Author Archive

Scott Key and Sam Brisendine in shelter using Emergency Floor. Images: Good Works Studio.

Emergency Floor: Rice Graduates Raising Funds to Improve Refugee Camps

Last year, 38 million refugees fled conflict and natural disasters. Many live in camps where tent-like shelters provide little to no barrier to the dirt below, exposing them to parasitic infections, flooding, waterborne diseases, and freezing temperatures.

“A floor under your feet is just as important as a roof over your head,” says Scott Key, who along with Sam Brisendine, developed Emergency Floor while students at the Rice School of Architecture. The project was selected as a finalist for a $150,000 grant from USAID’s Development Innovation Ventures. In order to quality for the grant, they must raise $50,000. Their crowdsourcing campaign ends July 15 and is $20,000 from reaching the goal.

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A packed 246 Bay Area commuter bus. All photos: Raj Mankad.

Houston to Galveston by Bus: An Adventure Across Transit Systems that Overlap Without Touching

I reached the sea without getting in a car. Over the course of my journey, which began at Rice University and ended at Stewart Beach, I took one light rail train, four buses, and walked about three miles. Every three or four minutes, I took a photograph with my phone and I compiled a video embedded below.

If the various local and federal pots of money that paid for the two major legs of the trip had been used in a coordinated manner, as part of a regional system, the $7.50 trip would have taken about an hours and a half instead of four.

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Sunday Streets on Navigation from Jensen to Lockwood.

A Bottom-Up, Unofficial Guide to Sunday Streets on Navigation

Cigna Sunday Streets returns to Navigation Boulevard in Second Ward, May 17, 11 am to 3 pm.

At Jensen Drive, visit Our Lady of Guadalupe church established in 1911.

Shop at an open-air street market in the Esplanade from 10 am to 2 pm.

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Celebration at 2010 opening of Baker-Ripley Center. Photos: Raj Mankad.

“Poverty Is Arranged Differently Here:” Angela Blanchard to Address Neighborhoods USA Conference in Houston

The 2015 Neighborhoods USA conference will be held May 20-23 in Houston and Angela Blanchard, CEO and President of Neighborhood Centers Inc. (NCI), will be the keynote speaker. NCI is the largest nonprofit in Texas with 70 sites that reach over half a million people in the Houston region every year. Below is an interview of Blanchard by Cite editor Raj Mankad.

Raj Mankad: In 2009, Cite published an article by Susan Rogers about plans for the Baker-Ripley Neighborhood Center for Gulfton and Sharpstown. Could you give us an update about that site and how it speaks to the approach of NCI?

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Medford, Oregon workshop. Photos courtesy James Rojas.

Reimagine Your Neighborhood Through Play: An Interview of James Rojas

On Tuesday, May 5, at the Leonel J. Castillo Community Center, artist and urban planner James Rojas will lead a public workshop. Rojas uses hundreds of repurposed, colorful objects to enable participants to visualize their ideas, memories, and hopes for their community. The event is free and open to all ages. Light refreshments will be served. The event is sponsored by the Rice School of Architecture, Rice Design Alliance, the Kinder Institute, and the Office of Mayor Pro-Tem Ed Gonzalez. In the interview below, Rojas talks about his background and methods with Raj Mankad, the editor of Cite: The Architecture + Design Review of Houston, which is based at Rice.

Raj Mankad: You have a degree in urban planning from MIT. How did you end up setting up play instead of working in a traditional urban planning office?

James Rojas: When I went to MIT, I was sitting in class. The professor was talking about what makes a city good or bad. I wanted to figure out where East L.A. fit in. I wanted to examine why I like that place even though other people might think it is a bad place.

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A Bottom-Up, Unofficial Guide to the Cigna Sunday Streets on 19th Street

Cigna Sunday Streets HTX returns to 19th Street in the Heights April 26 from noon to 4 pm. Watch the one-minute video of the unofficial guide below.

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PDA at the old Mary’s wall. Photos: Rashed Haq.

Love Is Everyday on Westheimer: Photographs from Sunday Streets

At the March 29 Cigna Sunday Streets HTX along Westheimer, OffCite teamed up with photographer Rashed Haq and his family to continue the Love Is Everyday project. As I noted previously on OffCite, public displays of affection (PDA) are a barometer for a healthy public realm. PDA shows that people feel safe and open to sharing beauty and joy. Houstonian’s penchant for private life undermines the flowering of our fullest potential, and this project is a playful intervention.

We invited passersby at the Westheimer Sunday Streets to display affection for the camera. All the participants, including notable figures like Mayor Annise Parker and writer Lacy Johnson, signed an agreement that their photographs could be shared. The photographs were taken in front of the once-muraled Mary’s wall (now Blacksmith coffee shop) and Chances (now Hay Merchant), gay and lesbian bars that were at the center of Houston’s queer community. The participants show a continuation of Montrose counterculture, we hope, by paying homage to those sites with locked lips, side hugs, and other affections. Enjoy this selection. You can see more of the photographs Saturday, April 18, 5 pm – 9 pm at the Spring Street Studios Spring Biannual Art Opening (1824 Spring Street, Studio #213).

Also mark your calendars for Sunday Streets at 19th Street in the Heights on April 26 and Navigation Boulevard on May 17.

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Fake Cities / True Stories. Photos: Raj Mankad.

Archizines: An Exhibit of Delicious Experiments in Print

Long live print! The Archizines exhibit at the Architecture Center Houston documents an explosion of experiments with paper — 80 recent magazines, fanzines, and journals from over 20 countries. I did not leave the exhibit with a fully-formed manifesto about the future of architectural publishing beaming out of my forehead onto the page, or screen. I did leave exhilarated, overwhelmed, optimistic, unsure. If there is a single message, it is this: for every purpose there is an energizing print format.

For example, Fake Cities / True Stories appears to be photocopied pages bound with staples and a plastic clip. I’m not sure what those clips are called. The workers at Kinko’s or Copy.com would know. According to the exhibit copy, this weekly was founded in 2012 “as a tool for communication and feedback between lectures and students” at Slovak Technical University. The content and format feels wonderfully raw and immediate. A print version of a Twitter hashtag? Not quite. The print object invests the content. There’s deliberate process, effort, and self-selection if not curation — a meaningful exercise in the digital era.

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Drawing by Raj Mankad.

A Bottom-Up, Unofficial Guide to the Westheimer Cigna Sunday Streets

Cigna Sunday Streets HTX is March 29 from noon to 4 p.m. on Westheimer from Woodhead to Taft. Watch the one-minute video of the unofficial guide below.

To learn more, check out OffCite’s extensive archives on Sunday Streets here.

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Menil Park. Photo: Raj Mankad.

Best Places for Public Displays of Affection in Houston

In his seminal essay about Los Angeles, “You Have to Pay for Public Life” (1965), Charles Moore writes that Disneyland “is engaging in replacing many of those elements of the public realm which have vanished in the featureless private floating world of southern California, whose only edge is the ocean and whose center is otherwise undiscoverable.” Phillip Lopate made a similar argument about Houston in his 1984 essay for Cite in which he describes our “almost sensational lack of convivial public space.”

Whenever Valentine’s Day comes around, I think about how public displays of affection (PDA) are a barometer for a healthy public realm. PDA shows that people feel safe and open to sharing beauty and joy. Houston has a sensational lack of PDA. You have to pay for public displays here.

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