Letters to the Editor
Aaron Seward discusses his return to Texas and some of his plans for shaping Texas Architect magazine, including the reintroduction of the letters section.
Aaron Seward discusses his return to Texas and some of his plans for shaping Texas Architect magazine, including the reintroduction of the letters section.
Lake|Flato Architects is known for its sustainably designed homes. When some of its clients started noticing higher-than-expected energy bills, the firm revisted the houses and installed energy-monitoring devices to get to the root of the problem.
In the January-February 2016 issue, TA’s products editor selects some of the most innovative building control systems on the market today.
The owners of a Victorian home in San Antonio’s historic King Williams neighborhood wanted a little something extra in the backyard.
Artist Margo Sawyer partners with architects, engineers, glass blowers, metal fabricators, car painters, and others in her sometimes-monumental, but always joyful, works.
“Dallas Modern” showcases some of the finest modern houses in the city. Reviewer Eurico Francisco, AIA, calls the book “a visual and intellectual delight.”
The Texas Society of Architects 2015 Convention and Design Expo focuses on the theme of “Stories.” Keynotes by architect Brad Cloepfil and poetry slam champion Rives will anchor the convention, which will include some 70 educational sessions, 30 tours, and dozens of events.
Partner at Austin’s McKinney York Architects, Michelle Rossomando, AIA, leads by example and has a lot of fun in the process.
Mt. Vernon Townhomes, designed by Houston-based Collaborative Designworks, maximizes Houston’s denser-development possibilities and adds a handsome multifamily project to Montrose.
Houston’s Perforated House is a mash-up of virtuoso formal composition, a multifaceted conceptual program, and some tricked-out detailing that comes together in a compelling mix.
Inga Saffron’s ground-level, sometimes cheeky, always laser-focused writing earned her the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Criticism, making her only the sixth architecture critic to win the award in its 44-year history, as well as the first in 15 years.
“I Have Seen the Future: Norman Bel Geddes Designs America, ” a recent exhibit at the University of Texas Harry Ransom Center (HRC) captured Bel Geddes vision of the future and his fundamental belief in the coexistence of art and architecture.
Three projects — Rackspace Hosting (an internet company in the old Windsor Park Mall in San Antonio), the McAllen Public Library (in an old Walmart), and Montgomery Plaza (a condominium in former Mont¬gomery Ward facility in Fort Worth) — offer a cross section of some of the design concerns and sociological effects of rehabilitating abandoned shopping malls.
A new office was the chance for the Houston-based architecture and interiors firm PDR to follow its own advice and build some¬thing that would respond to the firm’s culture while remaining flexible.
In 1980, when Natalie de Blois, FAIA, hit Austin, she dove into local politics, zoning issues, and Barton Springs Pool with gusto. She also just happened to be a woman who had designed some of the most innovative modern buildings in the United States.
By the time I graduated from high school, I had begun to think about becoming an architect. I was visual, very influenced by movies and Life magazine. I liked to draw, but I was afraid of the technical courses that were required, the math and physics.
Throughout the history of human civilization, water has been revered as a life-giving force. Unfortunately, some modern societies have exploited this essential natural resource to deleterious extents. In El Paso, however, there’s a beacon of hope for the education of future generations about water conservation in the Chihuahuan Desert.
In 1949, when I went to work in the high-profile office of George Dahl, I met Harold (Hagie) Jones. We were both draftsmen working at adjacent tables on the back row, the only degreed architects in a room of 60 architectural draftsmen and a handful of engineers. Hagie was a graduate of Texas A&M and I had my Bachelor of Architecture from UT. While we had our differences, we shared some similarities.
The new Tarrant County College (TCC) campus, situated just northeast of the historic county courthouse, should be on any architect’s Fort Worth visit list. However, some background is required to understand how the placement and form of the buildings were developed and, ultimately, why the project was abbreviated.
Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio has served the medical needs of men and women in uniform since the 1870s. During that time, the complex grew incrementally until 1995 when a new facility was built to consolidate the Fort’s hospital operations. Containing over a million square feet of space, the massive Brooke Army Medical Center (BAMC – pronounced “Bam-See”) was clad in heavy masonry that gave it a somewhat institutional quality. While BAMC was functional, the needs of contemporary combat medical practice are constantly evolving and when the decision was made to absorb most of the operations of a nearby Air Force medical facility into the complex, a significant expansion became necessary to create what would eventually be known as the San Antonio Military Medical Center.
