx of businesses and workers that will accompany this growth, local developer Energy Related Properties hired New York City–based architectural firm Edmonds International to design a 58-story, mixed-use tower sited on two blocks in downtown Midland that will contain everything a body could need for work, sleep, shopping, and play under one very tall roof. The 869-foot-tall tower is a rhomboid in plan and features a perimeter diagrid structural steel framing system that animates the transparent glass facade. A solar shading system protects the western and southern faces of the otherwise clear envelope from the powerful West Texas sun. From the bottom up, the development includes 53,500 square feet of retail in a sunken level that is open to the sky, a 198-room hotel, 230,460 square feet of residences, and 564,000 square feet of office space. Considering that the building would be twice as tall as Midland's next-tallest structure, the first floor of offices, the 28th, would feature 360-degree views that easily clear the surrounding rooftops. At ground level, the design features a public plaza with a reflecting pool and accessible green roofs that top a convention center. Energy Related Properties is currently seeking tenants for the project and, pending their success, construction could begin as soon as early 2014.

Memory Cloud Taps Tradition At Texas A&M

Fabrikator

Re:site and Metalab's site-specific installation for Texas A&M's 12th Man Memorial Student Center uses 4,000 networked LEDs to create an animated display that speaks to tradition as well as to the future.

The Corps of Cadets. Kyle Field. The 12th Man. Reveille. Texas A&M has more than a few strong traditions, most of which are centered around and given expression by the university’s football games and its alumni’s illustrious history of military service. At the same time, the school is well known for its robust and forward thinking science and engineering departments. Both of these characteristics factored into the conception for a permanent sculpture to inhabit A&M’s new Memorial Student Center (MSC). Created by art collaborative RE:site and design and fabrication studio Metalab (both located in Houston) the sculpture, titled Memory Cloud, is a chandelier of 4,000 white LEDs that are animated by two distinct feeds: one derived from archival footage of the Fightin’ Texas Aggie Band, the other from live infrared cameras that monitor people passing through the center’s atrium. “To interpret tradition visually we thought of moving patterns of people,” said Norman Lee of RE:site. “A&M has a strong marching band. If you remove the specifics of what the band is wearing and focus on the movements, they’re the same from 1900 to now. Once you reduce the figures from archival footage to silhouette patterns, you can’t identify the different points in time. Time and space collapse and bring together the school’s tradition in visual terms.” The archival silhouettes interlace with silhouettes from the live feed, generating ambiguous patterns that take time to sink in. “We envisioned incoming freshmen seeing the shadows and after three or four weeks realizing what the figures are in a powerful ‘ah ha’ moment,” said Lee. Memory Cloud is composed of a 14-foot-wide by 21-foot-long diagrid 1/8-inch powder-coated carbon steel frame and 220 LED arrays housed in clear acrylic tubes that hang in 21 rows from 16 gauge aluminum raceways carrying the data cables and electronics. The arrays are between 9 and 13 feet long and end in acrylic disks that are angled to give a billowing profile to the bottom of the sculpture. The disks also act as luminaires, picking up and diffusing the light of the lowest LED node via fiber optic effect. The piece is suspended from one point on the ceiling with a cable rigging. A winch can raise or lower it for maintenance. RE:site and Metalab used Rhino and Grasshopper to model Memory Cloud’s geometry as well as to develop quantitative data sets for the lighting purchase orders and assembly inventories. The diagrid structure was developed by Houston-based structural engineering firm Insight Structures using finite element analysis (FEA) software that determined a varying depth of profile to deliver the necessary support within the weight requirement. “We had a weight limit of 3,000 pounds,” said Andrew Vrana of Metalab. “At first we wanted to use 3/16 aluminum, which is light weight, but it deformed too much under welding. So we went with carbon steel and by optimizing the profile wound up with a final weight of 2,400 pounds.” The team also used the Lunchbox plugin for Grasshopper, which was developed by Nathan Miller of CASE, which helped to create clean data structures that retained their organization as the geometry of the cloud was refined. To create and program the LED matrix, RE:site and Metalab worked with Digital Media Designs (DMD), which did the digital lighting display for the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. The company worked with a Chinese manufacturer to develop a custom LED product capable of meeting the sculpture’s size requirements while functioning within a broad range of daylight conditions. It also had to create a DMX control system that would take RE:site’s 2D silhouettes and replicate them in Memory Cloud’s 3D LED matrix, an unprecedented task from a software point of view. DMD worked with UK company Avolites Media to customize their AI software to this purpose. “With that software we were able to utilize a method called pixel mapping and find a way to interpret RGB values into black and white and also to transpose that into XYZ coordinates, creating a 3D virtual cloud,” said Scott Chmielewski of DMD. Memory Cloud was prototyped and fabricated in Houston, then trucked the 100 miles to College Station. The on-site assembly and erection process took 10 days to complete. Gig ‘em Aggies!  

