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RE-IMAGINING THE ASTRODOME


PROJECT: Simply put, this is a study of the Astrodome not only as a piece of the Reliant Complex and the operations of the current tenants but as a piece of the City of Houston. TEAM: Project: Astrodome Park – Case Study Type: Public Use Project Year: 2013 Location: 8400 Kirby Drive, Houston, Texas 77054 Size: 350,000 sq. ft. Project Team: Ryan Slattery Anton Stoev Special Thanks: University of Houston COA


PART I The following is a holistic study of the Houston Astrodome, the surrounding community and the City of Houston to determine the best use for the dome within all three contexts. Not only is it important to understand the immediate surroundings (Reliant Park) and the current tenants (most notably the HLSR and Texans) but also understand how the facility function within the larger construct of the city – i.e. it’s integration with city infrastructures like the Light Rail, the B-Cycle Bike Share Program as well as the natural environments such as the Bayou Systems and Houston’s growing “green” culture. It’s important to understand that the end product is the result of a systematic process of accounting for as many factors, existing or proposed, as possible. “Part I” is an attempt to “place” the Astrodome within a proper context.


In 1960, Major League Baseball expanded the league and the then Houston Colt .45 would begin play in 1962. Roy Hofheinz, acknowledging the Houston heat and humidity, decided he would bring the Coliseum to Houston for the fledgling MLB team. In 1964, the largest domed stadium in the world was completed and Houston became home of the Houston Astros and the 8th Wonder of the World - the Houston Astrodome. Houston is slowly becoming a city with no history. Houston is a city that tears down an apartment complex to build a supermarket and then, across the same street, will tear down a supermarket to build an apartment complex. The urban fabric is fragmented and unintelligible. The average life span of a building is nothing more than a few decades. The Astrodome is certainly a relic of Houston’s past. It was once an international icon. The very first of its kind, and would become the blueprint of enclosed stadiums for decades to come. Now, 47 years later, it’s a decaying, condemned structure with no present and no future. It is a building in limbo, a victim of inactivity. Houston is also hot. Residents of the Bayou City are well aware of this fact. But, in a city that sprawls to the tune of more than 600 square miles, only 14% is considered recreational green space. There is very little refuge from the summer heat. Not even the simplest of considerations – shade. Houston has more than 16,000 lane miles of surface streets and an intricate network of highways crisscrossing the city. At the end of these surface streets and highways are parking lots and garages. A recent New York Times article estimates that in the US there are eight parking sports for every car and in Houston alone we provide every resident with 30 parking spots. It a city built for the motorist.

There are 2 problems at play. How do you salvage a piece of Houston’s history? And, how do you best shape that repurposing in the best interest of the city it serves? This is a study that looks to reclaim the astrodome in an attempt to preserve its history and iconography as well as retool it to serve the visitors of the Reliant Complex. There are literally hundreds of opinions as to what to do with the Astrodome. Chances are you’re formulating your own right now. What we have failed to see in any of them is a solution for the Astrodome that addresses the stadium within the larger context of the city. Every plan addresses nothing more than the site itself, with no demonstration of need, at least publicly demonstrated need. Through the integration of a park and the transformation of the artificial “playing field” into a naturally occurring “growing field” the idea reclaims a neglected site in the same ideal as the High Line in New York or the Olympic Sculpture Part in Seattle. Mickey Mantle hit the first homerun in the Astrodome. Ali fought Williams here. UH played The Game of The Century against UCLA under the dome. And, it housed those who lost everything in the wake of one of the most devastating storms in recent memory. If it were simply the preservation of Mantle and Ali, in my opinion that would be enough. But, more than that, for me it’s the preservation of the audacity of what the dome was. It was a modern marvel. It was the first of its kind and it stood as a symbol of what we could build, structure that were never before conceived. It should be preserved and through that preservation address a very real problem in a very hot concrete desert.

PRECEDENTS The High Line – New York City, New York 1.45-mile section of the former elevated New York Central Railroad spur called the West Side Line. The recycling of the railway into an urban park has spurred real estate development in the neighborhoods that lie along the line.