The Julia Ideson Building — recently updated by Gensler and originally designed by Boston architects Cram & Ferguson (with associates Watkin and Glover) — opened its doors as Houston’s main library in 1926. However, Cram & Ferguson’s vision for the Ideson was not fully realized. A south wing and reading garden were eliminated due to budget constraints. In 2006, the Julia Ideson Library Preservation Partners raised $32 million to build a new archival wing for Houston Metropolitan Research Center and restore the Julia Ideson Building. The new wing opened in 2009 and follows Cram’s original plan, with some modification.
Some of the 254 county courthouses that dot the Texas landscape were built when the communities they serve sat quite literally on the frontier of civilization. Highly visible symbols of a commitment to the rule of law, these historic buildings were more than mere containers for the functional needs of county government. Today, they continue to serve their communities while also representing part of a rich architectural heritage that is unique to our state.
Many discussions about the practice of architecture end with the conclusion that architectural interns aren’t what they used to be. Well, that’s true: some of today’s emerging professionals are better trained because of improvements to the AIA’s Intern Development Program (IDP).
As a juror for the 2010 Exhibit of School Architecture sponsored by the Texas Association of School Administrators and the Texas Association of School Boards (with support from the Texas Society of Architects), I spent the better part of a week in July studying the latest work of some of my fellow Texas architects. The experience renewed my appreciation of the range of educational design being built across our state and the lasting impact that educators, administrators, policymakers, and, of course, architects can have in shaping the spaces and places where we educate our children.
With the help of a local group of Latino architects, the west Dallas neighborhood known as La Bajada has organized to retain its cultural identity and single-family homes. The efforts are in response to plans by the City of Dallas to explore redevelopment scenarios that would transform an area along the Trinity River near the downtown into a high-density urban village. The area currently includes several small neighborhoods, one being La Bajada.
Published late last year by Mitchell Historic Properties to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the opening of the Hotel Galvez, this handsome volume blends the beloved landmark’s history with Galveston’s over the past century. Gary Cartwright’s narrative swirls back and forth through time to recount events and personages. Cartwright, author of the previous Galveston: A History of the Island, spins episodic tales of the hotel’s clientele, famous and infamous, and reminiscences of “ghosts and other guests.”
There were some unusual sightings in Dallas in mid-July—pedestrians, lots of them, in spite of 101-degree heat. The occasion was the North Texas Sustainable Showcase 2011 that was staged at several venues within an easy walk from each other, giving reason for why many of the nearly 300 attendees were strolling along the sidewalks—a welcome site for the newly thriving Uptown neighborhood.
Our nineteenth-century Texas forebears lived more closely with nature than we do, but of course they had little choice in the matter. Though we sometimes romanticize that close relationship, most early Texans probably would have traded the romance for a window unit air conditioner. Nevertheless, they made the most of their situation and there remains much that we can learn from them about the intersection of daily lives, architecture, and nature.
As we observed in Part I (published in the previous edition) of this two-part series, the term “the Work” in the construction contract comprises more than labor and materials. In fact, the success of a project relies heavily on the contractor’s ability to plan, coordinate, and execute the means, methods, techniques, sequences, and procedures required to put the Work in place. This is not a new concept. Ten Books on Architecture, written by Marcus Vitruvius Pollio in 30 BC for Roman Emperor Augustus, emphasizes planning as being integral to good building construction. In Part I we identified many of the components of the contractor’s Work Plan. We referred to several available resources and pointed out various indicators to look for as one administers the construction contract, including how to tell if a plan is in the works. In Part II we take the next step to examine alternatives and actions to take if there is a weak or nonexistent plan, including a look at efforts by some contractors to manipulate work scope to avoid conformance. We will conclude with a successful case study followed by suggestions for managing the risks and liabilities that so often arise when the Work is not properly planned or managed.
It has been quite some time since a modern house in Houston has received so much attention. In fact, it’s been more than 50 years since Bolton & Barnstone’s flat-topped, cool as a cucumber Gordon House (1955) was published as many times in the local, national, and international press.
