Texas Architect January/February 2014: Ecologies
This issue on “Ecologies” explores urban design across Texas and focuses on the increasing importance of green infrastructure for our cities. With the rehabilitation of the San Antonio River, the state now has the longest linear park in the nation. Dallas is also leading urban design trends with its progressive parks plan — Klyde Warren Park is just one example of the good work being done. Houston and Austin are also both relying on green infrastructure to create valuable public spaces. Other important urban design initiatives featured include mixed-use development in downtown Austin, El Paso’s first net-zero senior housing project, and the push for San Antonio’s missions to be added to the World Heritage List.
PURCH by Rebecca Roberts Generally, when we think of designing space for habitation, we think in terms of the human-scale of spaces. We think of the ways we move throughout our houses, offices, neighborhoods, and cities, and how we can design spaces to best suit our needs. Seldom do we recognize that we are not the only ones occupying these urbanized tracts of land — we share them with other species, many of which have resided in these locations long before we came. Through his PURCH project (Positioned Urban Roosts for Civic Habitation), architect Ned Dodington, Assoc. AIA, hopes to expand our perspectives on place-making to accommodate species other than our own. for bird feeding and nesting structures that were part of an art installation in Houston’s Russ Pitman Park. The feeders were constructed of laser-cut wooden fins, and some feeders used an acrylic film to hold bird food and water. Dodington assembled PURCH is a series of designs Each proposal is distinct in that the details of the roosting structures cater to the kinds of birds that would flourish in those environments. each feeder by hand and was responsible for its installation. He crafted the fins to meet specific conditions sought out by different birds. For the 15 pieces installed in the park, four different types of fins were designed. The installation in Russ Pitman Park is only one facet of PURCH, however, and additional proposals include roosting structures in various Houston locations — near Buffalo Bayou, Main Street Square, and the Downtown Transit Center. Each proposal is distinct in that the details of the roosting structures cater to the kinds of birds that would flourish in those environments. The PURCH structures designed for Main Street Square, for instance, are calculated to attract rock pigeons, which currently live in the area and prefer nesting in cliffs; the depth of the nesting enclosures mimics cliff conditions. Additionally, the roosting structures are equipped with a horizontal landing surface, an overhang for weather protection, and a hang, clamp, or post for installation. While the PURCH structures meet the habitation needs of birds, they also satisfy the human desire for bird-watching by encouraging birds to thrive within the city. PURCH is a reminder that even urban environments are part of nature. In fact, the unkempt urbanity was what inspired Dodington to begin the project. He commented, “I marveled at downtown Houston’s canyon-like streets and overall wildness.” What Dodington teaches us through PURCH is that we can forge a greater connection with other species by designing with their needs in mind. Rebecca Roberts is a graduate student at The University of Texas at Austin School of Architecture. PHOTOS COURTESY NED DODINGTON, ASSOC. AIA. Ned Dodington, Assoc. AIA, raises awareness about animals in urban environments. His PURCH project was installed in Houston’s Russ Pitman Park. 1/2 2014 Texas Architect 15