Olympic Sculpture Park – Seattle, Washington The former industrial site was occupied by the oil and gas corporation Unocal until the 1970s and subsequently became a contaminated brown field before the Seattle Art Museum proposed to transform the area into one of the only green spaces in Downtown Seattle.

Downtown River Park Proposal – Los Angeles, California The master plan for the LA viaduct combines existing rail with man-made wetlands and features a green belt of trails for bikes and pedestrians that is fed by Union Station and connects a ring of mixed-use neighborhoods.

The Low Line Proposal – New York City, New York Proposed for an abandoned trolley terminal beneath Delancey Street that’s closed to the public. It was built in 1903 to house Williamsburg Bridge trolleys and has sat unused since 1948.


north

MEMORIAL PARK

WHITE OAK PARK

ELEANOR TINSLEY PARK

RICE CAMPUS DOWNTOWN MEDICAL CENTER HERMAN PARK RELIANT PARK

DISCOVERY GREEN

GREEN SPACE

BUFFALO BAYOU BRAYS BAYOU

There are 5 major entities that manage parks within the 600 square miles of the City of Houston. They include The Houston Parks and Recreation Department managing 33, 000 acres of park space, Harris County Parks managing 13,000 acres within the city limits, Fort Bend County Parks and Recreation Department managing 2,000 acres, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department managing 380 acres and Discovery Green Conservancy managing 12 acres. Collectively, these entities manage close to 50,000 acres of park space within the city and ranks Houston amongst the top 10 in terms of quantity. While this is a considerable amount of park space on the surface, it only accounts for 14% of the total land area with the city ranking Houston lower than most major cities in terms of accessibility and density.

GREEN SPACE LANDMARK AREA


1 Mile Radius

Five Mile Radius Population: 358K

Three Mile Radius Population: 104K

3 Mile Radius

One Mile Radius Population: 14K

5 Mile Radius

AA Asian White Other


north

DOWNTOWN

TMC

CITY NETWORK As mentioned earlier, it is the goal of this study to place the Houston Astrodome within the lager context of the city. It is paramount to understand that there is a reasonable proximity to other city services such as the Light Rail, Metro Bus services and Bike Share Programs that can mitigate the need for parking on site and encourage the utilization of a growing Light Rail and Bike Share Program as well as a increasingly more efficient Bus System. The notion of additional parking would be in direct conflict with the efforts of the City of Houston with respect to the work done to provide alternative methods of transportation in and around the city. It is also important to note that ecological systems can be enhanced by a project of this scope. The Buffalo Bayou Partnership has made tremendous strides in terms of creating the bayou system as a system of functional greenways. Houston’s largest natural environment is the bayou system and should be an integral network that function within the built environment as opposed to a system that stands alone. The integration of this system with the Astrodome as a park is simple considering the systems mentioned above and the proximity of Brays Bayou to the Reliant Park Site.

LIGHT RAIL FUTURE LIGHT RAIL METRO LINE 73 METRO LINE 14 METRO LINE 18 TRANSIT CENTER BIKEWAYS


PART II The Following is the site proposal for the Houston Astrodome. Going forward, the focus is narrowed to the Astrodome itself and the goal is to understand how the Astrodome could enhance existing operations as well as provide for additional uses.


THE PROPOSAL The idea is simple – provide a functional, green gathering space for the more than 3 million people who attend events at Reliant Park annually; an event space that works with the needs of the existing tenants and not in competition. With the introduction of a park, you provide the existing tenants with a considerable amount of space that they can shape to fit their needs – Tailgating for the Texans, festival activities for HLSR or other carnival type events or simply provide a park.

leasable space

promenade = park extension

lake + natural floodplain

the minimum number of floorplates were kept for lateral bracing

the “tree ring” serves as both an acoustic and visual barrier


FESTIVAL/CARNIVAL PARKING/UNUSED

EXISTING

FESTIVAL/CARNIVAL PARKING/UNUSED

PROPOSED

OTC PARKING/UNUSED

EXISTING

OTC PARKING/UNUSED

PROPOSED

The Houston Live Stock Show and Rodeo draws approximately 2.1 million visitors annually and use a considerable amount of parking space for carnival and other festival activities. By allowing some of those activities to be moved into the Astrodome, you have the potential to free up a considerable about of parking to allow for ease of access as well as enhance the user experience on the site.There is also the consideration of an increase in vendors, food trucks and festival activities along the periphery of the Astrodome site.

