A shiny new cistern is now in place at the former Sunset Coffee building at Allen’s Landing, which Buffalo Bayou Partnership and Houston First have been redeveloping into an office-topped boat-and-bike-rental spot. The 1910 coffee roasting facility has once again donned walls after moving past a Summer 2014 minimalist phase, and is currently decked out in a muted Café du Monde orange.
The no-longer-see-through structure is back to limiting the view from the Harris County Jail across the bayou (visible on the far right, above). A set of stairs are in place alongside the new cistern, along with railings around what appears to be the planned rooftop terrace.
Here’s the southernmost end of the newest work from the Art Guys: the designation of an existing ‘designated natural area’ in Garden Oaks/Oak Forest as part of their series of situation sculptures. The grassy median strip along Wheatley St. between Pinemont Dr. and Tidwell Rd. is evidently one of the no-mow zoneslabeled by the city’s parks and recreation department that spurred complaints in 2011, when area residents alleged that newly planted trees had blocked sight lines and created hazardous driving conditions. According to the city’s website, the zones are carefully placed to “help promote the natural regeneration of the urban forest.”
As for techniques employed by the artists: per their other pieces in the series, the duo appears to have left the area alone. They have, however, provided GPS coordinates and a Google map to help visitors avoid losing their way.
If you’re wondering what an expanse of fake grass is doing in the back yard of a $1.345 million home around the corner from Antidote, Premium Draught, and the Sonoma Wine Bar in the Heights, the architect of the 4-bedroom, 3,769-sq.-ft. structure has an answer for you: “The synthetic grass was the owner’s idea, which had my full support,” Cameron Armstrong tells Swamplot, after an email from a reader alerted us to the astroturfing issue. “It’s 100% recycled material, and significantly reduced our landscape irrigation needs,” the architect notes, “which gained the project some points during LEED certification (Silver).”
Ouch! Does learning that last bit give you a brain cramp? If so, you’re not alone:
COMMENT OF THE DAY: GETTING RID OF WASTEFULNESS “It amazes me that we’ve become so rich as a society that we can collectively afford to have fashions of home improvements that will go in and out of style (although remain perfectly functional) the same way clothes do. The funniest to me is when you see on one of these HGTV shows someone espousing all the right ‘green’ mantras, but the first thing they do when they get the house it tear out all the perfectly functioning appliances, cabinets, counters and carpet…etc to be thrown in a dumpster. All the while feeling smug about how sustainable the place is because they are putting in bamboo flooring . . .” [longcat, commenting on Comment of the Day: Your ‘Updates’ Are Dating You] Illustration: Lulu
Some of the green that goes with this early player in energy-conscious home building in Bellaire could be the $200,000 price increase over its sale last July, when it went for $1.35 million. The ca. 2002 limestone-and-stucco property with Texas Hill Country stylin’ — designed back then for her own family by architect Kathleen Reardon — popped back up on the market earlier this week with a $1.55 million asking price. Some of the enviro-sensitive elements are visible from the get-go, such as the deep overhangs on the eaves. Others are buried deep in the lot — where a network of caverns 250-ft. deep use underground temperatures to regulate the air conditioning and heating. Solar panels and low-water landscaping also play the green card.
The Mirabeau B.condos apartments in Hyde Park take a lot from the city: The sales center, for example, comprised a pair of recycled shipping containers that were powered by the sun. And now atop the building at 2410 Waugh a photovoltaic canopy is hoarding juice for each of the 14 units; cisterns are stealing rainwater that’s then used on the landscaping and rooftop greenery. Even the development’s moniker has been plagiarized. And so it makes a lot of sense that one of the building’s interior features is inspired by something just as local: a transformer box and a snarl of wires. Houston artist Randy Twaddle, for whom power lines have become something of a muse, installed 65 of these gypsum cement tiles in a 7 ft. by 25 ft. wall at the building’s entrance inside its parking garage. Each 40-pound tile, fabricated by Dallas firm Topocast at a lab at UT Arlington, features a 3D reproduction of one of the particularly twisted scenes that Twaddle can’t seem to help noticing.
