Texas Architect Jan/ Feb 2009: Campus Communities
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 1/2 2009 12 Tech’s Students Consider Future Use Of the ‘Eighth Wonder of the World’ Reconsidering the Houston Astrodome was the primary focus for the Practicum + Studio at Texas Tech University this past fall. Graduate students of the College of Architecture gain professional experience with local firms while engaging in a studio project that responds to identified community needs. The challenge, presented by the Greater Houston Preservation Alliance, was to explore possibilities for the building’s re-use as a convention hotel and to reinvigorate the dialogue about its future. This is no small feat considering the tremendous amount of coverage by the local media about the fate of the Astrodome, veritably abandoned in 2003. The factors weighing on its prospects for the future are intensely complicated partly due to the number of parties involved. Those parties include its owner, Harris County, and organizations that hold leases to the surrounding site – the Houston Texans professional football team and the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo – whose support is criti- cal to the success of any plan for re- purposing the stadium. The Astrodome, designed by Hermon Lloyd & W.B. Morgan and Wilson, Morris, Crain & Anderson, was completed in 1965 as the world’s first indoor domed stadium. With a clear span of 642 feet, the building made engineering news by utilizing compression and tension rings in unison with a complex series of lamella trusses. The Astrodome – built as the new home for Houston’s professional baseball team, the Colt 45s (later renamed the Astros), the Oilers professional football team, and the Livestock Show and Rodeo – remained an eco- nomically viable enterprise for nearly 40 years until professional sports teams began to prosper and state lawmakers established the means for local governments to creatively fund public sta- diums and ball parks. Left in the wake of these changes, the Astrodome is now used largely as a storage facility for the site’s tenants. The Practicum + Studio students were chal- lenged to review the existing federal historic preservation investment tax credit application and to develop a design that supported their position in response to the historic value of the structure. One particularly interesting concept (below) by Jarod Fancher presented the manipulation of “inside versus outside,” by removing the existing skylights and exposing the structural lamella truss system to enable more light to enter the structure and reduce the amount of conditioned space. This concept further explored the manipulation of inside/outside by opening the structure to vehicles, provid- ing a convenient drop-off for the hotel while expanding the program to include mixed-use development with possibilities for a 24-hour environment. Much like the original spectators who only experienced the sheer volume of the space as they entered the seating bays, sightlines from the approach- ing vehicle are obstructed until it enters the domed space at which point the it is embraced by the vastness of the clear span. Another student, Kyle Meason, proposed a bold approach continued on page 65 Recovery Efforts On Coast Continue Four Months After Ike’s Devastation g a l v e s t o n Remediation efforts continue four months after Hurricane Ike hit Galveston Island on Sept. 13, damaging three-fourths of Galveston’s structures and causing severe flooding in the city’s downtown historic district. As of mid-December, a third of Galveston’s resi- dents still could not live in their homes, and only a few businesses had reopened downtown. State officials are anticipating federal money, perhaps as much as $89 million, to assist in recovery efforts, a portion of which would be dis- tributed to Galveston for its historic buildings. A request for funds is now being considered by the U.S. Congress. Stan Graves, AIA, director of the architecture division at the Texas Historical Commission (THC), said at press time that Con- gress might reach a decision early in the year. Galveston’s downtown, with one of the nation’s largest collections of restored nine- teenth-century iron-front commercial build- ings, sustained wide-spread damage during Ike when water reached up to 12 feet in some of the buildings. The Galveston Historical Foundation (GHF) is working to rebuild, with the help of national and local agencies. A positive sign came at the end of October, when two popular tourist attractions reopened for the first time since September: the 1886- 1892 Gresham House, also known as the Bishop’s Palace, and the 1877 ship Elissa. In addition to salvaging its own buildings, the GHF has helped community members assess damage to their historic buildings and has distributed building materials to low- income residents to help them make repairs in order to move back into their homes. “It will be at least 12 to 18 months before Galveston is back to normal—meaning a viable city with commerce and a community. What that demographic will be is anybody’s guess,” said Antoine Bryant, Assoc. AIA, project manager for AIA Houston’s Disaster Action (HDA) and principal of the Bryant Design Group. Since the hurricane, HDA has trained volun- teer architects to conduct damage assessments for those affected by Ike. As of November, HDA had completed 250 free assessments in Houston and other areas, and had helped 504 residents. “Now we need to think about phase two — from both an architectural and a social welfare point. We need to get 20 percent of Galveston’s residents back to their city,” Bryant said. “There are lots of social problems because many lower income residents have no insurance, and their homes have to be torn down due to storm damage. Long-term infrastructure and reloca- tion strategies are needed.” He added, “From a civic standpoint, you can rebuild a city, but how do you ensure that developers don’t come in and rebuild a differ- ent city?” noelle heinze