AIA announces 2013 Small Project Award recipients

The American Institute of Architects has announced the winners of the 2013 Small Project Awards, a program dedicated to promoting small-project designs. Since 2003 the AIA Small Projects Award Program has emphasized the work and high standards of small-project architects, bringing the public's attention to the significant designs of these small-projects and the diligent work that goes into them. This year's ten winners are grouped into four categories: projects completed on a budget under $150,000, projects with a budget under $1.5 million, projects under 5,000 square feet, and theoretical design under 5,000 square feet. CATEGORY 1: These three recipients had to complete small-projects constructions, objects, an environmental art, or architectural design with a budget of $150,000. Bemis InfoShop Min | Day Omaha From the AIA: "More than a new entry and reception area for a contemporary art center, the InfoShop is a social condenser and transition space between the city and the galleries. With increasing emphasis on social and environmental issues, the art center is becoming a laboratory for ideas rather than a repository for artifacts." The jury commented: "This is such a remarkable process! It represents a designer's victory as opposed to an ideologically born, experientially rich element. ... A context is built on triangular patterns cut into a wall of panels and beautifully engages a sculpturally reception desk that double as a bar for entertaining. The reception space looks great, effortlessly orients the visitor and functions very practically. It is playful without being whimsical. This project is an exemplary demonstration of craft in the digital age." Cemetery Marker Kariouk Associates South Canaan, PA From the AIA: "Before dying, a woman left a note for her children to be read after her death. This note was less a will (she had nothing material to leave her children) than several abstract wishes for them. The sole request on her own behalf was that her gravesite becomes a garden." The jury commented: "This is a design that embodies the idea of ‘remembrance’. The bronze plates, graced with a deeply personal and poetic message, are organized beautifully—pushing and pulling you through the space as you engage it. This is respectful, celebratory work that gracefully merges with its landscape and poignantly reveals the spirit of a woman." Studio for a Composer Johnsen Schmaling Architects Spring Prairie, WI From the AIA: "An unassuming structure nestled into a rural Wisconsin hillside, this intimate retreat serves as a studio for a Country Western musician to write his work and reconnect with nature." The jury commented: "The wood detailing, the use of color, and the simplicity of this retreat for a musician is inspiring. An inspiring place in which to create music and commune with nature. The color palette is at once animated and subtle." CATEGORY 2: These three recipients had to create small-project constructions with a budget of $1,500,000. Nexus House Johnsen Schmaling Architects Madison, WI From the AIA: "This compact home for a young family occupies a small site in a historic residential district in downtown Madison, Wisconsin. Successfully contesting the local preservation ordinance and its narrow interpretation of stylistic compatibility, the house is an unapologetically contemporary building, its formally restrained volume discreetly placed in the back of the trapezoidal site to minimize direct visual competition with its historic neighbors. The jury commented: "This is absolutely beautiful. It is well detailed and not overwhelming. It fits fantastically into the surrounding neighborhood and doesn’t take away from the other architecture. As the name Nexus suggests, this house is very well connected. Composed of a brick podium and a wood clad block on top, it masterfully accomplishes a variety experiences in a compact footprint." Pavilion at Cotillion Park Mell Lawrence Architects Dallas From the AIA: "Commissioned by the Dallas Parks Department, this new shade structure bridges the gap between two groups of trees at a natural gathering place in the park." The jury commented: "This is such a fantastic way for the public to be able to experience architecture in a park setting. The whimsical pop of red draws the eye and leads to you walk in and experience the space. It plays with light and provides a shading experience. An exquisite filigree steel structure, that is at once shade pavilion and large environmental art piece." Webb Chapel Park Pavilion Cooper Joseph Studio Mission, TX From the AIA: " We were asked by the Department of Parks and Recreation to create a picnic pavilion to replace a decaying 1960s shelter. Given Texan heat and humidity, climate control was a priority." The jury commented: "Cleverly integrated into the site the side berm and concrete overhead create a thermal cooling mass the way sustainable design traditionally did. This pavilion project is unlike anything we have seen before. A beautiful public work that will surely inspire those that experience it to embrace architecture in a new way." CATEGORY 3: The three recipients in this category had to complete a small-project construction, object, an environmental art, or architectural design under 5,000 square feet. These projects had to be designed as well as constructed, fabricated, and/or installed majorly by the architect. 308 Mulberry Robert M. Gurney, FAIA Lewes, DE From the AIA: "The starting point for this project is small house at 308 Mulberry Street, originally constructed in the early nineteenth-century in the heart of the historical district of Lewes. In the redesign, the exterior of the original structure is meticulously restored." The jury commented: "A demanding redesign that respectfully preserves the original architecture, while artfully transforming the home." Nevis Pool and Garden Pavilion Robert M. Gurney, FAIA Bethesda, MD From the AIA: "Located in a neighborhood bordering Washington, DC, this suburban site has the advantage of being located adjacent to woodlands. A contemporary house surrounded by mature trees and manicured gardens anchors the site. A new swimming pool, stone walls, and terraces behind the house organize the rear yard and establish a dialogue between the existing house and a new pavilion." The jury commented: "A suburban backyard is transformed with a new panoramic awareness of water, forest and sky." Tahoe City Transit Center WRNS Studio Tahoe City, CA From the AIA: "The Tahoe City Transit Center (TCTC) represents a vital step toward achieving a more sustainable transportation network within the region." The jury commented: " This is first class design and craftsmanship that works on many levels. The scale of the bus is tamed. The project is reminiscent of the approachable architecture of the early century. The wood siding and trees in the background integrate very well. The design is modern and vernacular at once. This profound piece of public infrastructure serves a very important civic function with a low impact modest foot print." CATEGORY 4: The recipient in category 4 was challenged to draft a completely original architectural design that is purely hypothetical and theoretical, and less than 5,000 square feet. Four Eyes House Edward Ogosta Architecture Coachella Valley, CA From the AIA: "A weekend desert residence for a small family, the Four Eyes House is an exercise in site-specific "experiential programming". Rather than planning the house according to a domestic functional program, the building was designed foremost as an instrument for intensifying particular onsite phenomenal events." The jury commented: "The imagery is expertly rendered and communicated. Both rational and lyrical and possessing excellent spatial quality. Architectural towers and horizontal lines modulate the viewer's experience and connection with an elemental landscape. It redefines how a home should be built. ... This project takes the experience of place and via an ‘architectural amplifier’ of thoughtful movement (ascension into each bedroom space) and choreographed view capture / light receiver (well-placed windows), makes it a triumphant celebration of humankind situated in the center of the natural universe."

