The Voice for Texas Architecture

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 theme was a natural choice.  Dr. Kathryn O’Rourke opened with a presentation entitled “O’Neil Ford’s Craft,” and her depth of knowledge of Ford’s work was abundantly apparent. Her post at Trinity University in San Antonio gave detailed insight to the group of Ford’s legacy at the university, with everyone achieving a new level of understanding of Ford’s work there.

Next to present, on Saturday morning, was Tom Kundig, FAIA, of Olson Kundig Architects in Seattle. His well known works, typified by a use of steel and his trademark “Gizmos,” are inspired by his early years growing up in the immense landscape of the Northwest — areas liberally sprinkled with the mining and logging industries and their associated heavy machinery. He artfully interprets these influences noting the craftsmanship of his collaborations, ever emphasizing the importance of engaging the end users at a very elemental and meaningful level.

Following Kundig was David Salmela, FAIA, of Duluth, Minnesota. His presentation, “Craft Relating to Culture and Place,” enlightened the group as to Salmela’s response to the influences of his region in his work. Salmela’s stunningly beautiful work is often produced on extremely tight budgets but heavily infused with humane detailing speaking to the soul. It was encouraging to see that, despite practicing under vastly different business models, both Kundig and Salmela produce works that, while on their surface may produce a different vocabulary, ultimately show such a commonality of spirit and reverence of craft.

The day’s gatherings were brought to a close with a presentation by Tenna Florian, AIA, of Lake|Flato Architects. Due to weather conditions, we were unable to visit The Josey Pavilion as planned. Florian gamely stepped forward with a very informative presentation about yet another great Lake|Flato project. Having visited The Josey Pavilion this past summer scouting for the conference, I can attest to the quality of this project. It is sited beautifully, responds well to its

North Texas environment, and warrants a visit if you ever have the opportunity.

The extreme weather conditions caused for a complete scramble and rescheduling of the weekend; since buses weren’t available Friday and Saturday to shuttle attendees to the various venues, we were forced to convene in the lobby of the hotel for all of the presentations. While everybody probably suffered from a degree of cabin fever, there were unintended benefits. There was an abundance of time for Q&A (David Salmela commented that this was the longest Q&A he had ever participated in), allowing the group to delve even further into the essence of the work of each presenter.  And, while some of the tour venues were unfortunately sacrificed, there was even more opportunity for attendees to renew friendships and make new ones. The sense of camaraderie was palpable, which has always been a goal of the Design Conference. We will all be forever bonded by what Canan Yetmen has dubbed the “Great Snowpocalypse of 2015.”

I have to acknowledge the efforts of TxA staff Arlena Buck, Elizabeth Hackler, and our CEO James Perry throughout the course of the year and over the daunting weekend working on the event.  I know Arlena spent long hours on the phone constantly rescheduling and rescheduling again as venues and buses, etc., evaporated with the weather conditions.

Sunday morning brought a little improvement in the weather, and with it at last, bus service, which allowed us to salvage a tour of Denton’s First Christian Church, designed by Ford in collaboration with the Mexican structural engineer Felix Candela. Afterward, we moved on to Ford’s Little Chapel in the Woods for a roundtable discussion with the presenters facilitated by Max Levy, FAIA.

The discussion reflected on the notions of inspiration and craft discussed in earlier presentations. Near the end of the conversation, Max asked the presenters to comment on the state of the art of craft as it relates to the emerging influence of the digital age. While the response could only scratch the surface of this topic, the audience was left with much to ponder. Notwithstanding the weightiness of that topic, 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. It was a wonderful and appropriate close to a magical weekend, and I for one, left renewed and inspired.

Mark T. Wellen, FAIA, is a principal at Rhotenberry Wellen Architects in Midland. 

Forge Craft Responds to Coronavirus Pandemic with Design for Modular Medical Unit

The COVID-19 pandemic has served as a lesson in preparedness for many industries, including architecture. Although the field was not designated “essential” during the national state of emergency, the architects at Forge Craft Architecture + Design recognized the need for a design-based solution to the threat of overcrowded hospitals. Rather than waiting quietly for the green light to continue their current projects, founding partners Rommel Sulit and Scott Ginder remotely immersed their practice in an intense charrette of urgent response design.

TxA Webinar Series: Government Affairs and COVID-19

May 14, 2020 | 2:00 PM – 3:00 PM CT | $10 for TxA Members

Join Becky Walker, Government Relations Director for the Texas Society of Architects, and Kathy Grant, Principal of the Kathy Grant Group, for an informative and interactive discussion regarding the state of Government Affairs during these uncertain times. This webinar, the third in our COVID-19 series, will touch on legislative issues as well as the state’s response to the pandemic.

Community Design Blog: A Report on Participatory Research Initiatives Along Corpus Christi Bay

In late 2015, the first ship exporting crude oil to the global market left the Port of Corpus Christi after the end of a historic 40-year ban. Towards the end of the decade, the State of Texas has undergone a petrochemical renaissance regaining its image as a global fossil fuel superpower.

New Webinar: COVID-19 and its Impact on Small Architecture Firms

Thursday, April 30, 2020 | 2:00 PM – 3:00 PM CST | $10 for Members | 1 LU | REGISTER NOW

COVID-19 has changed the world for the foreseeable future. Join TxA President-Elect Audrey Maxwell, AIA, as she engages with a panel of architecture small firm leaders to discuss their best practices on remote work, HR and IT policies during shelter-in-place, their short-term industry insight, and other concerns. We look forward to their perspectives on what small firms should anticipate now and in the coming months of 2020. The webinar will conclude with a time for questions and answers.

New Webinar: Economic and Real Estate Outlook with COVID-19

Thursday, April 23, 2020 |2:00 PM – 3:00 PM CST | $10 for Members | 1 LU |

About this session: Join James P. Gaines, Chief Economist, Real Estate Center at Texas A&M University, for a frank, informational look at the current times and the economic outlook of the world in which we all now live. This webinar will focus on what is happening today, what we might expect tomorrow, and what it’ll take to get us back to “normal.”

COVID-19 and Financial Relief

Federal Stimulus Bill: A summary of the Family First Coronavirus Response Act, which was signed into law on March 18, and how it affects architects, including emergency leave, emergency sick leave, employer tax credits, self-employed tax credits, unemployment insurance, and provisions affecting healthcare and other community programs.

COVID-19 and Your Mental Well-Being

The COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak has forced millions to physically isolate. That isolation, combined with extensive news coverage on the pandemic, uncertainty about global health, societal disruptions, and an unknown economic future, has led to an increase in levels of anxiety and other mental health concerns. We want all our members to be as safe and healthy as possible during these unprecedented days

Michael Sorkin, 1948–2020

The nightmare of the Covid-19 pandemic has greatly afflicted the architectural community. First, from Italy, came the news of Vittorio Gregotti’s passing. Then, on March 26, from New York, we learned that renowned architecture critic Michael Sorkin had succumbed to the deadly virus. He was 71 years old.

A Call to Action: Calling on Firms with 3D Printers

We are all hearing how the shortage of hospital supplies is affecting hospitals, both here in Texas and throughout the country as a whole. There are several ways that we, members of the built community, can offer our expertise and resources during this crisis.