As green roofs are increasingly explored and utilized, the range of their application is following suit. No longer only perceived as a technological option for regions with abundant rainfall (the Pacific Northwest, for example), they are making headway in hotter and drier climes, albeit with some tentativeness. Now, with a recent installation at the University of Texas at El Paso, the Lone Star State can claim significant green-roof forays on the institutional level from its east end (near Houston) to its westernmost point.
While other prominent universities in the U.S. comprise a fusion of signature stylistic expressions, Rice University has focused on architecture that reinforces the well synchronized, harmonious feel of its campus. Aside from some unique buildings – such as Thomas Pfeiffer’s Brochstein Pavilion and the school’s off-site Data Center and the Library Service Center by Carlos Jimenez – that provide interesting drama to the otherwise prevailing architectural uniformity,
Established in the heart of East Texas in 1917 and nestled among the region’s majestic pine forest, Stephen F. Austin University is quietly nurturing its student- focused campus life. The new Baker Patillo Student Center, completed in March 2007, has blossomed into a vibrant, 24-hour “town center” for the university and the town of Nacogdoches.
My four-year-old niece, Jocelyn, compares them to “those pads that frogs jump on” and likes to imagine herself as some sort of energized amphibian as she climbs, leaps, and hops her way to the top. Her description is in reference to the new climbing installation or “climber” at the Children’s Museum of Houston’s recently completed expansion (by Jackson & Ryan Architects). The climber, designed and constructed by Spencer Luckey, frames an almost constant ingress of squealing, gleeful adventurers as they navigate the varied vertical pathways rising from the basement level of the addition. Boasting more than 70,000 linear feet of cable, 120,000 ring connectors, and 130 levels, the intricate assemblage plays a central role in the new exhibition space at the museum.
The reinvigorated Dallas Arts District provides a timely opportunity to feature performance venues around the state while highlighting the Winspear Opera House and the Wyly Theatre. Both are stunning additions to the downtown cultural enclave that has evolved over three decades through the roller coaster ride of the boom-bust economic cycle.
Austin architect W. Eugene George’s classic work, Lost Architecture of the Río Grande Borderlands, has returned to print in a handsome new edition.
Plans to build an addition – albeit much smaller than one proposed earlier this year that sparked outcries of protest from some preservationists – to the Governor’s Mansion appeared to be moving forward at press time.
Thirteen projects were selected for 2010 AIA Houston Design Awards. The jury – Brian Johnsen of Johnsen Schmaling Architects in Milwaukee, Wis.; Juan Miró, AIA, of Miró Rivera Architects in Austin; and Amanda Kolson Hurley, executive editor of Washington, D.C.-based Architect magazine – met Feb. 26 at the Architecture Center Houston to review 132 entries from 59 local firms. Awards were presented March 25 at the Rice Hotel in Houston.
As if straight from a big-budget science-fiction movie, the new Cowboys Stadium in Arlington looks like a colossal alien spacecraft tethered to the ground by a pair of monumental steel arches. Some locals even refer to it as Death Star, but it does not appear threatening.
Integrating architecture into any given context while maintaining design integrity is a fine art. Architects must constantly walk the line between over- or under-contextualizing a building to support its strength as a unique entity within its environment. Somewhere between total disregard to surroundings and cliché facsimiles of geologic or biologic imagery, a good architect can find a project’s meaning without being overt. Such sought-after balance has been gracefully achieved by Overland Partners with the firm’s new Overlook Pavilion at Penn State University.
Upon seeing the renovated Pearl Stable one can fully appreciate how past generations respected even the most prosaic of structures. The stable building was originally constructed in 1894 to house the horses that pulled the beer wagons of the Pearl Brewing Company. The elegance of the original two-story, elliptical structure derives from the simplicity of its plan – with horse stalls arranged on the ground floor around its perimeter and its core – and the richness of the corbelled and patterned brick on the exterior. The second floor served as the hay loft from which feed could be dropped through the chutes to the horses below. At the center of the roof was a handsome cupola that provided ventilation to the stables.
Sometime after midnight in May 2009, I arrived in the Romanian capital of Bucharest as part of the twenty-sixth group of Peace Corps volunteers to serve in this former Soviet bloc country. All 37 of us had met in Washington, D.C., for orientation before flying together overseas.