Adaptive Reuse, Aisle 7: How An Empty Big Box Can Give Rise to Community

An average Walmart tops 100,000 square feet. With more than 600 stores nationwide, the company has a mighty footprint. And when a store goes under, it can be somewhat of a crater in the local real estate market. One Walmart in McAllen, Texas—about 15 miles from the Mexican border—got a major facelift from Minneapolis-based Meyer, Scherer & Rockcastle, who also have an office in Marysville, Md. They won an ALA/IIDA Library Interior Design Award for their work converting the defunct big box store into a library. Now instead of groceries and inexpensive consumer goods, a 124,500-square-foot Walmart skeleton houses the McAllen Library. It’s the largest single-story library in the U.S., which could have left readers lost in the cavernous space instead of lost in a book. To remedy that problem, the firm adopted some of the building’s original programming: They separated meeting rooms, staff areas, and other programs into quadrants, providing wayfinding with colorful signage and two spines that bisect the building. A number of graphic-patterned ceiling elements delineate genre categories, while a patterned wood ceiling runs the length of the building. One month after the new library opened, library registration increased 23 percent. Meyer, Scherer & Rockcastle has also rehabbed five abandoned buildings in Philadelphia’s Navy Yards for Urban Outfitters headquarters.

James Turrell Captures a Slice of the Vast Texas Sky with Twilight Epiphany Pavilion

For many, work by American artist James Turrell is instantly recognizable. Using light and basic geometric forms as the material of his compositions, Turrell subtly alters space and perception for visitors, creating weight and depth through visual experience that evokes meditation and contemplation. Turrell's work is at its height when gazing skyward. Multiple iterations of his Skyspace series have appeared around the world framing a dramatic slice of the heavens in his pristine geometry. The work is, essentially, a skylight: an opening above a room or pavilion for viewing the sky above, but to reduce the work to its function would disregard the transformative power of a simple yet moving experience. In each installation, a confined aperture begins to decontextualize the sky, featuring the color and texture of what is seen as an element of the art. A few weeks ago, a new Turrell Skyspace was completed at Rice University in Houston, Texas. The work, entitled Twilight Epiphany, features Turrel's unique understanding of perception while building dramatically upon prior installations. A gently-sloped pyramidal mound carpeted in turf rises from the surrounding courtyard. A knife-edged white square floats above the hill, appearing as a horizontal plane without vertical dimension, into which a square aperture has been cut. From the top edge of the pyramid, LED lights wash the underside of the ceiling plane in color. To receive the full experience of the light compositions, visitors enter the structure from the two opposite sides, either decending down a ramp into an interior void or ascending staircases to sit in a ring around the outside rim of the pyramid. "If you take a photo of the sky in this skyspace, the color you see in the opening is not actually going to show up in your camera because in fact it is not there," Turrell said in a statement. "This is a gentle reminder that because we give the sky its color and then change the color of the sky, we create the reality in which we live." Besides the surreal light shows, Twilight Epiphany has been designed as an acoustics-conscious performance space. Twelve speakers are embedded in the pyramid's interior walls, offering musicians a chance to compose for the unique space, fitting since the pavilion is located alongside the Shepherd School of Music.

Calatrava’s First U.S. Vehicular Bridge To Open

The latest bridge from Spanish tension-element guru Santiago Calatrava, renowned architect behind the Milwaukee Art Museum, Puente del Alamillo, and the upcoming World Trade Center Transportation Hub, will be his first vehicular bridge in the United States. Construction has been completed on the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge, the first in a series of Calatrava-designed crossings over Dallas' Trinity River. It will act as a literal and metaphorical gateway to the city. This new bridge links the banks of the Trinity River, with hopes of making the area a lively gathering place. Calatrava wants to rethink the riverfront and its capacity to bring in development as part of the city's urban revitalization efforts. He stated he envisions the Trinity