Double Dutch on Dowling. Photo: Theresa Keefe.

Double Dutch on Dowling. Photo: Theresa Keefe.

Play Matters: Sunday Streets in the Third Ward

After every Sunday Streets HTX, I round up photographs and reflect on the event. What stood out for me on November 2 in the Third Ward was the play. Previous routes, especially Westheimer and 19th Street, were compact and lined with businesses, whereas on this last route activity was clustered at either end. All that space in between was open to playful appropriation.

In Play Matters (MIT Press, August 2014), Miguel Sicart argues that to play is to be in the world; playing is a form of understanding what surrounds us and a way of engaging with others. Play goes beyond games; it is a mode of being human. I am still reading Sicart’s book and trying to wrap my mind around his rhetoric. In a blog post called “The Accelerated Flaneur,” he writes that “playing is taking over the world to make it ours.”

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Detail from Women in Architecture timeline. All photos courtesy Architecture Center Houston.

Detail from Women in Architecture timeline. All photos courtesy Architecture Center Houston.

Pixel by Pixel: Women in Architecture Tells Story of Local and International Pioneers

The exhibit is on view until January 16, 2015 at the Architecture Center Houston, 315 Capitol, Suite 120. Click here for more details.

Six-inch-square pixels — hand assembled, pushed, and pulled along a 118-foot-long three-dimensional timeline — have injected energy and life into the Architecture Center of Houston.

Women In Architecture: 1850 to the Future is an ambitious, engaging, and articulate display signifying the resurrected voices of pioneers including Charlotte Perriand, Ada Louise Huxtable, Anne Tyng, Ray Eames, and Aino Aalto, coupled with current international and local leaders in the field including Denise Scott Brown, Zaha Hadid, Kazuyo Sejima, Jeanne Gang, Val Glitsch, Elizabeth Chu Richter, Nonya Grenader, Donna Kacmar, Lisa Lamkin, and Janis Brackett.

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Cite 95. Photograph: Raj Mankad.

Cite 95. Photograph: Raj Mankad.

Cite 95: Better than Big

The new issue of Cite (95) has been mailed and will be available soon at the Brazos Bookstore, CAMH, MFAH, River Oaks Bookstore, and other stores. Below is an introduction to the issue.

OffCite.org, the digital platform for Cite, has been visited by more than 100,000 users in the last year according to Google Analytics. That traffic is a game-changer. When coupled with online petitions, social media, gaming, and real-life advocacy, OffCite can have an impact, as we saw with the birth of Sunday Streets HTX.

Our print publication is thriving too. The New York Art Director’s Club recognized Cite 91 for its letterpress cover illustrated by John Earles putting us on the same list with the New York Times Magazine. External validation is nice but we go to so much trouble with Cite because the physicality of the print object matters. We invest the content, from the Latin investire meaning “to clothe” and “endow with meaning.”

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Alex Maclean at West Houston Airport. Photo: Raj Mankad.

Alex Maclean at West Houston Airport. Photo: Raj Mankad.

Horizon Lines: Aerial Photographs of Houston by Alex Maclean

The new issue of Cite, number 95, features photographs by Alex Maclean, an award-winning aerial photographer and author of 11 books.

I rode alongside Maclean in a Cessna on one of his flights last June. From the air Houston looks like a giant game board. You can see how the Energy Corridor is sandwiched between two vast reservoirs. I-10 ripples across the city. We travel from Beltway 8 to the Galleria to Downtown in minutes.

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A Bottom-Up, Unofficial Guide to Sunday Streets HTX in the Greater Third Ward

The next Sunday Streets HTX is November 2 from noon to four in the Greater Third Ward along Dowling, Alabama, and Almeda. This route will be the fifth one this year. With each sun and rain and sweat drenched Sunday Street, we have stretched our collective imagination, reworking the “structure of feeling” of Houston’s public realm. The events are ephemeral. Once the crowds are gone we are back to cracked sidewalks for pedestrians and big wide lanes for cars. And yet, Sunday Streets change our understanding of what is possible. Sunday Streets establish a sense of belonging. Fears are relinquished. Whole landscapes are seen afresh.

And of all the routes, I believe this one in the Greater Third Ward — this mile-and-a-half lightening bolt — has the greatest significance and potential. It is a chance to experience history and a chance to make history. I hope you will be there.

Read below for a bottom-up, unofficial, incomplete guide to what you can expect once you arrive. I’ll start from the north east side of the route at Dowling and Elgin.

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Trailwood Village greenbelt system, Kingwood, Charles Tapley and his associates. Photo: Courtesy of the architect.

Trailwood Village greenbelt system, Kingwood, Charles Tapley and his associates. Photo: Courtesy of the architect.