While studying at UT Austin in the spring of 1998, my classmates and I had the opportunity to attend a series of public lectures given by the seven short-listed architects for the Jack S. Blanton Museum of Art. The list was impressive and when Herzog & de Meuron was ultimately chosen we were thrilled by the prospect of what the Swiss firm would design. The insertion of a thoughtful work within the Spanish Mediterranean-style campus was certainly something to be eagerly anticipated.
While some architects look askance at the seemingly strange importation of a foreign style onto the UTEP campus, the Bhutanese apparently are pleased that their architectural idiom has been incorporated into modern American buildings.
The noted Dallas developer Trammell Crow passed away at his East Texas farm on Jan. 14. He was 94 years old and had apparently been in failing health for some time. While Crow’s reach in the commercial real estate world was international in scope, he left an inescapable legacy in his hometown of Dallas.
Driving down Cerrillos Road in Santa Fe one morning last summer while looking for a place to eat, I noticed a number of partially and fully demolished buildings edging the campus of the Santa Fe Indian School. It was a work in progress, a startling sight of splintered lumber, mangled masonry walls, some still stubbornly standing, and exposed interiors. I was somewhat familiar with the buildings, but only in passing. Now I wanted to remember what was gone.
Just how troublesome are current economic conditions in Texas? To gain insight, Texas Architect invited six architects to join a roundtable discussion where they were asked to assess their local markets and offer near-term forecasts. The roundtable discussion took place in Austin on Jan. 19.
Here we go again; another recession. And since the work of the design professional is directly related to the economy, our livelihood thrives or suffers accordingly. Those good times that seemed as though they would never end seem to have ended, at least for the present. Projects have gone on hold, or away, friends have been laid off, and many employees are now wanting for something meaningful to do.
A casual survey of why people become architects will inevitably lead to an early interest in or passion for the design of houses. It is therefore surprising to many people that not all architects design houses. Single-family residential design is something most architects feel they have the skills and knowledge to do effectively, but the reality is few of us makes an ongoing practice of it and even fewer can earn a meaningful living doing it. I know, I try to do it every day and it is tough.
Discussing Dallas Fort Worth International Airport Terminal D and its selection for a 2009 TSA Design Award, juror Philip Freelon, FAIA, said, “We thought that the project was a very good example of a public building, very prominent, but it still was handled with quite some sensitivity. We all have been in airports, probably more than we’d like, and this is one where you actually feel a sense of light and airy space, which is relaxing. Natural light was well used, and the high volume of the space gives it an open and comfortable feeling. We thought it was well worthy of an award.”
At least two things bind all architects together: our vacation photos tend to include more buildings than people and at some point we read Le Corbusier’s Towards a New Architecture. While it has since been revealed that the title and other portions of the book were initially translated poorly, the book remains arguably the most influential manifesto of the early modernist period. Although Corbusier’s grand pronouncements are at times both endearingly naïve and annoyingly heavy handed, his general thesis was certainly revolutionary for its day and prophetic given all that came later.
Some recent trends in workplace cultures have led furniture companies to develop lines of product that are more flexible.
Announced to fanfare surrounding actor Brad Pitt’s personal involvement with bringing affordable housing to this beleaguered city’s poorest residents, the Make It Right program unveiled designs in December for houses by some of the world’s cutting-edge architects. A total of 13 international, national, and regional firms were invited to create home designs for the Crescent City’s Lower Ninth Ward, one of the neighborhoods hardest hit by flooding in the wake of Hurricane Katrina in September 2005.
In 1849, at the confluence of the Clear and West Forks of the Trinity River, a fort was erected to protect pioneers settling in an area occupied by Native Americans. There were eight villages that developed around Fort Worth, seven were occupied by Native Americans, and one inhabited by white immigrants. White Settlement became a center of trade, a place of social interaction and mingling of societies, that still retains a strong sense of community.
As reported on the following pages, One Arts Plaza represents the first major commercial venture to open for some time in the Dallas Arts District. Construction continues to swirl around the new project, designed by Morrison Seifert Murphy, as crews work on several significant buildings immediately adjacent to its site. One Arts Plaza, shown at the far left in the rendering provided by the Dallas Center for the Performing Arts, is set at the northeast end of Flora Street that bisects the Arts District. At the street’s other terminus is the Dallas Museum of Art, which, since the Edward Larrabee Barnes-designed complex opened in 1984, has been joined by neighboring cultural venues designed by other highly renowned architects.
Sometimes the best sense of well -being comes from being in tune with one’s environment in the sense that the environment is a carefully constructed mirror reflecting back views of our better personal qualities. When handled architecturally these expressions of our philosophy, values, and intentions can find their way into daily routines that then become a pattern for living, which constantly reinforces and reinvigorates.
RFIs can often be misused. Some examples include: INNAPROPRIATE QUESTIONS An RFI may ask for the size of fasteners to attach sheathing on the building. This is a proprietary issue that is typically determined by the product manufacturer.
To drive the backroads of rural Texas is to travel through history. Just below the surface of many small towns, a palpable immigrant heritage dwells. The signs are sometimes obvious, the annual festivals celebrating a community’s cultural origins and the museums dedicated to preserving the locals’ ethnic roots. Also, the old churches, many built by the hands of those who settled the area, often serve as tangible reminders of the unique narrative of a peoples’ journey from faraway native lands in their quest for a new, more tolerant home.
‘Shangri La’ conjures a dreamy utopia protected from the outside world. A much sought-after place of tranquility, ever-increasing wisdom, and beauty—the perfect paradise existing somewhere on this earth but hidden from sight. The movie-made-famous name, inspired by James Hilton’s 1933 Lost Horizon, is the heaven-on-earth place just waiting to be found.
Adapted with permission from Liberty Building Forensics Group, this article originally appeared in NCARB’s Monograph Series. Yesterday ’s seal of approval for new products was “It was developed by NASA.” Today the seal of approval is: it’s “organically produced,” LEED certified, “earth friendly,” or some variation of the above.
t a time when our nation’s financial system seems to be imploding, it’s sometimes distressing to ponder what the future holds for the architectural profession. Our livelihoods are inextricably tied to the fortunes of the building industry, which quickly reacts to any economic downturn and in turn affects our work accordingly. Troubling, too, is the issue of global warming because our profession has an immediate and direct impact on the environment. And considering that buildings in the U.S. consume about 70 percent of the nation’s total electricity output and 12 percent of its water, it is evident that what we do as designers and builders in the future must be increasingly responsive to such grave issues.
From out of the crucible of violence and heroism known as World War II arose what some call “the greatest generation.” For the soldiers who fought its battles and the civilians who endured its hardships, the effects of that cataclysmic event continue to resonate more than 60 years later. And much like those who experienced the war first-hand, time slowly but inexorably undermines the physical remnants of that global conflict.
The Texas schoolhouse is evolving into something new and different at the beginning of the twenty-first century as the state’s burgeoning growth has fueled an intense building campaign.
“It all starts with a sketch,” says Joe Stubblefield, AIA. “The sketch is not precious, but rather the essential part of the creative process. The idea is conveyed in the sketch.” Stubblefield is one of many local architects who take considerable pleasure in drawing the often-missed corners of their hometown, some shown across these two pages.
Just south of downtown San Antonio, nestled together within a few blocks on Lavaca Street are limestone dogtrots, wooden bungalows, and a few newcomers, including three regional modernist courtyard houses. It is a street of houses with good bones; some newly transformed, some restored more than a decade ago and a few still ripe for a keen eye and some elbow grease.
The growing trend toward mixed-use developments in the United States is a welcome change from developments of the recent past where zoning more or less dictated single-use districts and led to an overall homogenization of our urban environment. And while they have much to offer, these new mixed-use developments have challenges to overcome if they are to thrive. It is clear that for them to function as relatively self-sufficient, sustainable communities, lessons must be incorporated from urban neighborhoods that have grown up over decades or, in some cases, centuries.
Two years after Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast, the residents of this once-close-knit Mississippi community are still trying to recover from unprecedented devastation. In some areas of East Biloxi, nearly 80 percent of housing is estimated to have been lost or made uninhabitable from the hurricane.