While there are a considerable amount of trade shows that occur annually at Reliant Park, OTC is by far the largest, accounting for 100,000 of the 500,000 annual attendees that visit for trade shows. While there is not a considerable about of parking that is utilized during OTC or other trade shows there are still portions of parking that are occupied by outdoor exhibits. These can be placed entirely under the Dome. Again, the opportunity to provide for additional vendor spaces for OTC and other trade and exhibitions exists TEXANS/TAILGATE PARKING/UNUSED

The Houston Texans draw close to 560,000-ticketed visitors annually. This is not including those who remain at tailgating sites during the game. Tailgating is a bit more of a sporadic use within the parking area of Reliant than HLSR but uses a considerable amount of spaces to provide for the tailgating experience. Much in the same tradition of the Astrodome Park’s impact on HLSR, it can help expand parking and consolidate tailgating also providing for additional opportunities for increases in vendors, activities and program during and after Texans games during the Fall.

EXISTING

TEXANS/TAILGATE PARKING/UNUSED

PROPOSED

PARK PARKING/UNUSED

EXISTING

PARK PARKING/UNUSED

PROPOSED

PARK There are more than 750 events that happen at Reliant Park. 3.5 to 3.8 million people attend these events annually. The problem isn’t “how do we add program to draw more people to the site?” it’s “how do we provide alternatives for the people already visiting Reliant Park?”When there is nothing going on, at the end of the day, it’s still a park. A green space that requires no HVAC (or cost associated with it) requires very little attention based on natural vegetation that thrives in the area and can simply be a park.


CONCLUSION Beyond providing a functional green space, there is also the added value of not being a definitive project. Simply meaning the space can evolve. A park that maintains the structure of the Dome allows for future development without compromising the integrity of the Dome. This is a project that can quickly be realized without discrediting those with grander ideas that require more time and resources than are currently available. The simplest way to understand this project is “Stage I.” Stage I being the pressing concern of salvaging the Houston Astrodome, responsibly repurposing the space to function within the existing constructs of the site and allows for the continuation of planning and development for the future of the Astrodome. This is simply step one...

BIBLIOGRAPHY (WORK(S) CITED) **At time of printing** United States Department of Agriculture www.plants.usda.gov. Plants Database. Natural Resources Conservation Services. Web. Texas Parks and Wildlife www.tpwd.state.tx.us. Wildlife Diversity Program. Texas Natural Diversity Database. Web. Friends of the High Line www.thehighline.org. Friends of the Highline. Park Information. Web. Seattle Art Museum www.seattleartmuseum.org. Olympic Sculpture Park. A Closer Look. Web. Seattle Parks Department www.seattle.gov/parks. Olympic Sculpture Park. About the Park. Web Low Line Park Proposal Foderaro, Lisa W. “Inspired by High Line, Park Is Envisioned With Sights Set Low”, The New York Times, November 21, 2011. Web. Parks Data “2011 City Parks Facts.” The Trust for Public Land . The Center for City Park Excellence, 2011. City of Houston – Public Works and Engineering www.gims.houstontx.gov. Geographic Information and Management Systems. Web. City of Los Angeles – Los Angeles River Revitalization www.lariver.org. LA River – Revitalization Master Plan. Web. Astrodome History – Columbia University www.columbia.edu. The Houston Astrodome. Web. Population Data http://factfinder2.census.gov. U.S. Census Bureau. American Fact Finder. Web. City of Houston – Metro (Busses and Light Rail) www.ridemetro.org. Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County. Schedules and Maps. Web. Houston B-Cycle Bike Share Program www.houston.bcycle.com. Houston B Cycle. About. Station Locations. Web.


Anton Stoev & Ryan Slattery re imagining the astrodome  

A conceptual study into the redevelopment of the Houston Astrodome. Team: Anton Stoev & Ryan slattery

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