Posts tagged with "Texas":

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Texas pushes ambitious $61 billion resiliency plan after Hurricane Harvey

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

Texas Harvey Presentation by Houston Chronicle on Scribd

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Architects organize as Harvey recovery begins

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Ground breaks on Steven Holl’s design for the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

Steven Holl's design for the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (MFAH) has started construction. In 2015, Holl described the commission as "the most important" of his career.

Steven Holl Architects was awarded the job back in 2012, seeing off competition from Morphosis and Snøhetta, but working out the design has been a drawn-out experience. “What you see here is the culmination of a 36-month design process,” Holl said at a design unveiling two years ago. In addition to the 165,000-square-foot Nancy and Rich Kinder Building, and the Glassell School of Art, the architect also worked on the museum's master plan.

The 14-acre campus will also include the Sarah Campbell Blaffer Foundation Center for Conservation, designed by Lake|Flato Architects of San Antonio. The two-storey facility will sit above MFAH's existing parking garage and provide conservation labs and studios, and a street-level cafe. Holl's translucent Nancy and Rich Kinder Building, meanwhile, will see two floors of galleries circling a top-lit three-level atrium added along with a restaurant, theater, reflecting pools, vertical gardens, meeting rooms, and underground parking.

The building will have etched glass tubular cladding that will allow daylight to filter through and also give the building a soft glow come sunset. At ground level, six reflecting pools of water will amplify the luminous qualities of the structure's skin, which will also include seven vertical gardens. These will be cut into segments of vision glass instead of the translucent tubing. Inside, the two galleries will total 54,000 square feet. The upper level is to be shielded by a luminous canopy roof, which has concave curves inspired by Texas' billowing clouds. All of the gallery spaces feature natural light. Holl is working with New York–based lighting design firm L’Observatoire International on the project.

Furthermore, Holl's new Glassell School of Art will connect with the water pools and connect the campus to The Brown Foundation, Inc. Plaza. All in all, MFAH's additions will come to $450 million. Construction is touted for completion in 2019.
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This “barn” uses traditional red wooden planks and copper to produce a striking, long lasting facade

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

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

With the recent wave of corporate office growth, Frisco, a city at the intersection of the Dallas North Tollway and State Highway 121, has seen a number of large developments take shape over the past five years. With Toyota as the most recent and highly publicized to lead the pack by announcing its relocation of its North American headquarters, the area is quickly becoming host to large corporate campuses.

The Star in Frisco, designed by Gensler’s Dallas office, is the first to reach a milestone completion with the opening of the Ford Center, a 12,000-seat indoor field connected to an outdoor Dallas Cowboys’ practice field featuring an expansive glazed curtain wall. With the Ford Center’s completion in 2016, the development has greatly impacted the vitality of the region and the local community. The City of Frisco and the eight schools that make up the Frisco Independent School District will utilize the new Cowboy’s practice facility. “The Star has been a catalyst development for the five billion dollar mile,” said Scott Armstrong, senior associate with Gensler. “Since the completion of the Cowboys’ facility, the real estate development in the surrounding area has gained exponential traction.” Over the next two years, The Star will add an Omni Hotel and additional retail space; a Baylor, Scott & White Health facility will be completed on the remainder of the site.

Other projects are slowly gaining momentum: The $1.5 billion Frisco Station began construction in October of last year. The 242-acredevelopment spearheaded by Hillwood Properties will add nearly six million square feet of new office space with an accompanying mixed-use program, including a 40-acre medical park, 2,400 apartments, 300,000 square feet of retail, and 650 hotel rooms.

Meanwhile, The Gate, a 41-acre luxury development under the direction of Dubai’s Invest Group Overseas, continues to search for investment to partner in the $700 million project.

Wade Park, the largest development of the four, has seen some site work although construction has yet to take place. According to a November 2016 article by Dallas Morning News, the project’s first phase that would feature a large retail component was postponed with completion set for 2018. Its website lists signed tenants such as Whole Foods, iPic Theaters, and Pinstripes bowling.

Just off the Five Billion Dollar Mile, another project provides a contrast to the Mile’s predictable designs. One Legacy West will make a minimalist design statement amongst the horizon. “Given the context we, and our client, the Gaedeke Group, chose to differentiate One Legacy West through an architecture that is simple, ordered, and restrained,” said Mark Dilworth of Morrison Dilworth + Walls. From a 15- by 15-foot column grid, the firm developed a strict logic where the final outcome is a cube in and of itself. The move renders the architecture simultaneously iconic, as it is functional and flexible for the tenants. It is one of the rare, architecturally rich projects in the area based solely upon form. One Legacy West will be complete by mid-2017.

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Department of Homeland Security begins acquiring land for border wall in Texas

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has begun to amass land along the United States-Mexico border in Texas as the agency makes preparations for the yet to be funded border wall expansion ordered by President Trump. Texas Observer reports that landowners along the border have begun to receive “Declaration of Taking” notices offering cash payouts for land along the border. The DHS letters also threaten the use of eminent domain to take the land if landowners refuse to agree to sell—landowners would still be compensated for their land in the event DHS utilizes eminent domain to acquire the property. The move is potentially controversial because many of the areas that do not already host sections of the existing border wall lie along sensitive or inaccessible terrain. Texas Observer reports the story of local landowner Maria Flores in the community of Los Ebanos near the Rio Grande. The Rio Grande forms part of the border between the U.S. and Mexico and the lands abutting the river were—until recently—protected from any type of new construction due to fears that structures would increase the likelihood of damage to local communities were the river to flood. That changed in 2012 when the American-controlled contingent of the International Boundary and Water Commission that oversees the U.S.-Mexico border area agreed to allow DHS build the wall along the Rio Grande floodplain. See Texas Observer for full text of the Declaration of Taking letter. BREAKING: Department of Homeland Security seeking white papers for “complete physical barrier” with Mexico ADPSR is calling all designers to submit protest proposals for Trump’s border wall The Architecture Lobby calls to resist Trump’s border wall project These architects want to critically engage with Trump’s border wall
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Lake|Flato Architects designing a new home for the Holdsworth Center in Austin

In West Austin along the Colorado River, a 44-acre site has been suggested as a home for the Holdsworth Center—a non-profit organization that aims to improve the quality of state school education in Texas. The center will invite staff from six districts and work with Texas school district superintendents, principals, and administrators as part of the program.

At the time of writing, the project is currently going through planning, and a Planned Unit Development (PUD) application was submitted earlier this month to the city of Austin. Speaking to The Architect's Newspaper, Justin Garrison of Lake|Flato Architects, the San Antonio firm behind the scheme, said they were trying to "change the current zoning of single-family residential to make this project feasible in the future."

Of the large site, only half the land will be developed on while the rest of the natural landscape will be preserved. "The master plan aims to create an innovative retreat and educational center where users will be exposed to various collaborative learning and research opportunities within the facilities, as well as the freedom to engage the outdoors and surrounding landscape," said Garrison who added the design will "strive to be light on the land.... The Holdsworth Center aims to maintain the existing ecological zones on the site including the riparian and wetland edge along Lake Austin."

Along the waterfront is a thicket of cypress trees which visually separate the development from the water. Garrison explained further, describing how a few structures such as pavilions, day docks, and boat docks will protrude from the wooded riparian and upper bluff edges to give users 180 plus degrees of views overlooking the Pennybacker “360” bridge and surrounding hill country. "Within the project boundaries, the various buildings are located and oriented to frame various types and scales of open space, provide vistas across the natural meadow, allow a sense of the landscape, natural ecology, and water collection and treatment flow through the site, as well as provide optimal natural daylight within the buildings and solar energy collection," said Garrison.

Programmatically, the center will include an: educational learning center with classrooms and event spaces; administration offices for Holdsworth Center staff and visiting researchers; an academic village where users will be housed on site with a few casitas for extended stay users and various pavilions and day/boat docks (as mentioned above) to be used for educational, recreational and event purposes.

Austin-based Ten Eyck Landscape Architects are also working on the project. So far no dates for completion can be confirmed as the city is yet to vote on the PUD process. Lake|Flato also said they could not determine the project's cost. 

