Posts tagged with "Texas":
The disused-but-beloved Houston Astrodome may have finally found its savior.
In early October, the commissioners of Harris County approved a $105 million proposal to reconfigure the aging Astrodome for events and concerts. Plans call for the floor of the vacant stadium to be raised so approximately 1,400 parking spaces can be built underneath.
Designed by two firms—Hermon Lloyd & W. B. Morgan, and Wilson, Morris, Crain & Anderson—in the mid-1960s, the 18-story Astrodome was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2014. When it opened, it was the U.S.’s first enclosed and air-conditioned multipurpose stadium and boasted the largest clear span dome ever built. Before it shuttered in 2000, the Astrodome served as home field for the Houston Astros, the Houston Oilers, and the University of Houston Cougars. It reopened briefly in 2005 to accommodate New Orleans residents displaced by Hurricane Katrina.
Legacy aside, the Astrodome’s age and size present distinct financial challenges to adaptive reuse. Maintenance costs run to $170,000 annually, but tearing down the structure would cost $30 million. The just-approved proposal is all taxpayer funded:property taxes, hotel tax, and parking revenue will each contribute to a third of the cost, while 10 percent of the funds will go toward finding an architect and engineer to design the renovation. Once (if) the plan is complete, revenue from parking will be plowed back into the venue to make the project financially viable.
If the architect and engineer’s design ends up costing more than $105 million, however, the county will not cover the shortfall—local government will employ other, to-be-determined financing methods. Taxpayers defeated a measure to resurrect the stadium in 2013 over cost concerns, so it’s too soon to tell if this latest plan will bring the Astrodome back.
Keeping your cool onstage is no mean feat, but one that students and performers at the Marshall Family Performing Arts Center needn’t worry about, thanks to the implementation of the ice cooling system that Manhattan firm Weiss/Manfredi oversaw. The $26.5 million center, part of the Greenhill School in Addison, Texas, opened this past February. Page designed and installed the system, which involves storing ice and using it in conjunction with an air-cooled chiller as ice melts throughout the day, cold water is pumped through cooling coils in an air-handling unit.
“The system—even in a place like Texas—makes sense,” said Michael Manfredi, partner alongside Marion Weiss at the firm. “At night, when the outside temperature drops, the system can be replenished.” Weiss noted that the production of ice at night is more cost effective due to energy prices being lower at that time. “It’s a hybrid in some ways,” she said.
Thermal regulation for the performing arts center, which includes an expansive triple-height lobby, a 2,600-square-foot studio theater, a 2,500-square-foot rehearsal space, and a 21,000-square-foot proscenium theater, requires careful planning. Each space has its own schedule and has to be calibrated, with adjustments made in advance. “The building is designed with a high level of flexibility,” said Manfredi. “Each space can experience surges of 200 to 300 people at a time, and then just 20 at another.”
Weiss explained that “in performance spaces such as the proscenium theater, thermal ducts are located at lower levels so that they can be insulated by the earth and emerge around people's feet. Here, air is released very slowly so as to avoid noise pollution during production.” The proscenium theater seats 600 people: 450 at orchestra level and 150 in the balcony. Underneath these seats, an under-slab air plenum and diffuser grilles form a displacement ventilation system,which releases cool air as needed. Meanwhile, multicolored upholstery creates the illusion of a full venue, even when crowd numbers are low, ensuring that the performers never break a sweat.Resources — Ice Cooling System: Mechanical Electrical Plumbing and Fire Protection: Page Resources: Glazing System: YKK AP Glass Supplier: Viracon Structural Engineer: Magnusson Klemencic Associates Acoustical/Audio-Visual Consultant: Jaffe Holden Lighting Designer: Tillotson Design Associates Civil Engineer / Landscape: Pacheco Koch Consulting Engineers
Theatre Consultant: Fisher Dachs Associates
Associate Architect: Page
In March 2013, Kevin Sloan, founder of Dallas-based landscape architecture and urban planning firm Kevin Sloan Studio, attended a lecture at the Dallas Museum of Art at which professor Kenneth Frampton, of Columbia University, recited a phrase that had been illicitly written in the 1980s on a rendering of a 1950s utopian city displayed at the New York Museum of Modern Art:
There are no cities anymore.
