05/17/17 11:30am

Now hanging in the newly remodeled central nook on the Galleria’s curved facade along Westheimer Rd.: these strips of hexagonal rings spotted early last week by a passing bus rider. (That curved wall is where Saks Fifth Avenue used to be, before the store scooted into the boxy new building next door.) The rendering up top was released last fall, around the time Simon Properties confirmed that Nobu and Fig & Olive would be taking up 2 of the 4 restaurant spaces shown.

For comparison, here’s what the entry through the Philip Johnson-designed facade looked like as of last August, after the new windows had been cut (but before the top edge of the facade got trimmed off): 

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Westheimer Faceoff
12/20/16 12:30pm

rice-opera-proposed

Proposed Opera House, Rice University, Houston, 77005Rice University announced this week that the opera house it plans to build in the parking lot next to the Shepherd School of Music will, in fact, be designed by the classic-leaning architecture firm of Allan Greenberg — and formally released what appear to be a couple of the same renderings that Swamplot posted back in June, after a reader’s encounter with the above presentation materials on campus. Like the Baker Institute, the design looks to be covered over in classic-ish details more or less reminiscent of Rice’s older buildings; the towers on the south side of the opera house also roughly match the one on the Humanities building, which Greenberg also designed.

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West Lot U-Turn
11/03/16 10:00am

Ivy Lofts renderings with new EDI design

The new, new design views of the Ivy Lofts highrise have been trickling out this week, and the glossy view above is fresh out into the digital ether as of late last night. The project’s marketing folks are prepping for a Saturday afternoon sales relaunch party at the converted grocery warehouse on the site (bounded by Nagle, Leeland, Live Oak, and the would-be path of Pease St., just north of the Texas Art Asylum and 59).

The tiny-condos highrise developers swapped architects a few months ago, midway through a redesign intended to turn the place into a double-lobbied condo-hotel mashup; the latest design, from EDI Architecture, is back to no hotel component and is down to just 1 main tower, with a 5-story parking garage filling in the extra space on top of a layer of ground floor storefronts. As for the building’s tiniest units, the 360-ish-sq.-ft. Tokyo, they’ve put on a little floorspace (and now measure in closer to 400 sq. ft.).

Here’s a closer view of some of those 14,228-sq.-ft. of retail space, from the corner of Live Oak and Leeland:

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EaDo Pre-Do Redo
10/19/16 4:45pm

922 Boros Dr., Hunters Creek, TX 77024 922 Boros Dr., Hunters Creek, TX 77024

Behind the well-spotted Lucite front door of the 1958 mod above, living and dining room spaces wrap full-circle around an open-from-all-sides central kitchen. The home, full of floor-to-ceiling mirror walls and other retro finishes, was put on the market in June at just under $1.1 million, took a quick break in early October, and was put back up for sale a week ago with the current asking price of $975,000. Journey onward to check out the house’s eclectic light fixtures, the 3-ish bedrooms, and the guest suite out back by the pool:

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Following Yonder Pendant Lights
10/14/16 5:00pm

Art Colony Phase 2, 5313 Chenevert St., Museum District, Houston, 77004

Like the looks of this light-display-slash-townhouse-trio at Prospect and Chenevert streets on the Almeda side of the Museum District? All 3 of the homes hit the market yesterday for between $925,000 and $975,000 (that’s 5313 Chenevert, 1805 Prospect, and 1807 Prospect, from left to right). Developer Dreamscape Modern posted the (rendered) view above to its website for Phase 2 of its The Art Colony townhouse development, which includes a see-through panel to catch shifting colored light projected onto the house after dark.

The light displays shown in the rendering and in the video above are a bit more intricate than the particular pattern shown in the new listing photos — though the illuminated driveway strips appear to be the same shade of aqua, amid the xeriscaping in place of the grass lawns originally depicted:

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Lighting Up in the Museum District
09/29/16 11:00am

Dalia Rihani Heights Homes Illustrations

Recognize any of the images above? They’re each depictions of actual houses in the Heights area (yes, even that really skinny one in the top right corner) as drawn by local designer Dalia Rihani, who tells Swamplot she’s long been fascinated by her neighborhood’s architectural landscape. Rihani started out planning to draw 1 home per week as an outside-of-the-9-to-5 creative outlet — but says she’s found herself doing it much more frequently than that, and has since been taking commissions to illustrate specific houses as requests started to pour in. She’s also been turning the graphics into post cards that she’s sent to some of the home’s owners, as a reader showed Swamplot:

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Sketchy Activities
09/23/16 5:30pm

Ivy Lofts Retail Listing Images, September 2016

Actually, the rendering above is not the newest look for the Ivy Lofts, PR head Jared Anthony tells Swamplot this afternoon. Anthony says that the 3-week-old images posted in Wednesday’s since-pulled listing for ground floor retail space in the development had been planned for release that same day during a meeting with folks who have reserved units in the project — but some totally different designs came in from the new architect on Tuesday. Anthony says the newest plans will be shown off in mid-October when the sales center relaunches (complete with another scale model of the planned building), and that groundbreaking is now planned for January, with no change to the estimated completion date.

