Hawthorne Comes To Praise the Astrodome, Not To Bury It

HAWTHORNE COMES TO PRAISE THE ASTRODOME, NOT TO BURY IT For an article slipped online only after election-day voting had already begun on the ill-fated $217 million bond issue that would have turned the Houston landmark into a convention center, L.A. Times architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne decides a few things need to be said about the Astrodome. Some highlights: “Forget Monticello or the Chrysler building: There may be no piece of architecture more quintessentially American than the Astrodome. Widely copied after it opened in 1965, it perfectly embodies postwar U.S. culture in its brash combination of Space Age glamour, broad-shouldered scale and total climate control. . . . [A]ll I had to do to understand the full appeal of the architecture was look up toward the center of the massive steel-framed roof, more than 200 feet above my head. Light filtered through its hundreds of panels fell serenely on the rest of the vast interior. Seen from that vantage point, the building has lost none of its tremendous aesthetic power. . . . Even if its attitude toward the environment now strikes us as deeply naive, the Astrodome deserves to be protected simply as a singular monument to the American confidence and Texas swagger of the 1960s. The stadium doesn’t so much symbolize as perfectly enclose a moment in time.” [L.A. Times] Photo: Candace Garcia

18 Comment

  • Cockamame and poppycock all in one article. If you replace the word Astrodome with a Generic Industrial Warehouse, the description would be exactly the same. You know this guy was on a deadline to bang out some soft news article and the dome issue was the only one that was happening this week.

  • So why cant the city sell the dome and land? Why does it have to stay public owned and spend tax dollars to operate? I hope instead of immediately tearing it down at a cost of 29 million dollars they sell it for more than that and let the next guy decide what to do with it. At least then it has a slim chance.

  • but being deserving of protection and worthy of protection are two entirely different things. he outlined why he thinks it’s desrving of protection based on some grand generic sweeping statements for buildings constructed of its time, but reading between the lines of his article it sounds like all he really wants is for google to add a 360 degree street view from the center of the dome onto their google maps and the it’s ready to be demolished.

  • I voted no. I think it best to tear it down, build a plaza, green space, and some kind of memorial to the dome; create an “event” space to break up the vast cement sea surrounding Reliant. As is, the Dome looks ugly next to Reliant Stadium. No one ever said how we would recoup the $217M much less cover the maintenance. The Rodeo wasn’t planning on paying rent to use it; niether were the Texans. We already have a convention center and no one showed how a refurbished dome would compliment that. I have many fond memories of events in the Dome. I’m sad to see it go but it’s time to move on in typical Houston fashion by tearing the sucker down.

  • The issue with the dome is simple: MONEY.

    No one wants to see it simply demoed and gone forever, but no one wants to pay hundreds of millions for a convention center next to a giant stadium and a couple of other convention centers.

    I saw a few articles a year or so ago about some UofH architecture student who had a few ameture-ish renderings (he did his best as an undergrad I’m sure) of the dome converted into a kind of open air pavilion (maybe some of the hardnosed swamplot reporters could dig that up). This still seems like a good option to me. Strip it down and let it slip gracefully into ruin like the colliseum in Rome. Its gotta be cheaper or at least comparable to a complete demo and removal, and it at least leaves some kind of usable space, and more importantly a monument to one of the most (and probably the only) iconic pieces of architecture in Houston.

    It would be pretty cool to tailgate under the shade of the biggest domed tailgate structure in the world.

  • His name is Ryan Slattery, his plan is excellent and met with wide public approval, and Ed Emmett & HCSCC killed it in its cradle.

  • Adam, stop, give it up, there’s no force of nature that can save the dome anymore.

  • So much for the argument that people outside Houston don’t care about the dome, would never want to see the dome, etc.

    What this came down to, like other posters have said, is money. $8 a year was just too much. That’s like, in Houston terms, a whole fast food meal. It’s like two cups of coffee at Starbucks. It’s like half a car wash for the big new F-250. It’s the tip for the waiter after your fajitas.

  • @Mike, today it’s 8 dollars, tomorrow it’s 30 dollars for something else, soon enough we’re 17 Trillion in debt and every single person in the US owes 56k, oh wait we’re already there. The point is, don’t give the government a single penny.

  • could somebody see if my eyeballs rolled over there back behind my head somewhere?

