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Category: Infrastructure

webDino-Dan

Don Lessem, aka "Dino Don," explains the park's development. All images courtesy of Patricia Hernandez.

Big “Green” Theme Park Idea Raises Hopes and Questions

During an information session at Kirksey Architects on Wednesday, September 8, a team including former Disney “imagineer” Chris Brown, developer Don Lessem (aka Dino Don), and scientist Dr. Matt Gardner presented plans for EarthQuest.

The 1,600-acre resort and learning institute is set to break ground at an undisclosed date in New Caney, Texas. The facility would teach “green living” and “re-engage the public with what’s real,” according to Brown, who is president of Contour Entertainment. Houston was a strategic choice. As the fourth largest metropolitan area in the country, Brown said that an estimated 18 million people live within a few hours drive of the potential park. This, along with Houston’s position as an energy capital, and the city’s lack of a theme park since the demise of Astroworld, make its location prime real estate.

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BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, all images by Susan Rogers

A Slice of Houston

While Houston often parallels national trends, it also bucks them. Looking at one slice of the city, — the Bellaire/Holcombe Corridor from the Medical Center to Highway 6 — provides insight into the major shifts that have occurred in the landscape and demographics of our cities over the last 20 years.

First a little history. Immigration to the U.S. spiked in two periods: the first period roughly around 1900 and the second at the turn of the 21st century. Yet the two periods are strikingly dissimilar, in one era assimilation was rewarded and quite seamless as most new residents arrived from Europe, in the second era a transnational approach is more common, where global connections to home countries, cultural traditions, and languages are maintained.

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Mayor Annise Parker and Christof Spieler from April 8, 2010 Houston Chronicle.

Setting Up Commuter Rail to Fail?

Wednesday, Mayor Annise Parker gave Christof Spieler, Chair of the Cite editorial committee, a big hug after swearing him in as a Metro board member. A picture of their embrace landed on page B3 of Thursday’s Houston Chronicle. It was a landmark moment for the Rice Design Alliance and Cite. Spieler joined the Cite team 11 years ago while still a graduate student at Rice, wrote numerous articles on Houston’s transit, and guest edited several issues. In the current issue of Cite (81), he contributed “Are We Setting Up Commuter Rail to Fail?” Written months before Spieler knew he would be appointed a Metro board member, it went to press before the announcement of his nomination by Mayor Parker but is now reaching mailboxes after his confirmation. This rare bird of an article is one last critical and independent analysis by Spieler, who because of his new position inside the system cannot speak without representing the city government and Metro.

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Rosemont bridge will cross Memorial drive and join the two sides of Buffalo Bayou Park east of Studemont [Images from City of Houston]

The Bridge Formerly Known as Tolerance

The Houston Parks and Recreation Department broke ground on Saturday, March 13, 2010, for the construction of a bridge across Memorial Drive and the two sides of Buffalo Bayou just east of Studemont. The project was originally called “Tolerance Bridge” and featured a sculptural piece on the top designed by Elmgreen + Dragset that gave the illusion of impassibility.

After negative reactions from City Council about the name, the Houston Arts Alliance held a contest to find a new one. But not enough money was raised through private donations to pay for an art piece to accompany the name game. The city, instead, went ahead with a design by SWA Group defined by topography, an existing old railroad bridge, and cost.

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KCS Red on Green, Oil on Masonite [David Cobb]

Honor the Railcar

If you are intrigued by David Cobb’s art and reflections on rail, industry, and culture, check out the Cite Infrastructure Issue.

I began painting the railcars or “rolling stock” back in my college years at the University of Houston as a project for my undergraduate studies. I was helping my father, Tom Cobb, digitize his extensive collection of slides he’d taken of the Southern Pacific railroad, mainly from the 1970′s and 80′s. As we scanned and doctored images I became enthralled with the photos of boxcars. Simple, utilitarian, industrial, vital, yet so commonplace they seem to go unnoticed. I was hooked. It was time to honor the boxcar. The idea of using the rolling stock as my reference for the modern day railway instead of the typical grandiose depiction of a steam engine or diesel locomotive muscling its way through an open landscape seemed to been more honest.

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Proposed route of Grand Parkway Segment E [From Houston Tomorrow]

Stupendous News: Headlines September 12 to October 9

The proposed use of stimulus funds to build Segment E of the Grand Parkway through farmland and prairie is doomed according to a Chronicle report. Other major headlines from the last month include new momentum to establish high-speed and commuter rail lines (1, 2, 3). The old Savoy Hotel in Downtown Houston was demolished but the Flagship Hotel on the Galveston Seawall remains. Montrose is named a top ten neighborhood nationally by the American Planning Association. And listen to the NPR series on Houston by Steve Inskeep if you haven’t already.

Friday October 9

Grand Parkway stretch in W. Harris Co. not so shovel-ready after all “Harris County officials will ask the state to shift $181 million in federal stimulus funding from a controversial toll road portion of the Grand Parkway to other local projects, citing delays obtaining federal permits that ‘might never be issued’….’This is stupendous news’ said David Crossley, president of the non-profit Houston Tomorrow.”

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2008 Tour de Houston [City of Houston]

What if HOV Lanes were Bike Paths?

What if we re-imagined that public infrastructure was for people instead of automobiles and re-prioritized our spending in favor of alternative transportation? What if we re-purposed the networked infrastructure of the HOV lane into a bike-way — with non-stop, easy access service to points throughout the city?

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High Pressure Gas Well, Bammel Storage Facility [Photo by Sharon Steinmann]

Reading Recommendations

Sept. 10 marked the release date of the latest issue of Cite. It focused on infrastructure; largely ignored by most but, nonetheless, the bedrock on which all other endeavor— literally and figuratively—rest. During the time that the editors of Cite worked on the issue they came across several books that added significantly to their understanding. Below are their reading recommendations if you are looking to get your infrastructure fix.

Christof Spieler

I know a book is good when it makes me see everyday life differently.

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Cite 79 Cover: A map of all the pipelines of North America, excluding waterlines, courtesy HTSI

Cite 79: The Hidden Machine

Letter from the Editor
My day normally begins with a bicycle ride through the bungalows near the Menil Collection, across the Dunlavy bridge over the Southwest Freeway, and through Boulevard Oaks and Southhampton to Rice University. The nearly continuous live oak canopy keeps me cool on the hottest of days. I add extra loops and turns to take in the museums and architect-designed homes, many of which have been featured in Rice Design Alliance tours and Cite reviews. If that is what you want to read about—that soothingly coherent world—don’t open this issue.

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Bill Arning, Director of the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston (CAMH) addresses the NoZoning Forum [Photo from CAMH Facebook page]

NoZone Mayoral Forum Wrap Up

On Thursday July 9, 2009, the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston held a mayoral forum moderated by Rice architecture professor Mary Ellen Carroll and attended by the following candiates: Peter Brown, TJ Huntley, Gene Locke, Roy Morales, and Annise Parker. If you missed it, here’s your chance to find out what happened including links to responses, an audio recording, and embedded videos.

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