Texas Architect Nov/Dec 2001: Public Spaces
Texas Architect is the official publication of the Texas Society of Architects, each edition features recently completed projects and other editorial content largely written by AIA members in Texas. That collective participation was the basis of Texas Architect’s recognition by the national AIA with a 2010 Institute Honor for Collaborative Achievement.
11 / 1 2 2 0 01 texas architect 35 (opposite page) Blue and green fiberglass panels at the entry recall the maritime history of the rehabilitated 1920s-era cotton warehouse. (this page, left) shadows of the adjacent harbor Bridge add visual drama to the exterior. (above) inside, filtered light from high clerestories accentuates the essential elegance of the original steel columns and trusses. The PorT of CorPus ChrisTi is The engine that drives the economy of nueces and san Patricio counties, pumping hundreds of millions of dollars into area communities each year. it opened in 1926 and marked its seventy-fifth anniversary this year. The fifth-largest port in the nation, its refineries, warehouses, cargo docks, and railroad tracks sprawl over thousands of acres at Corpus Christi’s industrial back door. Although only a short stroll from the bayfront cultural district and downtown, until just recently few residents or visitors had much contact with the port except for the windshield view from the harbor Bridge of the refineries that hug the ship channel. That changed last year when the Congressman solomon P. ortiz international Center opened at a former cotton warehouse and cargo dock at the port’s inner harbor. (The $6.8 million cruise-ship terminal and conference center is named for the area’s longtime u.s. representative.) inaugurated in september 2000, the 60,000-square-foot ortiz Center quickly became a popular place for receptions, banquets, galas, and other celebratory events. it was the missing link that connected the port with people. There has been an economic benefit as well: Port officials estimate that the ortiz Center will have generated $1 million in revenue by the end of this year, only 15 months after it opened in a long-dormant space. 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 cargo dock. Making those connections meant ending the building’s isolation. Though it’s an easy walk to the bayfront and downtown – where city officials anticipate a boon from forays by cruise-ship passengers – the building’s location practically beneath the harbor Bridge created a design challenge. The architects turned it into an advantage. “The building is connected to the harbor and to the natural light of its setting,” said David richter, fAiA, a principal of the firm. “There are times when the shadow of the bridge itself casts very dramatic shadows across the building. And even if you are not looking at the bridge, sometimes you sense its presence looming as this grand gateway overhead.” The architects established lines of sight and lines of approach to reinforce the natural pedestrian patterns that would link the building to the rest of the city. Then they sited it along a new promenade and angled the new addition to reach toward the cultural district. The angle also suggests the prow of a ship and movement toward the building’s main project Congressman solomon P. ortiz interna- tional Conference Center, Corpus Christi client Port of Corpus Christi Authority architect richter Architects project team David richter, fAiA; elizabeth Chu richter; samuel Morris; sheldon schroeder; stephen Cox; and Lonnie gatlin contractor Moorhouse Construction Company consultants govind & Associates (structural); Callins, haggard & Associates (MeP); russell Veteto engineering (civil) photographer David richter, fAiA