Astrodome Stripped Bare By the Architects, Even

ASTRODOME STRIPPED BARE BY THE ARCHITECTS, EVEN With the June 10th deadline to submit the Astrodome proposals that the Harris County Sports and Convention Corporation kind of forgot to ask for approaching, architect Ben Koush pens some poetic support for UH grad student Ryan Slattery’s idea to open the Dome up for public use and reduce it to a shell of itself: “Architects, myself included, often tend to like ‘structure’ and buildings that are under construction better than those that are finished. Even crappy suburban spec houses have a noble purity when they are just a concrete slab and 2x4s, before the pipes, wires, and air-conditioning ducts go in and clutter everything up.” Noble purity notwithstanding, Koush does recognize at least one problem: “Since the Astrodome is essentially in the center of a giant parking lot with gates as well as a long, un-shaded walk discouraging the public from visiting, one wonders who would actually use [it].” [Arts + Culture Houston; previously on Swamplot] Photo: Save the Astrodome

31 Comment

  • I would suspect the people who would use it, whatever its new use, would be the same people that already brave that long unshaded walk to events at Reliant Stadium, Reliant Center and Reliant Arena.
    Something entertainment/tourist-based or a use complementary to the existing entertainment and convention facilites would seem to be the most logical path.

  • The concept of a “stabilized urban relic” has precedent. There are other stabilized architectural relics scattered around the country and the world. Some are more interesting than others. All require annual preservation upkeep and funding, even to maintain them in a safe “relic” condition that can be observed/visited/understood/etc. by the public.

  • +1 for the Duchamp nod, bet nobody else gets it, cept for R.Boyd

  • Tailgaters and Rodeo for both parking and event space.

    That would be enough as it is. It would also significantly increase their convention business at Reliant Center.

  • I think Ryan Slattery’s idea is the choice of architects city-wide. (Well, except for my previous employer, but they were hired to draw up the craze planetarium idea). It’s the simplest. It conveniently sidesteps the question of ‘program’. it gives Houston a much needed monument. It remembers the Astrodome without trying to reuse it. It might even help fund itself. Commemorative seats, sections of roof, precast panels, fixtures, etc etc could be auctioned off to pay for construction costs.
    It’s really the best idea yet.

  • @Northsider — please don’t underestimate Swamplot readers. Some of us aced our undergraduate art history classes.

  • The Dome’s structure is beautiful. The engineering and construction of the Astrodome was a feat in itself. While I was around in the mid 60’s to witness construction, the pictures I’ve seen are incredible. Especially with the ones with the temporary ‘derrick-like’ scaffolding. It would be neat if county took this bare bones approach and recreate the ‘derrick-like’ scaffolding. One foreseeable problem is that I am not sure how the Dome’s structal steel will fare being exposed to Houston and our 99.99% humidity. But anything is better than the Texans/ Rodeo proposal.

    Just curious, has the UH Grad student posted any concept art/ sketches of his proposal? Pictures are worth…..

  • Turn the Astrodome into a huge indoor year round ski resort like they have in Dubai. make it a tourist destination

  • @artfox, usually so much contempt for anything artistic on these comment boards, I should have known a lurker out there would be on the team.

  • This is as useless as everything else that comes from Houston University. Comparisons to the Eiffel Tower are ludicrous. I recently dined at Le Jules Verne (no, that’s not Spanish)and there is no way to recreate its ambiance here. If we could tap into elite minds at far superior universities, a workable solution may yet be found.

  • It is my understanding that one of the biggest expenses of demolishing the dome is filling the 25′ deep hole that is going to be behind.

    This proposal is still going to have the same problem. One you remove the roof, you still have to fill the hole, or figure out a way to drain the huge swamp you’ve created.

  • the dome has cost this city too much already. let’s not turn an existing travesty into a continual one.

    this site needs to be demo’d ASAP and pulled out from the sports authorities hands for private commercial development. we need a revenue source to pay off this abomination and the sports authority and allthese national teams owe this city big..too big.

  • I’m liking the bare-bones idea more now as death appears imminent. Ok, it won’t really rival the Eiffel Tower but it could look fairly impressive and, being close to rail, could become a food/drink/tourist/recreation destination with a little imagination and effort. That area needs some spark anyway as it’s a dead zone.
    Check the link to see the naked shell.

  • A world-class interactive space exploration museum with breathtaking movie projections onto the giant astrodome ceiling–that would be it!

  • I think it’s a fabulous idea.

  • This proposal also doesn’t address the astronomical cost of gutting the dome. Each concourse would have to be demolished very carefully to avoid a catastrophic collapse.

  • Nothing good is ever cheap. It’s a shame so many folks are only concerned about bottom lines and have no imagination. I was for demolition until I saw this idea. It’s a good one and all the involved parties should put their own self interests aside and do something good for everyone, not just their own profit margin. As for the “not with my money” types, there’s a forest for the trees analogy I could try but it would just be lost on you.

  • what is the University of Southern California proposal? Did the Sports Authority enter into a non-disclosure agreement with USC? Anyone know?

  • “This is as useless as everything else that comes from Houston University. Comparisons to the Eiffel Tower are ludicrous. I recently dined at Le Jules Verne (no, that’s not Spanish)and there is no way to recreate its ambiance here. If we could tap into elite minds at far superior universities, a workable solution may yet be found.”

    You for real dude?

  • I’ll say it one more time… we all know it is coming down, we just can’t bring ourselves to acknowledge it…

    The HCSA and privately held interest that want the land are just to POWERFUL! I wish it weren’t true, but it is.

    The demolition and failure to preserve/re-imagine this historical structure will not only cement the idea that that Houston cares nothing about architectural preservation. It will make our fair city the butt of many a future joke…

    I’m just glad I can say I saw Nolan Ryan and Mike Scott pitch in this building and saw Jose Cruz hit many a long ball here.

    RIP Eighth Wonder, you will be missed!

  • I also remember how impressive it was to see the bare-steel framework during construction. So, the “strip it down to structural elements” idea does resonate with me.
    In any case, most of the non-demolition proposals I’ve read about are for a single use facility of one kind or another. In contrast, I think our best hope for success is to remake it into a facility that serves different aspects of the public that have different interests.
    The dome’s footprint is big enough to accommodate a variety of multiple uses. I’ve tossed about ideas for some possibilities for different parts: hotel, golf driving range and/or putting greens, artificial ponds for fishing, tropical gardens (this might require the roof + AC), additional meeting-room and display space for conventions. These are just some thoughts, all of which have worked elsewhere, but may or may not work here. My main point is that we should be considering multiple uses, not just one that could sink the entire project’s success.

  • Just convert it to a parking garage and be done with it.

  • Fill the skelton with dirt. Put in some bathrooms and spots for food vendors. Then make it the most kick-ass indoor/outdoor performance venue.

    Think of all the cool lighting effects you could get with creative use of fabrics behind and above the stage in there. And with all the speakers you could hang up in the rafters it would be the EDM festival HQ of the world.

    For our Super Bowl pre-game show, they could pack in all kinds of crappy Nickelback-type bands that nobody watches during the five hour pre-game show. It would be awesome.

  • Do they really need to fill in the below ground levels of the Astrodome in order to strip the structure? Why not turn it into a water feature / retention pond? It would help offset drainage from all the hardscape pavement parking lots for Reliant, there’d be a lot less fill to haul in. And on a still day, the structure above would be reflected in the water below, amplifying the effect.

  • Demo roof. Shell out interior as best as possible. Improve acoustics. Install new roof with “attic fan” akin to Houston homes before central air. Inside put nothing. It should be a flexible use space for events, exhibits, concerts, rodeo, tailgating, carnival, county fair, chili cook off, tournaments, weddings, parties, paintball, bungee jumping, what else… whatever makes money. Really if the building doesn’t need a/c and has ample light one could rent the space for let’s say $1000/hr. barebones. Awesome. I believe if they modernize the structure on the outside it will no longer be a money pit on the inside. When out of towners ask what is cool in Houston I am tired of saying “nothing.”

  • @bob, and it could be called Cynthia Woods Mitchel Atrodome Pavilion!

  • This city needs a monument, not 2,500 private-use parking spaces in a sea of parking spaces at the end of a rail line. Skeletonize the dome.

  • Asbestos….funny how many people have no idea what it was and how we used it…..ever wonder why some bricks are used for a fireplace box since they do not crack under the heat? wonder what could be added to masonary to control how it reacts to heat?

  • what do they teach in those rich ivy league builder schools? lmao

  • I considered the water-feature idea, too. For entertainment, the Romans used to stage “naval battles” in flooded amphitheatres (like the Colosseum in Rome). Perhaps we could build a similar circular pond for more tranquil activities like boating and fishing. :-)