Posts tagged with "Texas":

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How kinneymorrow is helping to reinvigorate the Houston architectural scene

Taryn Kinney and Michael Morrow’s eponymous architectural practice, kinneymorrow, is one of several small, reasonably new studios that should gain enough momentum to redefine the staid Houston architectural scene in coming years. What sets this cohort apart from its peers is the intellectual rigor of its design methodology. Rather than slapping together a collage of materials and boxy shapes—the kind that typically passes for modern architecture in the Houston market—kinneymorrow’s designs arise out of a careful analysis of the program. These initial studies almost intuitively take the form of a diagram, with shades of the Beaux Arts era esquisse, a rapidly drawn sketch containing the big idea (or ideas) that guides the project to completion. Coupled with this is an unusually pronounced contextual sensitivity that is all the more remarkable considering that Houston, table-flat and sprawling messily over the Gulf Coast plain, is by no means considered a city where architecture has served its traditional role of spatially defining the urban environment or of even making a mark on public consciousness. These two tendencies produce thoughtful, modest, and witty projects that—despite their oft-diminutive size and small number—are immensely satisfying on many levels. 

Both Kinney and Morrow are graduates of Rice University, studying there in the late 1990s and early 2000s when it was headed by the Swedish polymath Lars Lerup, perhaps best known as a writer of marvelous essays that speculate in a simultaneously poetic and bemused fashion on the current state of the contemporary city. In 1994, Lerup described Houston in the essay Stim and Dross, (required reading for all Rice students at the time): “The European metropolis-without-crowds has skipped westward while radically transforming itself into a new creature: leaner, meaner, and more superficial, but harder to catch, at once simpler and less bearable to live in.” kinneymorrow, now about a dozen or so years out of school, is doing the hard work of turning such ideas into an architecture inflected by the experience of living in this ephemeral city and it is exciting to see. 

Austin Studio Austin, Texas

This support space for an artist’s studio was plugged into an existing prefabricated metal shed in a rustic outpost just west of Austin, Texas. It measures 12.5-feet-wide by 25-feet long and contains a small kitchen, bathroom, living area, and sleeping loft. The building is conceived as a didactic tool to explain the artist’s process as a printmaker. The site slopes to one side, necessitating a tall concrete foundation, which the architects extruded up an extra three feet past the level of the floor to form a structural wainscot around the inhabitable spaces. Into this concrete, they inserted a set of the artist’s wood blocks, corresponding to different colors and shapes used to make a single print. After the concrete cured, the blocks were removed and the relief images around the base of the building record the artistic process. The new building, with its taut, vertical proportions clad in corrugated metal siding, is a foil to the long, low shapes of the existing studio and its extension. The artist uses red as a signature in her prints and it appears sparingly as an accent in the otherwise all-white, concrete space.

Decatur Street House Houston, Texas

Here, Kinney and Morrow were commissioned to remodel a double shotgun house built in 1894 located in the Old Sixth Ward, a compact community in the shadow of downtown Houston that contains the largest collection of 19th century architecture in the city. Since the Old Sixth Ward is designated as a protected historic district, the exterior elevations of buildings cannot be altered. The architects, who also live and work in this neighborhood, focused their interventions on the interior instead. The existing long and narrow plan consisted of two rows of four interconnected rooms with no hallways. In the new plan, the service areas including kitchen, bathrooms, and closets are arranged along the western side of the house, thus retaining the longitudinal logic of the shotgun house, but adapting it to the desires of contemporary clients. The entire eastern side is left open for living and dining areas with three new sets of double French doors opening to a new outdoor deck and a new, giant seven-foot square window at its farthest reach that entices with a distant view of a pocket garden. Space is articulated with level changes and subtle variations in proportion, rather than with walls and doorways as in the former plan. To accommodate the larger dimension of these living areas and bedrooms, the architects simply extruded the shape of the existing house to the rear building line of the lot.

Kane Street Office Houston, Texas

For another project in the Old Sixth Ward, the architects negotiated the purchase of a 751-square-foot house built sometime in the 1880s—positively ancient by Houston standards—that was to be relocated from its original lot to make way for a new structure. Remarkably, Kinney and Morrow were only the house’s third owners. Its plan, a double shotgun, like that of the Decatur Street House consisted of two rows of three interconnected rooms. Through some investigative detective work and relying on a single photo of the house from the 1970s, they discovered that the center room along the western half of the house was originally a semi-enclosed porch. They restored it along with the missing front porch on the house’s street-facing, north elevation. In the eastern three rooms, the configuration was left unaltered, and the architects chose to make a radical intervention by running a row of giant, black-stained plywood work desks through openings cut through the walls between the rooms. This unites the three rooms and also introduces an intriguing ambiguity in scale, proportion, and color inside the otherwise all-white studio work space.

East 21st Street House Houston, Texas

A second project in Sunset Heights revels in the small scale. The architects were commissioned to rework a diminutive 750-square-foot house built in 1890 as one of the original farmhouses on the tract before it was subdivided. The house, which is 22-feet-wide by 26-feet-long, is a miraculous survivor and the architects could not bear to see it get scrapped. Therefore, the design scheme was to use the existing house as the module and replicate it twice more to accommodate the new program of an increased number of bedrooms and a larger living area oriented to a majestic pecan tree in the back yard. The exterior of the old house with its hipped roof, waterfall siding, and bit of ginger-breaded porch will remain essentially untouched, while the new modules, connected by low, flat-roofed hyphens will retain the square plan and pyramidal roof—but will have modern, minimal detailing to indicate their place as successors to the originals.

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Facades pro Brendan O'Grady on beating the heat in Dallas

CallisonRTKL Vice President Brendan O'Grady views Dallas' hot climate as an opportunity, rather than a challenge, when it comes to facade design. "With the intense summer heat there are numerous opportunities to integrate both passive and active facade design solutions that can reduce the overall environmental impact our buildings have," said O'Grady, who will co-chair October's Facades+ Dallas conference on high performance building design. The city's architects working abroad, moreover, are able to bring lessons learned in other high-heat areas to bear on the local AEC industry. "These firms have the opportunity to take this global perspective and intelligence and apply it to local problems related to facade design and fabrication," he said. Architects, engineers, fabricators, and builders working in the Dallas area excel in digital design and analysis, explained O'Grady. "I would say this is a direct result of the emphasis we are seeing on building performance over pure aesthetics in facade design," he said. On the flip side, "Hearing comments from a recent design awards jury, I would have to say that there is room for improvement in the way a building's program or specific use is reflected in the design of its facade," said O'Grady. "When you look at a building you should be able to tell if it is a hospital versus an office building or an apartment tower." Network with O'Grady and other movers and shakers in the facades world at Facades+ Dallas, October 13-14. Learn more about the first day symposium and the workshops offered on the second day at the conference website. Register today!
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New affordable housing measure passed by Austin City Council

The Austin City Council has voted to tackle gentrification: amid rising rents, they've set in motion a series of policies that aim to increase affordable housing stock in poorer neighborhoods where new developments are being planned.

The council voted in favor of a measure that would create a new fee on commercial developments to fund affordable housing, reexamine a developer incentive program, and lay the groundwork for requiring more affordable units in new developments. The measure was passed at eight votes to three with Don Zimmerman of District 6, Ellen Troxclair of District 8, and Sheri Gallo of District 10 voting against the motion. District 4 Council Member Greg Casar, who sponsored the motion said, “This is a bold plan; it’s not a small set of incremental steps that are safe.”

“It’s not that I oppose supporting affordable housing,” said Gallo of the measure. “I think it’s important in this community to make sure we have affordable housing.… But I think it’s also important to give the council the ability to take tax dollars and spend them and balance them with all the other needs we have.”

As reported by the Statesman, “the aggressive and sure-to-be controversial moves” come after high-end housing units have replaced units in poorer and middle-income neighborhoods, most noticeably in East Austin. A study at the University of Texas has also found that 56% of African-American homeowners were displaced due to the soaring housing costs.

“This points to a predictable and clearly definable source of revenue” for housing, said District 7 Council Member Leslie Pool, who backed the measure. “I think it’s absolutely appropriate to use the budget process to define what our policy and value priorities are.”

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Gensler given the green light for new Del Mar College campus

San Francisco firm Gensler's proposal for the new 96 acre Del Mar College campus in Corpus Christi, Texas has been given the official go-ahead. The campus will be located in the city’s Southside on the corner of Yorktown Boulevard and Rodd Field Road.

A timeline and funding for the scheme hasn't yet been established. However, planning for the project is due to total $1.8 million, financed from a bond package which was given voter approval in 2014. According to the Caller Times, officials have said a “funding source to build the campus will likely be in the hands of voters.”

Last year the college saw more than 24,000 students take part in credit and continuing education courses. "What we have is an opportunity to enlarge theses programs,” Del Mar’s vice president of Workforce Development and Strategic Initiatives Lenora Keas said. She also reiterated the necessity for the college’s expansion, saying that the courses offered are almost at capacity. Enrollment numbers for workforce and continuing education courses have witnessed growth of 76 percent over the last five years. "The demand is there like never before," said Escamilla.

Continuing education courses would be offered at the new campus—which would serve up to 20,000 students—as well as engineering, computer science, hospitality and architecture, among others.

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Ball-Nogues Studio taps into baseball mythology with custom aluminum enclosure

A custom architectural enclosure composed of 200 CNC-milled custom aluminum extrusions.

Forming a porous perimeter to a new ballpark at Southwest University Park in El Paso (home to the minor league El Paso Chihuahuas), Ball-Nogues Studio's “Not Whole Fence” project taps into a tradition of monumentally over-scaled public art with an attention to craft and detailing. Capping off the Populous-designed ballpark, the fence installation turns the corner along a busy pedestrian intersection. The public art commission involved design, engineering, and installation in a rapid timeframe – the architects were given less than a year from conceptualization through fabrication. Benjamin Ball, principal in charge at Ball-Nogues Studio, said there was a desire to address the history of the game with the installation. “There’s a mythical history to baseball about kids using knotholes in the fence to sneak views into the game if they didn’t have tickets.” The fence adopts a large scale wood grain patterning, scaling up the dimensions of a picket to form one massive bending surface. Strategically placed “knotholes” in the surface composition allow pedestrians an opportunity to catch a glimpse of the action on the field. “The structural quality of the fence creates a sense of mystery. By allowing mostly partial views of the action inside the ballpark, it calls for the imagination to conjure up the rest of the picture, creating a sense of fantasy and infinite possibilities.”
  • Facade Manufacturer Sapa Extrusions; Neal Feay Co (Specialty Fabrication); Ball-Nogues Studio (Fabrication Supervisor)
  • Architects Ball-Nogues Studio
  • Facade Installer Industrial Stainless International; Ball-Nogues Studio (Installation Supervisor)
  • Facade Consultants Buro Happold Los Angeles (Engineering Consultant)
  • Location El Paso, TX
  • Date of Completion 2014
  • System CNC-milled custom aluminum extrusions
  • Products n/a
While the design concept evokes a literal image of a wood plank, the detailing of the facade components produce a sophisticated, robust assembly. The architects designed the fence as a system of extrusions serving as both the skin and the structure. Working with Sapa Extrusions, the team designed and produced a custom dye for production of a unique aluminum extrusion for the project, ultimately yielding around 200 repeatable components that bolt together on site. Ball said a lot of design and engineering that went into the individual extrusion. The team designed in fins on the front side, with larger struts on the back side, producing enough structural rigidity to withstand a subtractive CNC milling process. A wood grain patterning is registered in the surface by milling out selective areas of the panels. When viewed frontally, glimpses of the ballpark can be seen, however when viewed obliquely, large struts block openings while providing surface area to reflect a soft glow of daylight. Ball notes interesting similarities to the tectonic assembly of some segments of the US/Mexico border fence, only a quarter mile from the site. "You can't blow anything up to a colossal scale without thinking about Claus Oldenberg," said Ball regarding the literal reading of a picket fence in their fence facade. "We've never used that as a strategy before in our work. This still has to function as a fence, and we still value things like detailing, tectonics, connections. In contrast to Oldenberg's work, we occupy an "unusual gray zone" between architecture and public art.” Ball says his studio is ultimately is interested in craft of building regardless of typology. “We're looking for the right challenges, and the right people to work with. Are they willing to take chances? Do they believe in our process? That could apply to buildings or public art.” CORRECTION: Neal Feay Company was originally omitted from our list of Project Credits. The studio played a significant role in the machining process, providing specialty fabrication and consultation for the “Not Whole Fence” project.
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Master Planning A City's Cemeteries