In his most recent book, Texas Towns and The Art of Architecture: A Photographer’s Journey, Richard Payne, FAIA, chronicles beautiful examples of architecture in small, dying towns across Texas. At the same time, Payne’s images offer glimpses of the waning lives of people in those towns. Texas Architect asked Tom McKittrick, FAIA, to interview Payne about the underlying message he wanted to convey through the book’s black-and-white photographs and his essay that introduces them. Responding to fairly open-ended questions from his long-time friend, Payne touched upon some of these points. Excerpts follow.
Genius sometimes strikes quickly. According to one of those quintessential Texas stories, architect Harwood Taylor designed his residential masterpiece for childhood friend David Frame and his wife Gloria during a flight from Midland to Houston in Frame’s private plane in 1958.
Every Texan seems to know of an old church somewhere that has been abandoned and left to molder. Mention the topic and inevitably someone will recall the house of worship they attended as a child, maybe a magnificent edifice just off the downtown square torn down long ago or else an idyllic whitewashed clapboard chapel now tilting precariously in an overgrown field.
Every new project affords the architect an opportunity and a challenge to develop a design concept that will take the built work beyond utilitarian shelter. For residential design this challenge can be even more difficult due to the extreme personal nature of the spaces to be created for the client, someone who has often spent a great deal of time considering what they expect from their new dwelling. For the Jain Residence, Natalye Appel + Associates Architects worked with the clients’ initial ideas for the project and expanded upon them to create an exceptionally well-articulated house.
Linen textured tiles, century-old wood, bamboo rugs, buttery leather, and sponge are just some of the new looks that have donned the floors at the premium floor covering tradeshow, Surfaces, sponsored by the World Floor Covering Association. WFCA, the industry’s largest advocacy organization representing specialty floor covering retailers, manufacturers, distributors, and contractors, offers a top-line overview of the fashionable looks that are making their way to the floors of homes and businesses across the country this year.
The building of new public schools is a thriving enterprise in Texas and – a consequence of this era of unprecedented housing development expansion – nowhere is the boom in school construction more obvious than in the suburbs. While urban school districts struggle to accommodate students on cramped campuses sometimes haphazardly knitted together with modular classrooms, families living “beyond the loop” are afforded the benefit of seeing their tax dollars invested in schools. Cibolo, on the northeast outskirts of San Antonio, is just such a community.
Drive between any two Texas cities and you’ll be surprised at what often emerges as the most engaging building alongside the highway. It likely won’t be the truck stop or the fast-food franchise or the awkwardly expressive church. More often than not, the most affecting building will be some rural ruin, a farmhouse or a barn or an equipment shed, marooned out in a field, long abandoned, and weather-scoured.
More than any other aspect of nature, water has forced its way into the collective consciousness of Gulf Coast cities with the threat of frequent floods and heavy rains during each hurricane season. While most designers think of water as something to be shed as quickly as possible from a building and its site, brothers Chung Nguyen, AIA, and Chuong Nguyen of MC_ Architects have conceived a remarkable double residence in Houston whose central feature is a pavilion surrounded by a manmade rainwater pond.
In Western culture color has long been considered trivial, superficial at best; at worst it is seen as artificial, sometimes even dangerous. So writes artist and scholar David Batchelor in Chromaphobia, his 2004 treatise on the theory and cultural history of color. In developing his argument, Batchelor illustrates how painters, writers, sculptors, and architects have for centuries scorned the realm of color as “vulgar” and “routinely excluded from the higher concerns of the Mind.”
The design focused on two principal goals—to orchestrate an inviting building that would encourage students to venture within and to create a place where spirituality would be part of everyday life, not something removed to a sacred sphere.
San Angelo is one of the best-kept secrets of Texas. While it clearly benefits from the bucolic beauty of its location at the northern-most limits of the Hill Country, San Angelo has neither an interstate highway nor a large commercial airport and one can’t help but feel the isolation of its setting in the remote environs of West Texas. Still, some of its architecture is exemplary, including Trost & Trost’s City Hall (1928), Caudill Rowlett and Scott’s Central High School (1955), Ford Powell and Carson’s Central National (1969), and Hardy Holzman Pfeiffer’s San Angelo Museum of Art (1999). The downtown core is largely intact but suffers from underutilization; the restored Fort Concho (1867-69), and the Concho River Valley environs all contribute to a small city ripe with potential.