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New Dean Michelle Addington talks about her vision for UT Austin School of Architecture

This summer the University of Texas at Austin School of Architecture (UTSoA) will be the latest school in recent years to appoint new leadership, welcoming Professor Michelle Addington of Yale University as its new dean. Addington will succeed Interim Dean Elizabeth Danze, who took the helm of the institution last year after the abrupt departure of Frederick Steiner. According to Maurie McInnis, the executive vice president and provost at UT Austin, “Michelle is a perfect fit.” She added that Professor Addington “brings fresh eyes and new ideas that will continue supporting the robust breadth and depth of interdisciplinary work happening at the school, and she will lead conversations that advance the field in the 21st century." The Architect’s Newspaper (AN) spoke with Addington last week about her vision for UTSoA, emerging issues for designers in the built environment, and her eagerness to be walking distance from Franklin’s Barbecue. AN: What initially interested you about UTSoA as an institution? Michelle Addington: I wanted this position for a very long time. I always kept my eye on different deanships and interviewed off and on over the years, but none of them felt right to me. When this became available, I knew it was one I really wanted. Part of it has to do with the fact that I come from a Texas family and there is a sense of home. My mother is from Austin, so it is a part of the country that really resonates with me. Another part of it has to do with the fact that [UTSoA] has such a storied legacy in the development of contemporary design education. One can look to the Texas Rangers... [they] were an incredibly formative part of architectural education. And, the fact that the full range of design disciplines are represented, everything from architecture, interior design, landscape architecture, urban design, community and regional planning, sustainable design, and historic preservation. And a robust combination of degrees from undergraduate to PhD. I feel that it's a place that is right for me as an individual but also a place where I feel as though I can bring my experience to the existing faculty and students and build on their strengths. In the last few years, the school has attracted significant funding and progressive initiatives. Examples include the U.S. DOT Transit Research Grant, a new faculty position for the study of Race and Gender, and a high-tech Robotics Lab, to name a few. Though these are early days, can you talk a little about these initiatives and the direction you see the school going under your leadership? If you think about the field of architecture writ large—about all of the design disciplines—they were heavily product-centric for centuries. The digital turn at the end of the 20th century brought forward methods that enable us to deal with multiple contexts, multiple terrains, and different kinds of content. We became incredible masters at manipulating this varied terrain but mostly in terms of dealing with what I consider to be ‘contested boundaries.’ It’s easy to think about a building as being bounded by its site and envelope. But when you start to look at [architecture] as an insertion for instance in ecological, economic, spatial, political boundaries, [it] can accurately map and open up questions that I don't think any other discipline can do. All of these initiatives—the DOT, the Robotics Lab, the program dealing with gender and racial diversity—are looking to insert [designers] into the center of questions that heretofore have been addressed by other disciplines. I think the University of Texas has been on the mark in recognizing what we need to do [in this respect] and it is one of the reasons I'm so excited to be there. One of the things that I spoke to the [UTSoA] faculty about was that I see interdisciplinarity differently than I think many traditional schools of architecture have seen it. All too often we think about how we fold in content from other disciplines—that is not interdisciplinarity to me. That's cherry picking information to support what it is one wants to do. Real interdisciplinarity actually means that you have to be involved in, understand, and affect the 'other'—other frameworks and conflicting points of view. And, you have to de-center yourself in order to do that. You are making some news as the first woman to be named dean of UTSoA, succeeding Elizabeth Danze as Interim Dean. Your credentials I think speak for themselves but do you perhaps have any thoughts about the increasing prominence of women in leadership positions at architecture schools? And in the profession? I have to correct that because Elizabeth Danze is the first woman dean [of UTSoA]. She may be interim but she is the trailblazer here. She is one of my favorite people. There are many ways that practice leads academia in terms of its reflection of the world at large. However, this is a case where practice is lagging. It's going to take some time. I think one of the things that would be interesting to talk about with a larger number of women in the field... is this idea of the ‘other.’ [Women] are used to being on the margins, away from the center, practicing on the edges. A number of years ago there was a book put together by Lance Hosey and Kira Gould called Women in Green: Voices of Sustainable Design. They had noticed there was a disproportionate number of women who were working in sustainable design. You are going to find this for a lot of interdisciplinary areas that are on the edge. I think that as we start looking, again, at this negotiated terrain that is not so centered on the building object, we are going to find and recognize a lot more parity from a gender standpoint. There might be some pendulum swinging for a while because we have big problems to deal with in this world. All I can wait for is the day when it doesn't even occur to someone to say ‘woman architect’ but simply ‘architect.’ I want that term to disappear from our [discourse]. As a public institution, UT Austin operates quite differently than a private school like Yale, where you currently teach. Recently, we have seen several controversial policies emerge in Texas such as Senate Bill 6 (the so-called “bathroom bill”) and the open carry law which went into effect last summer. With these in mind, how do you see architecture schools engaging with similar issues of public space and more broadly how does this translate into practice? I can't say yet how it translates into practice. But what I can say is these issues are another reason why I want to be at [UTSoA]. I want to come precisely because these debates are on the table. It is very easy to be critical of how others are thinking about particular situations, but part of understanding and embracing the 'other' is that you have to fully embrace it. You have to engage yourself in that discourse no matter what you believe for yourself. We are in a really messy world. We are not going to be able to come up with solutions by bracketing ourselves and narrowing our domains or territories so that we are only surrounded with like-minded individuals. I am most interested in figuring out how we negotiate these radically different voices. How we map progress that accepts these differences yet at the same time protects the most vulnerable. In design disciplines, we have an enormous responsibility for the health, safety, and welfare of society at large which means we have to tackle these issues head on. What we really need to do is figure out how to engage. On a lighter note, you will begin your post on July 1st of this year; and, as you well-know having attended Tulane, the south has an unforgiving summer heat. Weather aside, though, what are you looking forward to most about relocating to Austin?  Well, my grandparents lived outside of Dallas and I used to spend my summers at their unairconditioned ranch. I've never forgotten that. Number one, though, is BBQ. No matter what you try in the north nobody can make decent BBQ and I'm tired of my friends from New England constantly dragging me to places where they claim that it's the best BBQ—no. And driving, I shouldn't say this because I'm a sustainability person, but I miss a good road trip. I've never been to Marfa, that's so high on my list.
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Michelle Addington named dean at University of Texas at Austin