We are incapable of making cities anymore.
The machine is incapable of making cities anymore.
We’ll have to get used to living in the jungle.
Sloan is working on the Branch Waters Network. The concept is to make use of the waterway system in Dallas–Fort Worth (DFW) as a guideline for a new metropolitan urbanism. Back in 2013, he recognized Frampton’s use of the word “jungle” as more than just a metaphor (although DFW is one of the largest cities in the United States for the trapping, banding, and study of urban wildcats). He interpreted it as a hint that the landscape and waterways could dovetail into the urban framework of a city.
Sloan wants to make use of DFW’s “water branches,” which span approximately 65 miles east to west and 45 miles north to south. He has outlined more than 300 potential miles of waterway that are primed for development. Sloan points out that more than 90 percent of natural drainage ways in Dallas County are currently intact and untapped. So far, his plan has been well received: According to Sloan, a current Dallas council member called it the “most sustainable concept he’s yet seen for the Dallas Trinity River.”
Successful examples of his water branch concept in practice can be seen at Turtle Creek Parkway, White Rock Lake, and the ongoing Trinity River Project. Part of city planner George Kessler’s 1911 “City Plan for Dallas,” the seven-mile-long Turtle Creek Parkway is, in Sloan’s eyes, “a 100-year demonstration that nature can attract density in accordance with the edges of shaded and serene waterway.
“What is astonishing is that, in Texas, luxury and the good life are typically imagined to unfold on an expansive ranch or noble estate,” continued Sloan. “Turtle Creek Parkway produced high-rise apartments and condominiums, as early as the 1960s, that gathered along the edge and are supported by nodes and enclaves of shopping and residential neighborhoods such as the Park Cities.”
For his Branch Waters Network concept to work, Sloan argues that Americans’ preconceptions of planning and notions of “nature” need to be challenged. He advocates replacing the “cultural preference for an Anglican landscape of irrigated turf grass, clipped hedge, and parterres—where all live like squires on a patch of England” with a “re-wilding nature project along the waterways and attendant areas. The forest is out one door. The avenue and the culture of the city are out the other.”
“Whether ‘nature’ means living on a golf course, along a river, or in the mountainous environs of, say, Boulder, Colorado, one can draw a straight line between environments of natural beauty and economic value,” he continued.
Sloan also calls for an alternative to Daniel Burnham’s “Make no little plans.” “What is a plausible strategy to guide an orderly restructuring of millions of acres of unplanned growth?” Sloan asked.
He and his studio have seen two projects realized that align with the Branch Waters concept. Located in Addison, north of Dallas, spring-fed Vitruvian Park—which occupies 17 acres, as part of an 112-acre master plan, also done by Sloan—lies on Farmers Branch Creek. So far, during its eight-year existence, the project has been what many consider a success, establishing a dense, urban pocket without the daunting qualities of a downtown center.
Another project, the Dallas Urban Reserve, is also doing well. A stone’s throw away from White Rock Creek Trail, the 10.5-acre modern housing development made use of a site that was used for years as an illegal dumping ground. The site slopes asymmetrically to allow stormwater to enter a system of repetitive filtration beds, planted with bald cypress, pond cypress, and horsetail reeds. Only three of the original 50 housing lots that went up are still available, and, in 2011, the project won the ASLA Award of Excellence.
However, Sloan wants the Branch Waters Network to go further. “By using the entire waterway network as a natural attraction to form density, transit, and linkages, perhaps the anxiety and opposition to conventional planning, regulatory devices, and legislative actions can be circumvented,” he said.
“The possibilities of the Branch Waters Network challenge architecture conventions. Chance operation replaces totalizing planning concepts and designs. In lieu of regulating plans and inflexible determinism, urbanism becomes a game, and the game is to aggregate along the branches.”
This article was part of our Oct. 12 issue which focused on how water is shaping today’s landscape architecture and urbanism. Communities face deluges and droughts—for some, the stakes can be survival itself, but others see opportunities for decadence. To explore these stories from around the U.S. and the world, click here.
