HOUSTON – (By Cynthia Lescalleet for Realty News Report) – The development challenge ahead: design places people will use, love and tend, and communities will thrive.
Repeat as new projects attracted to the emerging vitality add to it to create a more vibrant city.
But how? That premise was the theme behind the many concepts, challenges and solutions discussed and disrupted at the recent Houston Architecture and Design Summit, presented by Bisnow at Intercontinental Houston Medical Center.
Keynote speaker Jon Pickard, principal at Pickard Chilton, reminded participants that a livable city has its architecture and landscape in harmony, connected inside and out. Think Rockefeller Center, not just siloed towers with a stretch of lawn, he said.
“We should encourage all our projects to think on a bigger scale,” he said. And to stretch longer term for results, something the investment side would need to literally buy into due its role in the decision-making process of placemaking.
Meanwhile, a little creative tension between free market forces and public initiatives to encourage a higher level of investment can be a good thing for a city, he said.
Just don’t get Pickard started on Houston’s tunnel system. It might have been a practical solution at the time, he said, but maybe it’s time for the city “to embrace the reality of the heat” in the interest of a more lively city core.
Bisnow’s panel discussions first looked into aspects of the modern metropolis, then veered into the trends ahead for Houston and other cities: more mixing of uses, more live-work-play and combinations thereof, more grocery-anchored development, more creative work spaces, more adaptive re-use,
more “activation” of spaces — and more shots called by emerging Generation Z and its demands for high tech, high-touch, highly sustainable environments that engage them as they pursue a wellness-centric lifestyle, and that includes mental health. They’re stressed.
“There is a blurring of the boundaries” in how space is defined and used, said panelist Michael Hsu, principal, Michael Hsu Office of Architecture.
There is also a slew of co-branding ventures and of mash-up words to describe the experimental merges, such as “resi-mercial” and “med-tail,” observed Lauren Rottet, CEO and founding principal, Rottet Studio. Five years ago such projects tiptoed into this arena. Now, it’s rampant, she said.
The new usage alignments and alliances are collapsing business models while creating new synergy, she said. Ride-sharing, for example, means “drop-offs are the new bus stops,” and ripe as places to hang out.
Jeffrey Brown, founding principal of Powers Brown Architecture, expects developed sites to be loaded with content, in effect “bombarding people with experiences.”
And the experiences better depend on knowing exactly who is going to be using the space and places, said Lisa Pope Westerman, Lucid founder and CEO. Having a user strategy for responding to different sectors is imperative, she said.
Houston’s lack of zoning, its sprawl, flooding and dearth of public transportation complicate what’s needed here to land these sorts of projects, which is higher density, panelists said.
And affordability remains a huge issue as land prices and construction costs rise. The conditions are also driving development to mixed uses.
Scott Ziegler, senior principal, Ziegler Cooper Architects, suggested including the financial side of development on the project team earlier in the process and up to speed on the greater scope of what a good project could accomplish.
Studio Red’s Pete Ed Garrett, founding partner, said financing is getting more creative in finding alternative institutions and funding sources.
And then there’s parking and a move toward changing ratios or doing away with it altogether in some parts of town. While parking relief is coming, Ziegler said, it coming slowly: “We’re still a sprawling city. It will take longer.”
Realty check for this city: “People want connection but they also want their cars,” said Gin Braverman, founder and creative director of Gin Design Group.
Still, Houston has several projects, particularly on urban infill sites, that panelists considered notable early interpretations of development design’s shifting sands. Among them:
Hines’ ARIS Market Square: How it bought an extra slice of the block for a pocket park for resident has resonated, said Roger Soto, senior principal, HOK. He also cited Hanover Square, rising at Allen Parkway and South Shepherd Drive, which is incorporating significant green space as part of the mixed use project.
Houston Center’: Redevelopment by Brookfield Properties with design by Gensler is opening up the once-isolated ‘70s built complex to the streets and its neighborhood near Discovery Green, said Stephanie Burritt, principal and co-managing director, Gensler. Another plus: it already has the perfect name for what it needs to be, she said: Houston Center.
Drewery Place: Australian developer Caydon is re-interpreting Melbourne’s “laneway” tradition of housing, shops and eventually a hotel and condos to Midtown.
The POST: In scale and scope, it’s transformative for the Barbara Jordan Post Office downtown and its end of north downtown, Brown said. Frank Liu is the developer.
La Columbe d’Or: The fusing of an established boutique with an apartment tower by Hines in Montrose drew Rottet’s spotlight.
Heights Mercantile and M-K-T developments by Radom Capital: Projects with a public component (of space and programming) could be the secret sauce, Hsu said.
Buffalo Bayou Brewing Co.: The project addresses how people get to and into the space, then gives them ample, combined experiences while they’re there, said Gin Braverman, Gin Design Group founder and creative director. White Oak Music Hall is another notable space, she said, though it also illustrates the challenges of change in a city that isn’t master planned when new uses come into an existing environment.
Center for Pursuit: The organization’s new campus will benefit not only its intellectually disabled clients but also build connections within its new community in EaDo, Burritt said.
Kinder High Scholl of the Performing and Visual Arts: Energy and talent in a state-of-the-art facility has enlivened a part of downtown in need of it, said Gensler’s Burritt. (Plus, it offers great shows.)
The MATCH (Midtown Arts and Theater Center Houston): The project required a paradigm shift on many levels, said Studio Red’s Garrett. It’s not located downtown, has no parking of its own, and its lobby space is outside to save on air conditioning, he said. (It does have impressive overhead fans.) It’s an asset for 38 non-profit performing arts groups who use it and for their audiences in and beyond its part of town.
The Menil Collection: A harbinger? Its neighborhood campus with park, restaurants, homes and offices – plus Rothko Chapel – drew several touts by panelists for how it has mixed, merged, entrenched and evolved — for decades. HOK’s Soto said the institution sits in its neighborhood, modestly exhibiting its great architecture, providing an extended environment for visitors and residents to enjoy, and being a testament to great contributions to the city by great civic-minded Houstonians. “That represents what makes a city great,” he said. It’s the people who care about it.
Feb. 3, 2020. Realty News Report Copyright 2020