  • As others have put it, how did we get from where paying taxes was considered a civic duty to where they’re something to be avoided at all costs? Grover Norquist should’ve been strangled in his crib, not government.

  • Hope for the Dome died the day they decided to build Reliant Stadium a stone’s throw away from it. For me that’s the essential problem, setting the money aside. When they put Reliant right there they may as well have admitted straight away that the Dome’s days were numbered. I’ve long called for it to be torn down, but I admit I’m really saddened by the vote. I couldn’t bring myself to vote no on the proposal, even if the convention center idea was unnecessary and way too expensive. It’s a purely sentimental viewpoint and we all know sentiment doesn’t mean squat in this town if there’s a dollar at stake.

  • Well we all know Leroy Shafer had a great night last night…such a slimy character.

  • In this little corner of the Earth, mountains rivers and lakes are sparse while heat and humidity are not. In this dearth of natural beauty, what helps to compensate really becomes the aesthetic pillars on which to base our pride in community and sense of history. Family and friends and the public spaces we experience our times together in are for us Houstonians more important than perhaps our busy workaday routines can acknowledge. Fond memories of civic pride have such few venues in which to play out. The Harris County Domed Stadium is arguably the single most important focus in our historical consciousness where such moments helped for 45 years galvanize us as a community. Sadly, Tuesday’s vote looks to become a nod that we are indeed a soul-less city.

    .In 2012, Bob McNair’s NFL franchise claimed the fifth spot on Forbes list of most valuable franchises. Who set the foundation for this billionaire’s boon? In August 2002, Reliant Stadium opens its doors on the backs of taxpayers to the tune of 61% public financing, or $380 million in today’s dollars. Voters happily obliged. Meanwhile, in the past few months, the committee of reps for McNair and the HLS&R would go on to reject every thoughtful, progressive idea to re-purpose the Astrodome, appearing to favor razing the beautifully symmetrical, world-renown landmark for a few thousand additional parking spaces (even more profit for them). The monstrous scoreboard towards which fans now crane their necks? You might think McNair could pull the chump change $16 million cost from his wonderfully full pockets. Instead, he was happy to have Houston taxpayers foot that bill, too. Still, no complaints from the fiscal hawks. Oh, and Toyota Center financing? Otra vez, Les. We taxpayers happily got your back.

    .Where were the austerity hawks at the sound of $290 million in 2000? $182 million for Toyota Ctr the following year? Where were the cries of outrage back then about wasteful spending as there is now is against earnest preservation efforts? Looks like we indeed deserve the inferiority complex miring an otherwise dynamic city but one that chooses to relegate one of the rare examples of historical significance it has to hypocritical notions of fiscal responsibility.

    .Our civic pride for what visionary Houstonians erected a half-century ago has to mean more to us than the debt we assume preserving the Dome’s bones, especially if we’ve already shown we are willing to do it when billionaires ask us to. Or, are we fine with going into debt so long as doing so enriches the uber-rich? We seemed to be ok with directing funds from the Hotel & Visitors Tax to repay the Reliant Stadium bonds, so why not make that part of the manifest to re-purpose such an important aspect of our history?

    . Perhaps the bigger lesson and sheer irony in all this is that the taxpaying public enthusiastically subsidizes wealthy self-interest while rejecting similar commitments to preserve a part of its own soul.

  • mkultra25: Everyone would agree that paying taxes (via direct taxation or use fees or via tariffs or any other indirect method) is absolutely necessary. I think you’re seeing an increase in push back for new taxes as taxes have gone up and up as a percentage of everyones take home pay. But more importantly, it’s too easy to see examples of those hard earned tax dollars being wasted by those in power.
    Just as the most radical tea party person would agree that there needs to be some taxes paid to pay for infrastructure and such, I think even the most radical liberal would admit that at some point, enough is enough and pretty soon people will say “no, you can’t have yet MORE of my money”

  • And PS, that wasn’t a comment for or against the dome. I’d like to see the dome saved and I think people would vote to save the dome if they were convinced that there was a solid plan in place.
    I never once saw a strong argument and plan from the dome people — other than simply ‘save the dome’. That isn’t going to be enough to have people vote to spend 1/4 billion of their hard earned money.
    If you want the dome saved, do a better job at convincing people. Arguments have to go beyond sentimental reasons.

  • Excellent post, Tony