In and around Waco, Texas, public officials are working to create a county-wide “water grid” that would enable various water suppliers to work together to conserve and share water during droughts.
According to the Waco Tribune-Herald, McLennan County, Texas, has launched a study to determine the best way to make sure water is available to the residents of Waco and the surrounding region by pooling the resources of various suppliers.
County judge Scott Felton, an advocate for sustainable water planning and conservation, is leading the effort. Last year, Felton brought together the McLennan County Water Resources Group to help communities plan for shortages of clean water and the advent of contaminated water. The group secured a $75,000 grant from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to help fund the study.
Others working with McLennan County on the study include cities in the region, water supply corporations, the Brazos River Authority, a groundwater conservation district, and local residents and businesses.
Felton told the Waco Tribune-Herald that good planning is necessary to make sure water is available when it’s needed.
“Ultimately, the idea is not to waste water,” he told the newspaper. “This grant allows us to customize a plan specific for our county and our different water districts on how we can better utilize… water and how to conserve water to be prepared for those very dry seasons like we’ve seen recently.”
Even though the Greater Waco region’s water supply is more plentiful than some areas in Texas, Felton warns that communities need to become less dependent on groundwater from the shrinking Trinity Aquifer, which extends across central and northeastern Texas.
“What’s constant in this county is that our groundwater is going down, whether it’s raining or dry,” he said.
Tom Ray, water resources coordinator with Lockwood, Andrews & Newnam in Waco, the lead consultant on the study, told the Waco Tribune-Herald that the Trinity Aquifer is expected to drop between 250 and 450 feet by 2040. That’s as much as 19 feet a year in the Hewitt and Bellmead areas, which are expected to see the biggest drops.
County and city leaders say they envision a network of pipelines that could connect water users around the county and allow them to share water as needed. The final cost of that pipeline network is still under study.
The completed plan will establish a process for monitoring short-and long-term water availability, predict the probability for future droughts, evaluate the risks and impacts of drought, and prioritize mitigation actions.
Other ideas under study, according to the planners, include reclaiming more treated water from a regional sewer plant, making use of extensive water rights that the city has held in the Brazos River since 1914 (but does not use), and making more use of the Bluebonnet Water System, which draws water from Lake Belton.
This is not your everyday waterslide. This is MASSIV, the world’s tallest “water coaster,” 81 feet tall and newly opened at the Galveston Island location of Schlitterbahn Water Parks. The ride differs from a normal slide thanks to its four water jet-propelled uphill sections that propel riders in one- or multi-passenger rafts. There are four of these “blasts” that give the ride its appeal. The jet technology behind the “water coaster” typology is called the “MasterBlaster,” developed by “Wizard of Water” Jeff Henry and introduced at the original Schlitterbahn in New Braunfels, Texas. The coaster’s name comes from the German word for massive, while Schlitterbahn is named for the German word for “slippery road.” If you can’t make it to the Galveston Island location, there are Schlitterbahns in South Padre Island, Texas; Kansas City, Kansas; Corpus Christi, Texas; and the original in New Braunfels, which staked its claim as the first water resort in 1966.MASSIV Schlitterbahn Galveston Island 2109 Lockheed Street, Galveston, TX Tel: 409-770-9283 Designer: Jeff Henry
Despite its remote location, Marfa, Texas, continues to grow as an art and tourist destination. In April, Houston-based Carlos Jiménez Studio finished the Hotel Saint George, a 55-room boutique hotel built on the site of a former 1880s hotel that burned down in the 1920s. The firm incorporated the site’s structural history into the new building, keeping the frame within its original columns and utilizing an existing steel core.
Marfa Book Company, a small bookstore, publisher, and arts space that’s inhabited the site since 1996, is now located within the new hotel. “Through combining remnants of this newer structure, including a unique and irregular column grid and concrete floors, with reclaimed materials such as brick, marble, and wood from local sites, a simple and unpretentious language was created,” said Mary Alice Palmer director of hospitality interior design at HKS Hospitality Group.
Palmer said that the main challenge of the design was to create a place that was “warm and authentic” to everyone, including the local communities. “We attempted to bring [Marfa’s] special spirit to the design in an unaffected, almost accidental way that is true to the unpretentious nature of the place,” she said.
