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Congressman Solomon P. Ortiz International Conference Center, Corpus Christi c l i e n t Port of Corpus Christi Authority a r c h i t e c t Richter Architects

a popular place for receptions, banquets, galas,

(opposite page) Blue and green fiberglass panels at the

and other celebratory events. It was the missing link

entry recall the maritime history of the rehabilitated

that connected the port with people. There has been

1920s-era cotton warehouse. (this page, left) Shadows

an economic benefit as well: Port officials estimate

of the adjacent Harbor Bridge add visual drama to the

David Richter, FAIA; Elizabeth

that the Ortiz Center will have generated $1 million

exterior. (above) Inside, filtered light from high clerestories

Chu Richter; Samuel Morris; Sheldon Schroeder;

in revenue by the end of this year, only 15 months

accentuates the essential elegance of the original steel

Stephen Cox; and Lonnie Gatlin c o n t r a c t o r Moorhouse Construction Company c o n s u l t a n t s Govind & Associates (structural); Callins, Haggard & Associates (MEP); Russell Veteto Engineering (civil) p h o t o g r a p h e r David Richter, FAIA

after it opened in a long-dormant space.

columns and trusses.

project

project

team

Richter Architects of Corpus Christi designed the Ortiz Center to connect the port and the city, the port and the Harbor Bridge, and the port and its past. The architects’ adaptive reuse of, and addition to, the 1920s-era cotton warehouse respects the maritime and industrial history of the building and

The Port of Corpus Christi is the engine

the cargo dock. Making those connections meant

that drives the economy of Nueces and San Patricio

ending the building’s isolation. Though it’s an

counties, pumping hundreds of millions of dollars

easy walk to the bayfront and downtown – where

into area communities each year. It opened in

city officials anticipate a boon from forays by

1926 and marked its seventy-fifth anniversary

cruise-ship passengers – the building’s location

this year. The fifth-largest port in the nation, its

practically beneath the Harbor Bridge created a

refineries, warehouses, cargo docks, and railroad

design challenge. The architects turned it into

tracks sprawl over thousands of acres at Corpus

an advantage.

Christi’s industrial back door.

“The building is connected to the harbor and to

Although only a short stroll from the bayfront

the natural light of its setting,” said David Richter,

cultural district and downtown, until just recently few

FAIA, a principal of the firm. “There are times when

residents or visitors had much contact with the port

the shadow of the bridge itself casts very dramatic

except for the windshield view from the Harbor Bridge

shadows across the building. And even if you are

of the refineries that hug the ship channel.

not looking at the bridge, sometimes you sense its

That changed last year when the Congressman

presence looming as this grand gateway overhead.”

Solomon P. Ortiz International Center opened at

The architects established lines of sight and

a former cotton warehouse and cargo dock at the

lines of approach to reinforce the natural pedestrian

port’s inner harbor. (The $6.8 million cruise-ship

patterns that would link the building to the rest of

terminal and conference center is named for the

the city. Then they sited it along a new promenade

area’s longtime U.S. representative.)

and angled the new addition to reach toward the

Inaugurated in September 2000, the

cultural district. The angle also suggests the prow

60,000-square-foot Ortiz Center quickly became

of a ship and movement toward the building’s main

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Texas Architect Nov/Dec 2001: Public Spaces