Images: Powers Brown Architecture

East Downtown Loft Swapping
09/15/16 2:45pm

O'Quinn Medical Building, 6624 Fannin St., Medical Center, Houston, 77030

The double hypodermic needles atop the Cesar Pelli-designed O’Quinn Medical Building have just gotten brightened up: a lighting designer from FUSE sends Swamplot these bare-all shots of the Madonna tower’s roof following the company’s just-wrapped installation of a new LED setup around the tips. Down below, Texas Children’s Hospital announced earlier this week that it has bought the tower from Baylor-slash-St.-Luke’s, along with a Baylor outpatient clinic down the street. Texas Children’s told the Chronicle that it isn’t planning to boot tenants until they can move into that under construction campus on Cambridge St., somewhere around 2020.

Nor does the new owner have plans to change the tower’s name right away — though many of the physicians who petitioned against the building’s O’Quinn christening in 2005 aren’t likely to mind if they do. At the time, dozens of doctors signed a document insisting that the current namesake, Houston’s own John O’Quinn (of fen-phen and breast implant lawsuit fame), “bears partial responsibility for the litigious environment in which we work,” and that it was offensive “to have money we earned — and which he took by suing us — going to name after him a medical building in which we work every day.”

The sunset shot above looks west across the Rice campus (that’s the stadium that played backdrop to JFK’s go-to-the-moon speech, given 54 years ago this past Monday, on the right above the octagonal base); the itty-bitty silhouette of the distant Williams Tower can be seen poking up from the horizon on the left. Here’s the tip itself, so close you can almost see the filament in the flashing bulb:

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Feeling Shiny and New on Fannin
08/26/16 11:30am

Redo of 3618 Burlington St., Westmoreland Historic District, Houston, 77006

3618-burlington-31That Burlington St. mansion nestled in along the 527 Spur leading from Downtown to 59 is back on the market this week, though the listing implies that the interior redo and whitewashing is still in progress. The house, built between 1897 and 1908 depending on who you ask, went up for sale in the Westmoreland Historic District early last year for $1.8 million. The current owners bought the property that summer for $880,000 and quickly sent an application to the city’s history folks asking for approval to move some doors and windows around, as well as to add a deck out back and a balcony outside the existing second-story doors to nowhere in the master bedroom. (The bricks, already painted brown, appear to have been painted white instead, as has most of the interior.)

The property is now listed at a smidge under $2.4 million. Not pictured or mentioned in the new listing is the 3-post freeway billboard previously seen sunning itself by the pool on the northern end of the front yard, shown below as it appeared in the old listing:

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Remaking History
08/25/16 3:45pm

McMansion Hell critique

What puts the Mc- in McMansion? McMansion Hell hit the Internets recently hoping to answer that question, bringing along slews of illustrative photo examples covered with detailed (if at times bitingly sarcastic) annotations. The author notes that not all large post-1980 houses are McMansions — that’s a matter of factors like these. And not recognizing one isn’t necessarily a matter of having bad taste — it’s a matter of familiarity with basic design principles, which the site attempts to provide.

Starting with a McMansions 101 introductory primer on basic layouts and proportions, most of the site’s posts so far take on specific design aspects (last week’s called out useless and disproportionate column deployment). Other posts take readers on a Zillow-photo walkthrough of a single home — this afternoon’s critique dives into a Houston-area house (shown above), text block by aggravated text block:

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McMansion Deconstruction
07/19/16 5:30pm

Rendering of Emancipation Park, Dowling St., Third Ward, Houston

Update, 7/20: The renderings and description have been removed from both LAI’s website and the online portfolio website where they were previously displayed. At the request of the architect, Swamplot has removed the images as well; this article has been updated.