As many baby boomers are reaching retirement, many think we need to have more of those important end-of-life discussions. There’s The Conversation Project, and as of this year, Medicare is now reimbursing discussions about near-death medical care. But what about the permanence of our cemeteries? How will urban areas—with increasing land shortages and rising urban populations—address, preserve, maintain, finance, update, and develop these spaces? Our cemeteries were some of the first public urban green spaces in the United States, serving as refuges from city life. But perhaps more so than other urban public parks, they are layered with a complex web of social, political, cultural, and environmental issues. “As the meeting point between the living and the dead, cemeteries are peculiarly fraught ground. That makes them easy for cities to ignore,” writes Next City. “Crime, environmental problems, historic preservation, social class, religious traditions, and the thorny legacy of who is included in cities, and who is not, all come crashing together in urban cemeteries.” Beyond traditional land burials, cremation is popular. Some are proposing vertical or skyscraper cemeteries. And then there are eternal reefs, cryonics, and composting. But in Austin, Texas—a city with one of the highest concentrations of millennials in America—urban planners and city officials are attempting to tackle the issues of future cemetery planning and historic preservation head-on. The city is proposing a top-down approach with its first-ever cemetery master plan that spans five urban cemeteries. The report outlines maintenance plans—a key part is improving drainage to prevent flooding–as well as developing outreach services to local residents. One idea Austin is proposing is columbariums: vertical funeral niches that would hold funeral urns. Voters approved a $2 million bond to begin the cemeteries' capital improvements in 2012, but the city will need to further address funding. Up for some historical reading? Here’s a 1950 report on city cemeteries from the American Planning Association’s Planning Advisory Committee.
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On View> Rice Gallery presents "Thorsten Brinkmann: The Great Cape Rinderhorn"

Thorsten Brinkmann: The Great Cape Rinderhorn Rice Gallery Through May 15 German artist Thorsten Brinkmann describes his absurdist installation, The Great Cape Rinderhorn, as a “decaying palace,” full of bizarre, unexpected opulence. A visit is like becoming a child stepping inside a world you don’t understand—and don’t want to. Nothing makes sense, and that’s the point. Walls are covered with unmatched swatches of green, teal, brown, and pink wallpaper, interspersed with portraits of people adorned in trash and lampshades. In the center, a plywood crate has a huge animal horn perched atop it and contains a small opening to allow visitors to enter a hidden “cinema,” where a video shows a king struggling to find the right pose and a tunnel leads to the palace inhabitant’s secret room. Brinkmann is a confessed hoarder, and many of his discarded objects adorn the show. Forget rational minimalism. This is much more fun.
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Texas gun laws prompts Fritz Steiner, dean of UT Austin's architecture school, to decamp for Penn

Shots fired! Fritz Steiner, the University of Texas at Austin's architecture dean, says that he is leaving his post because of the state's new campus carry laws. Under Steiner, the UT-Austin architecture school has ranked among the best in the country. According to The Texas Tribune, Steiner said that "I would have never applied for another job if not for campus carry. I felt that I was going to be responsible for managing a law I didn't believe in." What's Texas's loss is Pennsylvania's gain:  When the University of Pennsylvania School of Design approached him last semester about an opening, Steiner was receptive. On July 1, Steiner will become dean of University of Pennsylvania School of Design. For the past 20 years, it's been perfectly legal to carry concealed guns onto campus, but not into campus buildings. Although new campus carry laws were ratified last year, the laws don't go into effect until the first of August. In a state with some of the nation's most liberal gun laws, it's worth noting that the new law does not allow open carry on campus; students, faculty, staff, or visitors must have a handgun license; and the gun owner must be 21 or older. Public universities are allowed to create some limited "gun-free zones," but those zones can't include classrooms. Students for Concealed Carry, a campus group that supports gun rights, criticized Steiner, stating that, essentially, the only thing to fear is fear [of the law] itself. For his part, Steiner is looking forward to returning to the institution from which he earned three degrees: "Penn is a great institution and I am very happy to go to Penn, but I was approached ... and, if it wouldn't have been for campus carry, I wouldn't have considered it."
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Houstonians love botanic gardens, but not necessarily in their backyards