A star is on the horizon: Situated roughly 30 miles north of Dallas, Frisco Independent School District (ISD), one of the fastest growing school districts in the U.S., is home to more than 54,000 students across 68 schools, with eight more schools planned to open before 2019.
To accommodate this rapid growth, Gensler designed a 25-acre complex comprising a 300,000-square-foot office building, 300-room hotel, and a 12,000-seat indoor stadium known as the Ford Center. Totaling $1.5 billion, the project is known officially as “The Star in Frisco” and is part of the area’s larger 91-acre mixed-use development.
Gensler’s scheme has been hotly anticipated by the local community. The Ford Center’s inaugural event, which saw four football games between teams from Frisco’s ISD on August 27, was sold out a week in advance.
Emblazoned with the Dallas Cowboys’ signature blue—conveniently similar to that of Ford’s—the indoor athletic facility will be used by the NFL team, the City of Frisco, and Frisco ISD’s eight high schools. With a clearance of 94 feet and offering football-shaped locker rooms to be used by both high schoolers and professional football players, it is the only NFL training facility in the country that is shared with the public.
Project architect and Gensler associate Scott Armstrong said that the venue was “always going to be indoors in order to provide flexibility,” and to create a “multi-use event space.” As a result, visitors can expect a vibrant atmosphere at events as sound reverberates around the space. Given the stadium’s parabolic roof, Armstrong also highlighted the extensive gutter system that spans the perimeter to capture water runoff.
Unlike most NFL and high school sports arenas, fans can enter the venue through the same side. “Everybody’s a home team here at this stadium,” principal at Gensler Ted Kollaja told the Dallas News. “We wanted to ceremonially bring them all through the front door together.”
Sitting in the middle of the 25-acre area, the Ford Center will be joined by offices and a “War Room” (a space for football tactics to be discussed) to its right, and an Omni Hotel, retail, and restaurant space to its left. Directly in front of the arena will be a public plaza, complete with a football field (one of three outdoor fields in the complex), which will bridge the surrounding typologies at a pedestrian level.
Present throughout Gensler’s project is the theme of openness. In the office complex, a five-story atrium connects the main lobby and entrance to the football field on the opposite side. Aligned with the 50-yard line, the feature provides what Armstrong described as the “wow factor” for the site while also emphasizing the notion of “walkability” within the general area.
The hotel, known as the “Omni Frisco Hotel” will boast a 13,000-square-foot ballroom, as well as 24,000 square feet of meeting and event space. The luxury hotel will also offer a rooftop pool deck with a bar and grill overlooking the open plaza and main entrance to the Ford Center.
The 25-acre development is due to be complete in fall 2017, though the Ford Center is currently up and running. As for the overall 91-acre scheme, Armstrong said that this “will phase into competition at various times throughout the next few years.”
Two projects—one under construction and the other scheduled to start at the beginning of 2017—continue the trend of repurposing old buildings in downtown Houston. This movement began in the 1970s and accelerated in the mid-1990s when the city created a tax increment reinvestment zone for downtown coupled with tax breaks as incentives.
The 21-story Melrose Building (1952), originally designed by Lloyd & Morgan and the first modern skyscraper to be built in Houston, features horizontal bands of windows shaded by cast-in-place concrete brise-soleils. After languishing empty since 1991, it is now being converted into a Le Meridien hotel by the Beck Group, a Dallas-based construction and architecture firm for the Memphis, Tennessee, Development Services Group, Inc.
Assistance in funding the $80 million project came from a mixture of sources, including: $15 million from the federal EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program, which allows foreign nationals to essentially “buy” green cards by investing in job-creating businesses in the United States; the Federal Historic Preservation Tax Incentive Program, which provides tax credits equal to 20 percent of the income tax owed on qualified rehabilitation expenditures; and the Texas Historic Preservation Tax Credit Program, which gives credits equal to 25 percent of eligible rehabilitation costs. Key requirements of these credit programs are: The building must be listed on the National Register of Historic Places or a Recorded Texas Historic Landmark (the Melrose Building was entered in the National Register of Historic Places in September 2014), and the proposed remodeling work must follow the guidance of the Texas Historical Commission and the National Park Service.
