Texas Architect Nov/Dec 2007: Sacred Space
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.
texas architect 11 / 1 2 2 0 07 9 News Courthouse emanates from His Concept But without Predock’s Name as Designer e l p a s o The U.S. Courthouse now under construction in this border city’s downtown will not look like the building designed by Antoine Predock, FAIA. In fact, Predock expects its appearance to be so different that he has offi- cially requested that his name be removed from the project. And for the same reason, Predock may disassociate himself from the U.S. Court- house he designed for Las Cruces, a project also currently being built. About one year ago, according to Predock’s office in Albuquerque, the 2006 AIA Gold Medalist sent a letter to the General Services Administration requesting that he no longer be identified as the El Paso project’s design architect. GSA, the agency that serves as land- lord for many federal properties, has acknowl- edged his request and now refers to ASCG as the “design firm of record” for that project. Based in Anchorage, Alaska, ASCG is an archi- tecture/engineering firm with offices in New Mexico and Texas, as well as other states. (GSA originally contracted with BPLW Architects & Engineers of Albuquerque, but that firm was later purchased by ASCG.) According to the GSA, Predock was a subcontractor to ASCG. Asked about the changes to the original design, GSA Public Affairs Officer Shala Geer- Smith stated in an e-mail message, “After it was determined that the Courthouse, as designed, could not be constructed for the amount Con- gress had appropriated, GSA contracted with Carter & Burgess to value engineer the project. ASCG then incorporated many of those changes to bring the project within scope.” The original federal allocation for the El Paso project was just under $65.5 million, but the budget eventually grew to around $74 mil- lion by the time ground-breaking took place in March 2006. GSA attributes part of that increase to rising construction costs. Geer- Smith said the project, scheduled for completion in December 2008, will encompass 239,600 gross square feet as originally planned. Predock’s concept for El Paso called for the federal complex to divide its different functions into the two main volumes—an eight-story main volume housing 11 courtrooms and 13 judge’s chambers all located on the upper levels, and a four-story volume for the clerk-of-courts, jury assembly, and circuit library. Predock’s selection was made through the GSA’s Design Excellence Program, which has garnered much respect among architects for improving the design integrity for federal projects. Predock won the El Paso commission with a highly poetic scheme that responds to the West Texas landscape by acknowledging the site in several ways, such as by its framing of views, its solar orientation, and its containment of civic space. Most significant is how the design represents the city’s geographical location at “the pass,” a natural gateway that the Rio Grande carved through the mountains. Therefore, Pre- dock designed a complex of two major volumes – one meant to be clad in copper and the other in Texas limestone – joined by a louvered glass entry lobby that represents the metaphorical “pass” through the structure. Rumors have been circulating for several months that Predock had respectfully asked that his name be removed from the project because he was never consulted on “value engineering” decisions. Changes made subsequent to the design phase reportedly include the replace- ment of the limestone cladding with burnished concrete block. In addition, many of the copper scrims also may have been eliminated. José Sanchez, Predock’s project manager on the Las Cruces courthouse, said recently that similar decisions has Predock considering that GSA take his name off that project. But that may be a moot point, because GSA’s Geer-Smith stated, “The design of the U.S. Courthouse in Las Cruces has been completed by Carter & Bur- gess through a design-build procurement.” The spokeswoman also forwarded the follow- ing statement from Scott Armey, GSA’s regional administrator for its southwest regional office in Fort Worth. “The U.S. General Services Administration is honored to have architects of Antoine Predock’s calibre assist on our proj- ects around the country. However, sometimes our conceptual architects do not acknowledge the budget constraints that Congress and our taxpayers have set forth. This is an ongoing challenge that we try to work through with all parties involved.” E d S o lt E r o , A I A el Paso’s federal courthouse is on schedule for December 2008 completion, but changes in the design will result in a complex different from that depicted in the rendering. Co ns t ruCt io n photo by Ed solt Ero, A iA ; il lus t r At io ns Court Esy Gs A