Neighbors of the recently approved Houston Botanic Garden (HBC), designed by New York–based West 8, oppose the plans, saying that the to-be-built garden will increase traffic in their neighborhoods and prevent neighbors from criss-crossing the site on foot, as is local custom. Right now, the 120-acre site, in the southeastern area of Houston, is home to publicly-owned Glenbrook Golf Course. "The Park Place Civic Club is taking the position of formal opposition," President Larry Bowles told The Houston Chronicle. "Members feel that the garden will disrupt the neighborhood environment that we're used to here and that the open space that the current Glenbrook Golf Course provides will be in essence taken away." The HBG organizers are planning to lease the site from the city, which means that there's extra imperative to keep the public engaged. West 8's plans respond to community desires for connection to the bayou, shady walking paths, access to the outdoors, and space for community events. The master plan will connect the two "precincts" of the garden, named the Island and the South Gardens, with a bridge over Sims Bayou, one of the few bayous in its natural state, that defines the northern border of the proposed park. The bridge over the bayou is part of "Botanic Mile," a wending drive that will take visitors to the heart of the park, an arrival plaza in the South Gardens. The design had to be hurricane- and flood-proof: Landscaping will elevate the site's topography to bring it outside of the 100-year floodplain. Rounding out the program are a classic glass conservatory for exotic plants, as well as amenities like a cafe, visitor's center, lecture hall, and events pavilion.   With a goal of opening in 2020, the group has raised $5 million already, and aims to raise $15 million through 2017. Construction on the project's first phase is expected to begin in 2018. Tomorrow, a public meeting will be held to discuss plans for the HBG. Adriaan Geuze, co-founder and principal of West 8, will be on hand to answer residents' questions.  
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Pictorial> Here are the four winners of the Field Constructs Design Competition in Austin, Texas

In November, Field Constructs Design Competition presented site-specific installations by emerging architects and landscape architects at the Circle Acres Nature Preserve in East Austin. AN recently reported on the winners, but check out the full set of imagery for each project below. As AN's Nick Cecchi reported,
Each of these projects is a diverse and unique response to the competition brief, yet all are united in a search for the latent possibilities in this unique site and the confluence of historical, social, and economic concerns it brings together. As social commentary and landscape art, they provide critical fodder not only for architecture and design professionals, but for the public as well. Competitions and proposals of this scale are not only opportunities for emerging voices to have a dialogue with each other and the distinguished members of the jury, but also demonstrate to the public that architects and designers are constantly reimagining how we interact with our natural and built environments.
2015 FCDC Winners 99 WHITE BALLOONS INVIVIA — Cambridge, Mass. USA BLURRED BODIES StudioRoland Snooks — Melbourne, Australia DUCK BLIND IN PLAIN SITE OP.AL + And-Either-Or — New York, NY USA HYBROOT OTA+ — Austin, Texas USA For more FCDC, check out AN's original article.
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In El Paso, architects explore border politics through a temporary installation in a bus depot