River Corridor as the heart of the city, a recreational area much like New York's Central Park. The bridge is the first step in making the waterfront a focal point for recreation. “During my first visit to Dallas I realized that the river basin had the potential to be of defining importance to the city’s future development,” said Calatrava. The structure is a signature Calatrava design with glowing white arch and supporting suspension cables. Supporting over 14,000 cars per day, the new bridge is part of a larger project involving the replacement of Interstate Highway 30. The Trinity Trust Group, a nonprofit supporting revitalization of the riverfront, will host a series of inaugural events, and Calatrava will be in Dallas this weekend for an opening ceremony complete with fireworks, a Lyle Lovett concert, and a ribbon-cutting ceremony.  (Fingers crossed that the architect himself will hoist the giant scissors.)  The bridge is planned to open to traffic March 29.

Morphosis’ Museum of Nature & Science Facade: Gate Precast

Fabrikator Brought to you by:

A new cultural focal point takes shape in Dallas

When the Dallas Museum of Nature & Science was created from the 2006 merger of three city museums—the Museum of Natural History, The Science Place, and the Dallas Children’s Museum—the new institution set its sites on expanding programming with a new facility in the city’s Victory Park neighborhood. Now, the 180,000-square-foot Morphosis-designed Perot Museum of Nature & Science is slated for completion in 2013. Located at the northwest corner of Woodall Rodgers Freeway and Field Street, it marks the future crossroads of the city’s Trinity River Corridor Project and the city’s cultural districts. Floating atop an irregularly shaped plinth that will be the base for a one-acre rooftop ecosystem, the museum’s striated concrete facade offers a first glimpse at the dynamic transformation of the site.
  • Fabricator Gate Precast
  • Architect Morphosis
  • Location Dallas, Texas
  • Status Estimated 2013 completion
  • Materials Precast concrete
  • Process Revit, BIM, concrete casting
Early renderings show a smooth monolithic cube as the museum’s main volume, but the Morphosis team began working with the Hillsboro, Texas, branch of Gate Precast early in the project to develop a horizontally striped precast concrete panel design for the facade. “They wanted something different from everything else in Dallas,” said Gate sales and marketing manager Scott Robinson. “The architects wanted it to be true, raw, and modern.” To this end, Morphosis selected a plain gray concrete mix, without pigment or white cement, for the facade, knowing there would be natural mottling to each panel. “They didn’t want the building to look painted,” said Robinson. In total, the company will fabricate 655 precast pieces for the project. Gate created a series of mock-ups using random combinations of convex and concave shapes that would flow seamlessly from one panel to the next. After refining the design in Revit, Gate’s BIM operators modeled more than 100,000 square feet of precast cladding on the museum’s exterior for Morphosis’ 3-D models. Wood-framed concrete molds constructed in a range of set dimensions (the average size is 8 by 30 feet) helped keep facade costs lower. Within these, convex and concave rubber pieces based on the team’s digital models can be placed to achieve the desired striation. In the harsh Texas sun, the random shapes cast bold shadows across the building’s elevations, gradually giving way to smooth concrete surfaces on the higher levels. Because the pattern continues at the building’s corners, end panels required a two-step process: The short end was poured and set first, then rotated to allow the long section to be poured before the two pieces were attached with a cold joint. The curved precast panels for the museum’s base created another challenge—building formwork in multiple axes. Gate’s engineering department created a series of geometric points and calculations for its carpentry wing, and carpenters built the formwork by hand without any CNC equipment. “The hard part is that they get a picture of what the panel looks like, and they have to build the reverse of that,” said Robinson. The curved precast panels will require nearly 80 unique molds in all, comprising about 15 percent of the project’s precast concrete. For its final contribution to the project, Gate will cast several pieces that Morphosis is referring to as “sticks”—long precast beams that will decorate the site as sculpture or functional elements once the new museum’s rooftop ecosystem, with landscape architecture by Dallas-based Talley Associates, is in place.

