Texas Architect March/April 2006: Preservation
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.
by PAUL HOMEYER, AIA Progressive Preservation project client Alvin ASSETS Learning Center Alvin ISD architect SHW Group contractor Gamma Construction consultants DBR Engineering Consultants (MEP); Millunzi & Associates (food service design); Brooks & Sparks (civil) design team Mark Lam, AIA; Christian Owens, AIA; John Forasiepi, AIA photographer 40 t e x a s AZ Photo a r c h i t e c t Designed in 1955 by Caudill, Rowlett and Scott, the Alvin Independent School District Administration Building was classic International Style. The gracefully proportioned Miesian box of solid masonry planes infilled with full-height expanses of curtain wall was recognized in its time as an exemplary work of modern architecture. Generous overhangs of the flat roof shaded the full-height window system composed of operable sashes (the building was not originally air-conditioned). Solid forms of black brick, along with exposed steel columns, were expressed both on the exterior and interior. The original plan was oriented around an elegantly simple courtyard set between the building’s glass walls and a lattice-like coursing of the same black brick. During its three and a half decades of service as offices, the building was renovated numerous times and expanded. Then, in 1993, it became the Alvin ASSETS (Alternative School for Students to Extend Transitional Success) Learning Center, an alternative school operated by AISD with 55 seventh- and eighth-grade students. The school prospered, and an aggressive expansion program in 2001 called for an almost four-fold increase in the total square footage of the existing 6,700-square foot building to serve up to 300 students. The school’s leadership wanted the new facility to look not like a school but “like a professional building where students could learn to be professional in their looks, their actions and their academic achievements.” The desire for a distinctive appearance led board members to consider razing what some thought was an outdated building, or “updating” it with a new skin. Rather than take the path of least resistance, however, the design team at SHW Group Architects remained steadfast in its conviction that the original AISD Administration Building was architecturally significant and worthy of preservation. They chose instead to celebrate the character of the building and let it influence the 3 / 4 2 0 0 6