To architect Ersela Kripa, "borders are much thicker than we imagine." She and her partner Stephen Mueller (AGENCY) are building on the strong legacy of theory and practice at the US-Mexico border with their students at Texas Tech University El Paso. This fall, students produced FLASH Installation: Architecture at Rush Hour, a daylong "tactical occupation" of an underused bus terminal at the El Paso/Juárez border.  On a map, the US-Mexico border is easy to depict and define. Its implications, however, run deeper and elude precise definition. In Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza, Chicana writer, activist, and cultural theorist Gloria Anzaldúa muses on the border's many meanings:
"Borders are set up to define the places that are safe and unsafe, to distinguish us from them. A border is a dividing line, a narrow strip along a steep edge. A borderland is a vague and undetermined place created by the emotional residue of an unnatural boundary. It is in a constant state of transition."
Juárez and El Paso form a binational metropolis. When Kripa and Mueller arrived in Texas this September to teach at TTU-El Paso, they were intent on engaging with the space around them. Housed in an active Amtrak train station, the school's identity is tied to the flow of goods and people across borders. In conversation with AN, Kripa explained that "cross-border issues are a daily way of being" for her students. In her and Mueller's fall studios, students range in age from 20–50, and many work full time in addition to their studies. Around 30 percent of students cross the border every day for school. TTU-El Paso hopes to grow its architecture program around critical engagement with border culture. To that end, TTU-El Paso staged its third Beaux Arts Ball in October. To accommodate attendees, food trucks, and a dance floor, a lightly used bus parking lot was selected for the venue. The theme: "being reflective." Student volunteers erected FLASH Installation: Architecture at Rush Hour to provide a light-filled canopy for the ball and spark conversation around the heavily policed, yet highly porous, border. Apache Barricade & Sign, a local, woman-owned company, lent the studio 256 brand-new, orange reflective traffic barrels for one day. Students spent eight hours rigging them to the bus station's ceiling in a 16 by 16 configuration at varying heights. Below, an installation of 300 ground reflectors marked a temporary dance floor on the asphalt. Why traffic barrels? The temporary structures, Kripa explained, are a "spatial manifestation of a politics of directing flow. It's an extension of politics—infrastructure that enacts the law." The impermanent pieces of transit infrastructure underscore the permanence of the (now redundant) bus canopy. Socially engaged work is the status quo for Kripa and Mueller (hence the name of the interdisciplinary practice they co-founded in 2006). The pair won the Rome Prize from the American Academy in Rome in 2010. While in Rome, Kripa and Mueller studied the forced movement of the Romani, addressing the Romani's housing crisis amid a city of overlapping networks, real and imagined. The pair hope to re-activate the bus depot annually with their students. "As architects are not only interested in making beautiful space, we at AGENCY feel profound obligation to expose what's happening. We [architects] are well equipped to uncover inequality and injustice." See the gallery below for more images of the installation.  
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University of Texas at Austin is transforming Speedway into a pedestrian mall through campus

The so-called Speedway in Austin, Texas, is being slowed to the pace of the pedestrian, thanks to a redesign by PWP Landscape Architecture. The road is not a racetrack as its name implies, but a street used heavily by cyclists and motorists as it cuts through the University of Texas at Austin. The project, called the "Speedway Mall," is a move by the university to improve the area and boost its usage. Construction on the mall, to be located between Jester Circle and Dean Keeton Street, will be carried out by the university starting soon on October 26 with the project set to cost $36 million. The project will convert the predominantly urban area into one that is made up of 70 percent green space, a move that will transform the space making it a social hub complete with trees, tables, study areas, and Wi-Fi access. According to the Daily Texan, Pat Clubb, the university operations vice president, stated that the scheme should free up the space for university and educational needs with outdoor learning, campus festivities, performances among other student enterprises. “[Speedway] is a wonderful asset that is not being used, and this project allows us to turn a dull, ugly — this place that students just walk past — into a true activity center,” Clubb said. “I think it will transform the student experience. It will become a place of learning, become a place of social activity. All of the things that will be possible are going to enhance the students’ experience.” “The idea is to transform it to make it safer, to make it more environmentally hospital, to make it more accessible and more usable to students,” Frederick Steiner, dean of the School of Architecture, told the Daily Texan. Steiner has confidence that the Speedway Mall, when finished in 2017, will evolve into an area that students, faculty, staff, and alumni will love about campus. “Where 30 years ago, the Main Mall was sort of the center of campus, now Speedway is sort of the center of campus and it should change to reflect that. There’s an old Joni Mitchell song about tearing up paradise and putting in a parking lot,” Steiner continued. “Well, we’re going to be tearing up parking lots and putting in paradise.”