Kingwood: The Forest in a Bubble

In the latest edition of Cite, while discussing perceptions of suburbs, Susan Rogers writes, “Big changes have occurred in this landscape of strip centers, shopping malls, subdivisions, and apartment complexes—change big enough to completely eradicate labels, yet somehow they hold.” The enclaves that ring Houston have developed into multi-ethnic areas with their own industries and cultural attractions, both inside Beltway 8 and beyond. The Woodlands is dealing with the issues of a full-fledged city, as a recent article in the Houston Chronicle made clear. Yet Kingwood prevails as an exception, remaining true to its initial design as a secluded White middle-class sleeper community. The reasons are varied, but it would appear that Kingwood’s location, structure, and attachment to Houston keep it a master-planned microcosm.

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Shaun Gladwell, Pataphysical Man, 2005.

Shaun Gladwell, Pataphysical Man, 2005.

A Review of Buildering: Misbehaving the City at the Blaffer Museum of Art

Buildering: Misbehaving the City looks into our shared spaces. With very few exceptions, the works are set in cities — specifically, city streets. A wall text opening the show mentions “modernist architecture’s mechanical segregation of work and play” (ref. Alison and Peter Smithson). A touchpoint for me in the show is Bernard Rudofsky’s 1969 book, Streets For People. He critiques the American city for what it isn’t: human-scaled, inhabitable. Rudofsky sees an American society, going back to the 1700s, in which “our streets have become roads.” My medicine in childhood for the condition Rudofsky describes was Martha and the Vandellas’ “Dancing in the Streets.” The song took off with an ecstatic roar and promised freedom. Very meaningful in 1964, when the American city street was the scene of riot and fear. The song offered a big reconciliation.

A thread throughout Buildering is play. The tools are disruption, rearrangement of attention, and surprise. Creative play emerges as a way of re-entering our shared space on our own terms. The international artists of Buildering find the human form, the space one takes up, the finger’s touch, in the vacant space around us. They repopulate our city world with relationships that we hunger for.

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Cheong Gye Cheon. Photos: Christine Medina.

Cheong Gye Cheon. Photos: Christine Medina.

Cheonggyecheon: A Postcard from Seoul

I recently traveled to Seoul, Korea, for work and wasn’t really prepared for what to expect from the second-largest metropolitan area in the world (more than 25 million people, which makes Houston seem like a provincial village in comparison). Seoul is a bustling city, huge and sprawling with lots of traffic. Smack-dab in the middle is Cheonggyecheon, a stream that runs through the center of town, not unlike Houston’s bayous. And, not unlike Houston’s bayous, Cheonggyecheon received an tremendous application of concrete in the 1950s. In another grand Houston tradition, an elevated highway was then built on top of it.

Eventually Seoul leaders were faced with “such grave issues as the decreased aesthetic value of the city coupled with concerns for safety and security,” states a nearby plaque. And “citizens of Seoul who were more sensitive to environmental-friendly ways of thinking agreed that it should be restored as a clean stream.” The story of the restoration is remarkable in its own right. Below is a photoessay documenting my experience of the place.

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Photo: City of Houston.

Photo: City of Houston.

Time to Stop and Look: Sunday Streets HTX on 19th Street

Thousands flock to Sunday Streets in the Heights” reads the headline for Michelle Iracheta’s report for the Houston Chronicle on October 12. The event started off strong at noon. Around 2:30 pm, a pleasurable on-and-off sprinkle turned into a deluge. The stores along 19th Street filled with customers. Iracheta writes, “Dale Johnson and Colby Weems, owners of the Eclectic Home and Coda stores on 19th Street, said they’ve never seen as many people in their stores as they did Sunday.”

Angela Hilton, 46, who said she always drives down 19th Street, was among his first-time visitors. “This is my first Sunday Streets I’ve done,” she told the Chronicle. “It’s a great thing that they’re getting everybody out and onto the street and involved. It gives you time to just stop and look. You’re not so busy driving down and thinking you want to stop but can’t.”

Below is a selection of photographs from the event. Enjoy! And mark your calendars for the November 2 route through the Greater Third Ward and the December 7 route in the East End and Fifth Ward. Please share the Facebook events here and here with your friends.

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Anderson-Clarke Center. Photos: Allyn West.

Anderson-Clarke Center. Photos: Allyn West.

Past, Present, Future: A Review of the Anderson-Clarke Center at Rice University

Overland Partners, the San Antonio-based firm, faced a complex task with the Anderson-Clarke Center, the newest building at Rice University. First, it would have to serve more than 20,000 Susanne M. Glasscock School of Continuing Studies students who come to campus to learn languages and practice iPhone photography and brush up on the brief history of the soul.

And it would also have to serve as the first building on a side of campus that’s set to grow, as the 2004 Michael Graves master plan shows. That plan — and, indeed, the need for a bigger building for the Glasscock School in the first place — coincides with the decade-long tenure of President David Leebron. Benjamin Wermund writes in the Houston Chronicle, “Just about everything about Rice has grown, from its physical boundaries to its student body and its art collection … . [President Leebron has] worked to connect Rice to the surrounding community.”

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