Preservationists Mob Austin for Density, Community, and Tacos

The National Preservation Conference landed in Austin, Texas, last week under the banner "Next American City, Next American Landscape." Exploring preservation's role in the future of the country's urban, suburban, and rural landscapes, the 2010 conference showed that preservationists aren't all stuck in the past. (In fact, they're pretty savvy when it comes to new media. Check out the NTHP's Austin Unscripted on their website, Twitter, and YouTube to see how preservation can appeal to a new generation.) The opening plenary was held at the Long Center for the Performing Arts, which is sited to take advantage of the unobstructed views of downtown Austin. After a warm welcome from Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell and a performance by local musicians Phoebe Hunt, Seth Walker, Susan Torres, and Ryan Harkrider (check out the rehearsal video here - skip to 7:25 for a sample of some of Austin's famous live music), the packed house of preservationists heard remarks from the new NTHP President Stephanie Meeks, former First Lady Laura Bush, and New Yorker architecture critic Paul Goldberger. Some attendees seemed surprised by the choice of Mrs. Bush, but she's been involved in preservation for some time. On Tuesday evening, she spoke about her passion for the preservation of the historic courthouses of Texas, including the one where she and former President Bush got their marriage license many years ago in Midland.

In her speech, Meeks mentioned that since taking over leadership of the NTHP and meeting with preservationists and architects all over the country, three themes kept coming up: 1) The need to make preservation more accessible, 2) The need to make preservation more visible, and 3) The need to ensure that preservation is fully funded. By addressing those three things, she said, historic preservation can be a "visible, dynamic, broadly inclusive movement." However, I thought the most salient point she made was that places are powerful: Whether a landscape like the Hudson Valley or a historic site like the Alamo, every place has a story to tell and, as Meeks said, "they help us tell our stories, as individuals and as Americans."

For his part, the New Yorker's Goldberger spoke about how Austin embodied the Next American City, making it a fitting location for the conference. Unlike Detroit and St. Louis, which represent the Old American City, Austin is both connected to history and “energetically forward-thinking” thanks to the presence of the University of Texas as well as the corporate headquarters of Dell and Whole Foods. He pointed out that it’s not a city dependent on the so-called "meds and eds" solutions -- healthcare and education -- that many cities rely on in postindustrial America, and that Austin does not have the “new pseudo-urban landscape" of Tyson’s Corner or the Buckhead section of Atlanta, or the Galleria area of Houston, which he cited as "new places that aspire to urbanity but don’t really possess much of it and which show us that a certain amount of density and tall buildings alone do not a city make.” Goldberger also pointed out that “poverty is a great friend” of historic preservation, simply because there’s less money and therefore less of an impetus for building big and tossing aside historic buildings because they aren’t shiny and new. In light of that, he felt that Austin was yet again a good role model for the Next American City, since it has prosperity but also pays heed to its architectural past: Its “solid economy has not led to a complete indifference to preservation.” Hopefully, as the city goes forward with developing a denser downtown, especially in the residential sector, the powers that be will remember that historic buildings or streetscapes are of significant value to the community.