Mark T. Wellen on CRAFT

"It was impossible not to be inspired sitting in the Little Chapel in the Woods soaking up the genius that was O’Neil Ford and thinking about all the craftspeople who contributed with such conviction to that place," writes Mark T. Wellen. – photo by Alan Roberts Mark T. Wellen, FAIA, is a veteran when it comes to Texas Architects Design Conferences, having co-founded the annual event and attended all four so far. The conference, which brings together some of the best minds in the profession to focus on central theme, provides attendees with a smaller, more intimate setting than our Annual Convention. This year, architects explored…

Project ArchiTX: Castano House

Craig McMahon Architects' renovation and new addition to a San Antonio home responds to the South Texas climate and employs a simple materials palette to achieve continuity. Project Castano House, San Antonio  Architect Craig McMahon Architects Photographers Dror Baldinger and Mark Menjivar Craig McMahon Architects’ Castano House is a subtle statement in site efficiency and maximizing an enjoyable aspect of the South Texas climate: its Gulf Coast breeze. The San Antonio-based architect approached the renovation and new addition to the home with a pared-down philosophy regarding space and materials. The original stucco finish was stripped from the existing house, exposing the concrete structure,…

2015 Design Conference Reflections

The Fourth Annual Texas Society of Architects Design Conference: CRAFT was a highly anticipated event, with registration surpassing planned numbers, even generating a waiting list. Texas weather reared its ugly head early Friday morning (exceeding forecasted conditions) as extremely low temperatures, ice, and snow set in. Intrepid attendees pushed on and by late afternoon there were over 50 on hand milling around the hotel, glad to be off the highways, and anxious for the conference to begin. Nestled in the arms of early and mid-career work of O’Neil Ford, FAIA, and his assorted partners and collaborators, the conference’s location and…

From the Beach to the Bay

Galveston Island State Park is shrinking: Scientists predict that the landmass will decrease 22 percent over the next 50 years due to rising sea levels and beach erosion, transforming much of what is dry land into open water or marsh. The park is the only contiguous beach-to-bay stretch of land on the island. It is 2,000 acres and welcomes over 350,000 visitors annually, despite the fact that Hurricane Ike destroyed the majority of the park facilities in 2008. With a Texas Parks & Wildlife Department-approved master plan in hand, Studio Outside Landscape Architects, in collaboration with Overland Partners, is gearing…

Rehabilitation and Recovery

After the double whammy of Hurricane Ike in 2008 and the great Texas drought of 2011, the unthinkable happened in Houston’s Memorial Park: Half of the trees died. An urban woodland covering 1,503 acres in the heart of the city was suddenly a wasteland.  This catastrophe prompted the Houston Arboretum and Nature Center, established in 1951 on 155 acres in the southwest quadrant of Memorial Park, to commission a new master plan in 2012. Its intent was to understand how such a disaster could have occurred and how to prevent another one in the future. A large multidisciplinary team led…

Curtain Wall Call

Can a 500-ft-tall glass box in Houston possibly be a good idea? The recent expansion of high-rise office buildings in the Central Business District says yes. Spanning a three-block radius in the heart of downtown, three towers — BG Group Place and 609 Main at Texas, both designed by Pickard Chilton, and Capitol Tower by Gensler — are leading a new era of construction in the Bayou City. The Class A office buildings, all of which will be LEED-CS certified, are among the first to incorporate recent innovations in curtain wall technology, leading Houston’s skyline into the 21st century at…

New Scenes in America Deserta

The images shown here attempt to capture Land Arts of the American West at Texas Tech University, an interdisciplinary course within the College of Architecture led by architect Chris Taylor. The program is a self-described “semester abroad in our backyard,” where students directly engage with land art, ambiguously corralled by Taylor as “anything humans do in the landscape.” The group visits a range of sites, from essential art destinations — Spiral Jetty, Sun Tunnels, The Lightning Field, Double Negative, Roden Crater, the Chinati Foundation — to active indigenous settlements, archaeological sites, military bases, research outposts, mines, and natural formations. It…

A Living Building in North Texas

Fifteen miles outside Decatur is an unassuming, low-slung pavilion with sloped gable roofs. With its simple material palette and geometries, the building recedes into the flat terrain and swaying grasses, subtly but deliberately connecting visitors with the landscape. Windows facilitate the connection: A meeting room’s smaller apertures are cut low to accommodate seated viewers, while kitchen windows invite visitors to stand at the counter. A generous gathering space opens to a courtyard with a large live oak tree on the east; on the west, a porch takes advantage of an expansive view of the prairie.  The Betty and Clint Josey…

Project ArchiTX: South Texas Heritage Center

Ford, Powell, & Carson elegantly bridges the past and future with the restoration of The Witte Museum's Pioneer Hall and the creation of a glassy addition. Project Robert J. and Helen C. Kleberg South Texas Heritage Center, San Antonio Client The Witte Museum  Architect Ford, Powell, & Carson Photographer Dror Baldinger The South Texas Heritage Center Museum combines a historic Beaux-Arts meeting hall with a transparent modern addition by Ford, Powell, & Carson. In 1936, Ayers & Ayers constructed the original building, Pioneer Hall, which commemorated Texas’ Centennial Celebration, on the banks of the San Antonio River. This classical Texas building adorned with terracotta-roofed tile and a limestone-clad…

2015 Design Conference: Recap

Despite snow and freezing rain, the Texas Society of Architects’ 2015 Design Conference: CRAFT took place in Denton this past weekend. The weather conditions required some rearranging of event activities, but all in all, the Design Conference was a wonderfully intimate and stimulating event. Upon arrival on the afternoon of Friday, Feb. 27, the more than 60 conference attendees settled in at the Courtyard by Marriott to enjoy a presentation about the legacy of O’Neil Ford in Texas. The talk was delivered by architectural historian Dr. Kathryn O’Rourke 
of Trinity University in San Antonio. The Little Chapel in the Woods by…