The University of Texas at Austin School of Architecture has just announced the selection of a new dean: Professor Michelle Addington of Yale University. At Yale, Addington is the Hines Professor of Sustainable Development and she holds a joint appointment in Forestry and Environmental Studies and Architecture. The university hopes she will bring an "interdisciplinary perspective" to her new position. Here is the full announcement from the university:
Dear UT community, I am excited to announce that Michelle Addington will serve as the next dean of the School of Architecture effective July 1, 2017. Michelle comes to us from Yale University where she holds joint appointments in the School of Architecture as well as the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. Educated as an architect and engineer, she brings an impressive array of experience and expertise, both in academia and applied practice. Over the past 20 years she has dedicated herself to education as a teacher, mentor, and leader at Yale and Harvard. Earlier in her career she worked at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center and at DuPont as an engineer and manager. The interdisciplinary perspective she brings will be a tremendous asset to the school and university, and I am thrilled that she has agreed to lead one of the top architecture programs in the country. Michelle holds undergraduate degrees from Tulane University and Temple University, and master and doctorate degrees from the Harvard Graduate School of Design. Her teaching and research focuses on sustainable energy systems, advanced materials, and new technologies. In 2009, Architect Magazine recognized her as one of the top ten architecture faculty in the nation. I also want to take this opportunity to thank Elizabeth Danze. As interim dean, I could not have asked for a more effective leader and partner throughout this process. She is highly respected by her colleagues and the campus community and has led the school with distinction this year. Please join me in thanking Elizabeth for her leadership and service. Michelle is an exciting addition to the Longhorn community. Please join me in welcoming her to UT. Sincerely, Maurie McInnis Executive Vice President and Provost The University of Texas at Austin