The exterior elevations will be restored to their original appearance. When the building was first completed, the spandrels below the clear vision glass were clad with turquoise tiles. In 1969, Lloyd & Morgan, who were commissioned to modernize its then 16-year-old building, proposed a modest update that entailed covering the tiles with bronze anodized aluminum panels and replacing the clear glass with bronze-tinted glass. These exterior changes are currently being reversed in the name of authenticity—that is to say, to erase the marks of time on the building and return it to a supposedly pristine state.
The second project is the conversion of the Houston Bar Building into an AC Hotel. This building, currently sheathed in dark-tinted glass and a granite panel curtain wall, is actually two adjacent 10-story buildings, the M.E. Foster Building (1914) and the Gulf Building (1916), both designed by architect Alfred C. Finn. In 1966, architect Eugene William Slater was tasked with the unenviable job of modernizing them to keep them competitive for leasing.
Slater stripped historical ornament off the exterior and interior of both buildings and sheathed them with a bronze-colored, reflective glass curtain wall. Inside he covered the elevator lobbies’ walls with panels of smooth, polished marble. The unified building was then renamed the Houston Bar Center in an effort to appeal to downtown lawyers. Although the Bar Center was never abandoned, it was looking tired, especially considering the new construction activity around it in the last few years, and was ripe for its second redevelopment, this time at the hands of Dallas-based hotel management firm NewcrestImage. The $44 million project is also in part supported by tax incentives. The Downtown Redevelopment Authority, which controls expenditures from the Downtown TIRZ, provided an economic development grant of 50 percent of the tax increment generated by the project site for the first 10 years, equivalent to approximately $1.2 million. Additional state and federal tax breaks are pending the building’s entry into the National Register, which is currently in process.
The developers claimed to be surprised that the Texas Historical Commission recommended not to go back to the 1914 and 1916 originals, but rather to rehabilitate the 1966 curtain wall. The logic for this decision was twofold: First, the slipcover is fifty years old, a critical threshold for historic consideration, and second, the building’s original facade was so damaged during Slater’s remodeling that the missing ornament would have to be almost entirely reconstructed. According to the developer, this will be the first time that such a slipcover has been intentionally preserved in Texas. This approach has raised the ire of no less an authority than architectural historian Stephen Fox who complained that the Texas Historical Commission was using “twisted logic to preserve a mediocre exterior.”
These two projects demonstrate the nimble maneuvers that developers and preservationists increasingly have to make as they knit together institutionalized funding incentives and a growing awareness of the importance of historical architecture—even in a city as notoriously anti-historical as Houston.
When they offered me the hospital, it was interesting to me how well those buildings work in that environment, and they were probably done by somebody who hacked them out in Washington, DC during the war—very functional, very straight-forward, low-key, but they really are amazingly right for that situation, so I fell in love with the building from the very beginning. The building was falling down, it still is. There is no roof, the floor is gone; it's in total disarray.The former hospital featured a C-shaped concrete structure with windows tracing the perimeter on both sides. On Irwin's first visit, the flooring had been removed, causing the window sills to rise to eye level. Irwin went on to describe the site as having a “Dutch landscape-like view” of the surrounding vicinity. The existing building—which was subsequently demolished and replaced with Irwin's modern, concrete structure—was also situated on a slope. According to the foundation, to maintain that "physical relationship," Irwin also cut his new construction into the hillside (for more construction details, see the foundation's website.) Irwin's structure is also divided in half, with a split between light and dark. Translucent floor-to-ceiling scrim walls, which are featured throughout the building, are colored either black or white. Depending on the audience's view, they can appear opaque and transparent as light filters through. Meanwhile, some antechambers offer no ceiling—a reference to the hospital's ruins. The former courtyard located within the C-shaped crescent of the former hospital is now a garden. Concrete paths run in alongside Corten steel-lined raised beds with two rows of Palo Verde trees. According to the foundation, rest of the vicinity—comprising fields of grasses, wildflowers, mesquite, scrubs, and cactus—has been left in its "natural state."