A glassy sphere shown in a rendering currently previously displayed on the website of Colorado-based LAI Design Group looked to be part of a design for a nonprofit workspace and affordable housing thinktank called the Coleman Global Center. An attached description of the project doesn’t didn’t specifically identify the location of the rendering (beyond noting that project is “in Houston”). But another rendered view of the project (posted to porfolio site Behance) showed the bubble right across Dowling St. from the almost-finished new community center at Emancipation Park (and its easy-to-identify reflection pool) at the corner with Elgin. And Leah Binkovitz’s May interview with state representative Garnet Coleman and a set of collaborating Third Ward nonprofit directors ambiguously highlights that particular corner as playing an important role in plans to shift how gentrification unfolds in the neighborhood.

Compare the rendering below (which shows the bubble building in place) to architect Phil Frelon’s angled aerial rendering of Emancipation Park (included further below):

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Third Ward
07/15/16 1:30pm

LONGABERGER EMPTIES 7-STORY PICNIC BASKET FOR SALE OR FORECLOSURE Meanwhile, in Newark: Yesterday Ohio-based basket weaver Longaberger finished moving the last of its employees out of its former corporate headquarters, a replica of the company’s Medium Market model (albeit 160 times larger than life). The company, which saw a 90 percent drop in sales between 2000 and 2014, is currently trying to sell off the building, which consists of a 7-story office structure behind a stucco-over-steel faux-woven facade, complete with 2 enormous handles that heat up to prevent icing in the winter.  The company has accumulated more than half a million dollars in unpaid taxes on the property; if a buyer cannot be found, the city may foreclose and offer the structure up for public auction. [Columbus Dispatch via Houston Chronicle]

07/07/16 10:30am

2330 N. Braeswood Blvd, Old Braeswood, Houston, 77030

2330 N. Braeswood Blvd, Old Braeswood, Houston, 77030

Per historian Steven Fox’s telling, the 1933 home at what’s now 2330 N. Braeswood Blvd. is the work of architect Joseph Finger (a few years after the Lancaster Hotel was built, and a few years before Finger went on to design City Hall). The 4-bedroom house sits on 1.13 acres and was the first one built along Braeswood Ct. (which loops off of N. Braeswood just west of S. Main St.). The exterior railings shown above are copper, and the enthusiastically tropical painted tile mural on the chimney reportedly dates back to the 1930s as well.

The Old Braeswood Property Owners Association traces the house’s Houston-history-heavy ownership record in a 2013 newsletter; the article follows the trail from a mysterious associate of Spindletop oilman T.P. Lee, to friends of future Texas governor Ross Sterling, to the son of Meyerland namesake Frank Meyer and beyond.

Want to add your name to the list? The current asking price is $2.6 million. Look around below:

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07/01/16 1:30pm

Proposed Astrodome Parking Garage Plans

Here are some of the plans the Harris County commissioners looked over this week as they reviewed the engineering study for the proposal to raise the Astrodome’s below-grade floor and stick a parking garage beneath it. The view above shows an entrance ramp for cars from the east, with a service ramp running up from the southwest; NRG Stadium is shown peeking in on the scene from the left.

Got questions about the plan, or about anything else Dome-related? Someone claiming to be involved with the project is now taking inquiries from all comers over on Reddit. The thread started up yesterday and was still active this morning; topics addressed so far have included how the latest proposal would be funded, the feasibility of that spiral-ey skeletonized park idea, and the surprising number of people who have suggested turning the Dome into an indoor skiing venue.

The poster says they’ll try to keep checking back to answer new questions. While you wait, have a look at more views of the proposed changes to the structure — here’s what the ground-level park on Level 3 might look like, with pedestrian entrances on all 4 sides:

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Park and Parking Plans
06/15/16 3:30pm

Proposed Astrodome modifications (A-Dome Park)

Proposed Astrodome modifications (A-Dome Park)Architects James Richards and Ben Olschner, dissatisfied with the current talk of turning the Astrodome into the world’s largest air-conditioned park, have started drumming up support (and selling t-shirts) for their own idea for overhauling the long-empty structure: stripping the building of all but its core steel structure (“like the Eiffel Tower in Paris”, the duo’s website reads) and adding a spiraling hike and bike trail up to the center of the roof. The duo estimates the project would cost $180 million to execute ($62 million less than what the indoor park plan is estimated to cost); they expect the work could be paid for as a public-private effort like the one that funded Discovery Green (and branded all of its features).

The plan (which also removes all nonessential letters, redubbing the place A-Dome Park) calls for  the replacement of some 13 acres of existing Dome-side parking lot with live oaks, planted in alignment with the building’s steel columns (as seen here from above). Below are a bunch of renderings showing the trees and walkways in place, and some zoomy depictions of the stripped-down ‘Dome back in action:

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Dome Dreams