Bering Ditch. Courtesy: Dennis Alvarez
This is the introduction to the new issue of Cite (99), which is now available. OffCite’s Synthetic Nature series supplements the new issue. Use the hashtag #SyntheticNature to view related content on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.
Landscape and city building are inseparable — that may seem obvious, but we like to think of “nature” as something outside of humanity and specifically outside the city. Every street, every park, every building, every feral vacant lot, every bend in the bayous is a choice we make. We choose to shape. We choose to leave be. If we aren’t thinking deeply about our goals — diversity, equity, resilience, democracy — about what is right, then we risk deluding ourselves. We often get caught in rhetorical traps when talking nature in Houston. Design approaches that seem noble, like restoring native species, can be wishful thinking at best and alibis for perpetuating injustices at worst unless we keep our highest objectives in mind.
How are we doing when it comes to those highest objectives?
Map of poverty rates in Houston. Data: Shell Center for Sustainability, Rice University. Drawing: Nicola Springer.
The new issue of Cite (97) has been mailed and will be available soon at the Brazos Bookstore, CAMH, MFAH, River Oaks Bookstore, and other stores. Below is an excerpt from the introduction to the issue by guest editor Nicola Springer
Redraw the charts, trace the maps, shade between the lines … this was my way of making sense of all the data. The data points come from Lester King, PhD, an urban planner and fellow at Rice University who has developed a set of sustainability indicators for Houston and has made the information available to the public along with an array of visualization tools. My hope is that these data can provide a baseline for thinking about the projects featured in this issue, projects that are just breaking ground or that are on the boards as speculative ideas for the near future …
Cite 96 cover.
The new issue of Cite (96) 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 by guest editor Ronnie Self.
Museums may be our best patrons of architecture, allowing and even encouraging experimentation while demanding more exacting design.
Cite 96 looks at four art spaces — one realized, one ongoing, and two on the boards — one in Fort Worth and three in Houston. The four are the recently completed Piano Pavilion for the Kimbell Art Museum, the projects for the neighborhood and buildings of the Menil Collection, the ever-evolving
community of Project Row Houses, and the designs underway for the campus and buildings of The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (MFAH).
All of these institutions, varied in size, structure, and mission, are ambitious and provide a range of ideas and approaches for art spaces. They also offer an extraordinary collection of architecture that is well worth study and discussion. With that in mind, Raj Mankad and I invited three writers (Christopher Hawthorne from Los Angeles, Walter Hood from Berkeley, and David Heymann from Austin) to examine and analyze the three projects in Houston mentioned above. I had the pleasure of reviewing the Kimbell Pavilion in Fort Worth.
Cite 95. Photograph: Raj Mankad.
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.”
Alex Maclean at West Houston Airport. Photo: Raj Mankad.
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.
Photo: Paul Hester.
The new issue of Cite (94) has been mailed and is available at the Brazos Bookstore, CAMH, MFAH, River Oaks Bookstore, and other stores. The issue was guest edited by Susan Rogers and Gregory Marinic. Below is their introduction to the issue.
In this special issue of Cite — The Beautiful Periphery — we explore the contemporary megalopolis of Houston beyond Loop 610. Sometimes derided, though largely cast off and ignored by the powerful and elite, the increasingly diverse periphery is home to most Houstonians. Economies of scale, islands, and spines define this landscape and our mundane, everyday places give it form. Subdivisions, apartment complexes, strip malls, big box stores, and shopping malls — these pieces or fragments aggregate without seemingly adding up to anything more than discontinuous parts. At the same time, slowly and nearly indiscernibly, these places are appropriated and transformed into something beautiful.
The image above shows the heavy brass plate that was used to emboss the cover of the new issue of Cite (93), which was mailed and is available now at the Brazos Bookstore, CAMH, MFAH, River Oaks Bookstore, and other stores. The cover represents a map of cancer risk in the Houston region. Below is a letter from Tom Colbert, the guest editor of this issue.
Houston is booming again. Real estate prices are skyrocketing. Apartment buildings and subdivisions are popping up all over the city. Everywhere we look, there are construction cranes, out-of-state license plates, new restaurants, and smiling real estate developers. Industrial developers are happy as well. The Port of Houston is preparing for the arrival of Post-Panamax shipping, coal terminals, expanded refineries, chemical storage facilities, and cruise ships. More industrial expansion is planned for Baytown, Port Arthur, and Freeport as well. The long anticipated arrival of the Keystone Pipeline will only be a small detail in the rush of industrial expansion that is coming to Houston.
It’s great to be in Houston during such good times. But one has to wonder, what are the environmental implications of all this growth? What will our corner of the world be like if this kind of development continues? What are the implications for air quality? Will there be enough water to accommodate industrial growth, projected population increases, and shrimp and oysters as well? What about our increasing vulnerability to storms and sea-level rise as development moves into previously undeveloped low-lying areas? Will some segments of the population suffer the shock of industrialization and others be spared? Will land be available for agriculture? In a previous issue of Cite, Dr. John Lienhard wrote about birds and butterflies as a kind of infrastructure that we are ineffably dependent on, like pipelines and railroad bridges but without the financial backing. Will they have a place here? The list of environmental and public policy questions goes on and on.