Several efforts underway for years have come to a head in Houston. City Council approved Plan Houston. As Planning Director Patrick Walsh explains in this Houston Matters interview, though the document is short on measurable goals, it contains the vision, policy directives, and performance indicators that will provide the foundation for more detailed plans that city staff and leaders can work together on more effectively. More news below:
Houston’s past of “big houses, not housing” and a “sensational lack of convivial public space” is being turned on its head. Molly Glentzer reports for the Houston Chronicle on the Houston Arboretum’s plans, which bring yet more firms of national repute to transform our parks, while RE/MAX markets micro-living in EaDo.
Putting the Wilderness Back in Houston Arboretum
Molly Glentzer, Houston Chronicle
Steven Spears of Design Workshop, Reed-Hilderbrand landscape architects, Lake|Flato architects, Texas ecologists from the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, transportation planners from Walter P. Moore, cultural planners from SWCA environmental consultants, Texas A&M University forester W. Todd Watson, and park operations experts from ETM Associates reimagine the Houston Arboretum.
Micro-Living Project Coming to EaDo
Laura Cook, RE/MAX
A 24-story development of units less than 500 square feet will sit on a full 1.4 acre block at the Southwest corner of Leeland and Live Oak in East Downtown.
The biggest news last week was the revelation of the Johnston Marklee renderings for the new Menil Drawing Institute. Here’s what Los Angeles Times architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne had to say about what the L.A.-based firm proposes to add to that neighborhood of art: “[O]nce you take a closer look, it becomes clear that the architecture is not so much spare as it is efficiently layered with ideas and comfortable with contradiction. The design is a sustained negotiation between public and private spaces. It is dedicated to display and to keeping objects protected or hidden from view. . . . Its geometry is simple and complex. The building will occupy a location on the Menil campus that is now peripheral but soon to be central. Its scale is bigger than a house but smaller than most museum buildings.”
Menil Collection architect Renzo Piano — whose addition to Louis Kahn’s Kimbell Art Museum just opened in Fort Worth — explains in an interview with Glasstire why he loves working in Texas: “You may be used to the light in Texas, but it’s a special light. It’s brilliant, stronger than usual. I remember actually one of the first things we did when I came in ’80, Dominique de Menil told me, ‘I want to go to Israel because I’ve been told that Israel is the same light as Texas.’ I don’t know why she said that. By the way, it was not true. But it is true that Israel has a strong light. But in Texas it’s also because of the latitude, because of the absence of mountains, and the clouds and the nature. Nature is also very spatial. It’s flat. When you plant a tree in Texas, it grows up. It’s a real forest.”
Exterior of Humble Oil Building. Image: Michelangelo Sabatino.
It’s not only Cite contributor and architect Matt Johnson who has concerns about what Ziegler Cooper has proposed to do to the 44-story ExxonMobil Building.
The renderings show how the 1962 building’s distinctive seven-foot-deep brise-soleil shades would be covered up by a new armor of energy-efficient glazed glass. But — in case you missed it — former Cite managing editor and present Houston chronicler Lisa Gray doesn’t seem so crazy about that: “I’d be happy if that building were going to sprout atop one of the surface parking lots that blight the southern part of Downtown,” she writes in a Chronicle column published Sunday, December 1. “But it’s not a new building. Sure, [it] needs to be freshened up for new tenants, a new era. But I was hoping for a gentler nip-and-tuck, one that plays up the building’s Mad Men-era cool—not one that strips away precisely the things that make it great, and leaves a shiny new-looking box where a piece of the city’s soul used to be. … [A] renovation should certainly address [the building’s] flaws—its awkward courtyard, its lack of connection to Houston’s tunnel system. But why not build on its strengths? Why wipe out its personality? Why erase its history?”
As Metro continues to re-imagine our transit system, the board came down this week in favor of measures that would increase ridership rather than expand coverage: “After lengthy discussion, the board voted to recommend to its planning staff that 80 percent of resources should be put toward the goal of getting more people on the bus” (KUHF).
Metro also decided that it can’t afford to build any of the versions of the Central Station transit hub that were drawn up for the design competition that Metro held back in 2012 — not even the design by Snøhetta, which had been rather quietly declared the winner: “[B]oard members instead chose the cheaper option of spending $1.05 million to build a basic canopy. . . . ‘This has been mismanaged from the get-go, and there cannot be situations where things are not budgeted fully,’ chairman Gilbert Garcia said during a board meeting. ‘This is precisely why we get criticism.'” (Houston Chronicle; further analysis on Swamplot.)