Shoppers on 19th St. will soon be able to pop in between stops for vintage cowboy boots and vinyl LPS for a few gallons of non-toxic paint, now that a second location of the Green Painter is opening Saturday. When the original store debuted in 2011 beside New Living in the Rice Village, the owners were claiming it was the country’s first non-toxic retail paint store. The new Heights location at 321 W. 19th St., shown here, will be in the 2,600-sq.-ft. suite that used to house Jubilee. You can’t miss it: Just look for the lamppost that’s been painted green.
Animal bones, mirror shards, scrap lumber destined for a landfill: Dan Phillips builds houses up in Walker County out of almost anything he can get his hands on. The former Sam Houston State dance instructor finished this one, known as the Charleston House, in 2004. It’s got a hallway floor composed of corks (at right) and a fence (above) detailed with the wine bottles from which those corks very well might have been popped. Phillips’s organization Phoenix Commotion tells Swamplot that he likes to sell to low-income families and hungry, if not starving, artists, who often help build the houses themselves. But the Charleston House is one that’s changed hands a few times. Now it’s ended up on the “regular market.” The 935-sq.-ft. 3-bedroom at 912 University was originally listed last fall at $899,900. Then it came down a bit to a rather more sober $89,900.
A new report from Rice University’s Shell Center for Sustainability includes a few suggestions for the future of Galveston: step all development back from the beach in anticipation of continuing erosion; use a map of the island’s cataloged geohazards to guide where development should go; or permanently abandon the west end of the island entirely. That third recommendation comes with 2 possible natural enforcement mechanisms: a projected future hurricane headed for the western tip of the island, or a combination of sea-level rise and continuing retreat of the shoreline. All 3 scenarios encourage concentrating residents and visitors in the “higher, thicker, wider” East End. A collaboration between earth scientists and the School of Architecture chock-full of charts and diagrams, the Atlas of Sustainable Strategies for Galveston Island includes a series of large-scale design proposals cooked up by Rice architecture students.
Hanging out on the roof of Houston’s new Central Permitting and Green Resource Center at 1002 Washington Ave.: Solar panels, anchored by the first-ever commercial installation of Metalab Studio’s new PV-Pod. The local architecture firm developed the hollow high-density polyethylene pods with support from a UH Green Building Components grant. There’s one pod for each panel, and each is filled up with just enough water to resist required wind forces. This kind of assembly is much simpler to install than a typical photovoltaic-panel rack system with concrete ballast blocks, claims Metalab’s Andrew Vrana. It also allows for a more flexible layout. The new permit building opened for business yesterday.
Opened over the weekend: a 1,500-sq.-ft. space at 6115 Kirby in the Rice Village that its owners are claiming is the country’s first non-toxic retail paint store. The Green Painter, a project of green-building supply house and organic-mattress showroom New Living, takes over a former tile store next door to its parent company. Partner Jeff Kaplan says most of the paint and coatings sold at the Green Painter — including its own NOVOC brand and a lower-priced line of contractor-grade paints — won’t have any volatile organic compounds at all, but the store does carry one line of paints for cabinets, trim, and exteriors that qualifies as a low-VOC product.
Sometime before the Christmas holiday last year, “high winds” caused a part of one of the wind turbines mounted to the top of downtown Houston’s Hess Tower to “detach” from its mounting point. “Two pieces of the debris fell to the street. Nobody was injured,” Hess Corporation spokesperson Mari Pat Sexton tells Swamplot today. Sexton had no comment on circulating rumors that one or more of the the pieces struck a car on the street.
The incident helps explain why the whirling turbines, installed as a featured element at the top of the new 29-story tower last summer, have been silent since mid-December. In the photo above, taken by a HAIF commenter shortly before Christmas, the turbines appear to be missing. “After the event occurred, (the turbines) were locked down,” Sexton says, adding she is unaware of the turbines’ current status or whether there are plans to replace them. “The building is still under construction.”
The Gold LEED certified skyscraper, named Discovery Tower until Hess signed on to lease the whole thing 2 years ago, sits at the northern edge of Discovery Green, a short walk from Minute Maid Park. It was developed by Trammell Crow, designed by Gensler, is the thirtieth-tallest building in Houston, and was the first in town to feature — and draw some power from — wind turbines. Here’s how they looked (and sounded) last year, before the incident: