Columbia Street House, Carlos Jiménez Design Studio, all images from Paul Hester, Hester + Hardaway Photographers
In the second installment of the “Spotlight on the Rice School of Architecture,” faculty member Carlos Jiménez took up the central theme “The Future of Design” by interrogating that notion, the future, and considering the value of related concepts like timeliness, tempo, and speed. (See all the posts in this series here.)
We began looking at a 1891 birds-eye-view of the city of Houston, a lithograph that shows a city already growing rapidly, its grid reaching far out to the horizon, but even the hopeful industrialism in this image fails to anticipate the later explosions in building and expansion through the twentieth century (abetted by post-war highway construction). Architects and civil engineers build our futures surely, but our future is often obscure and difficult to discern, no matter how great their skill and foresight. The self-same models of wild-eyed futurism discussed a week earlier by Sarah Whiting were recalled by Jiménez’s in cautionary terms. “Nothing gets old as fast as the future,” he quipped.
David Robinson leads a discussion of a plan for Dunlavy Street at the site for the Montrose HEB. Photo by Chris Curry.
David Robinson is an architect who has served in a number of different public positions—chair of the urban design committee for the local chapter of the American Institute of Architects, president of the Neartown Super Neighborhood, and president of the Super Neighborhood Alliance among others. He sat down with Raj Mankad, editor of Cite, at Empire Cafe for an interview on September 20.
Raj Mankad: Why not stick to designing buildings? What motivated you to enter politics and, now, run for City Council?
David Robinson: Since studying architecture in college and really even before that, I have always had an interest in the public realm.
RM: But why politics?
Chapbooks by Beverly Dahlen and Jamie Townsend
Everywhere, a surfeit of essays and articles bemoan the declining fortunes of the book and the publishing industry’s deepening crisis. Even though there have been some recent hopeful reports of better times ahead, overall, the news is: the book is dead, there’s no hope. Get. Out. Now.
Despite this bleak outlook, there’s been a huge resurgence in the last few years of small, often experimental, publishers committed to the art of book-making and also excited by the technological innovations driving the written word forward into new venues, platforms, and futures. Each time one person or a few decide to launch a new small publishing venture, it feels like a mini-revolution, a stand against the pessimistic future envisioned for the book itself.
A gated community of highrises in China
This morning the Houston Chronicle printed an op-ed by Christof Spieler about his journey to China. He blogged about the trip on OffCite and you can find all his posts here. If this interests you, be sure to attend the Chinese Architecture lecture series that starts next week.
In his op-ed, Spieler finds some surprising similarities between Houston and Chinese cities. For example, he likens a walled and gated compound of 30 highrises to our suburban planned communities. The observation of his that I really loved isn’t about a specific building, but is about attitude.
A ramp arcs over the Hillcroft Transit Center, photos by Rose Kuo
In this Hear Our Houston audio tour and contribution to Unexpected City, Raj Mankad, the editor of Cite and OffCite, takes us on a tour of the triangle-shaped area bounded by Highway 59, Hillcroft, and the Westpark tollway. First he braves the feeder road, pointing out a school next to a strip club next to an international bus station, before taking you deep into the ethnic mish-mash of Houston. Referencing a recent Houston Press article on “Little India” and his own experience, he shares an unlikely vision for a less ugly and more pedestrian-friendly city. Rose Kuo photographed the walk.
Read below or click on the link below to listen to the tour:
Hillcroft and 59 Walking Tour
by Raj Mankad
Frank Lloyd Wright sketch for Broadacre City
The eight-week course “Spotlight on Rice University School of Architecture,” which is offered by the Glasscock School of Continuing Studies, began on Tuesday with an introduction by Dean Sarah Whiting to architecture as an academic discipline. The focus on how architecture is taught and studied required an examination, in turn, of how architecture is represented in photography, painting and drawing, and modeling, as well as the typical plans and sections we associate with the architectural blueprint. By means of a robust slide show of such images, Dr. Whiting made the case for the tendency of architecture as a subject of study toward advancement and innovation.
Indeed the first half of the slide show featured images from the 20th century’s greatest architectural speculations, a great-hits rally of what Whiting called “imagined futures” including the Italian Futurists, Fritz Lang’s Metropolis (1927), and Frank Lloyd Wright’s “Broadacre City” (1932), le Corbusier’s “Ville Radiuse” (1935), and moving into later examples like Paul Rudolph’s “Lower Manhattan Expressway” (1967).
Biosphère Montréal designed by Buckminster Fuller, 1967
The Rice School of Architecture has put together a special course for the general public and its starts tonight. You can register here. The first meeting will be led by Dean Sarah Whiting. She will give a “brief history of futures envisioned by architects,” setting the theme for the course. You will have a chance to learn from one of the world’s leading architectural thinkers not just about the past, but about new “specific futures envisioned by Rice faculty architects.”
Cite 86 cover photograph by Paul Hester.
The Summer 2011 issue of Cite (86) was mailed and is at the Brazos Bookstore, CAMH, MFAH, Issues, Domy, River Oaks Bookstore, and other stores. Below is a letter from guest editors Katherine Howe and Rafael Longoria about this issue, followed by the Table of Contents.
Houston is not only the largest American city without zoning, it is also the only sizable American city without a comprehensive plan. This does not mean that there are no planning efforts going on in Houston. There are plenty of well-intentioned master plans for different parts of town, but these tend to be limited to relatively small areas, or focused on specific functions, such as traffic or public art. For years, local governments have been eager to delegate planning functions to any private group willing to pick up the bill – a practice that puts less affluent neighborhoods at a clear disadvantage.
The Cite 86 launch party was held last night at the new Rice Village location of PH Design Shop, a purveyor of gifts, stationary, and custom invitations. (The firm also does the graphic design for Cite.) It was a perfect evening, cool outside and in. PH mixed a summery cocktail and served up mini-cupcakes from Crave. The shop is a soothing place painted a deep purple. Hundreds of identical envelopes hung from the ceiling shivered ever so slightly.
Venerable scholars, emerging designers, and fidgety writers fit comfortably between the display tables. Fires raged and the economy tittered, but last night was relaxed and lovely.