06/01/16 1:45pm

Design for convertible sitting  and standing conference table from MaRS

First order of business at all future meetings around Motile: achieve full consensus on table height. The rendering above from Mayfield and Ragni Studio shows the Houston architecture and design firm’s plan for an adjustable conference table, allowing working teams to alternate at will between sitting and standing (so long as they can unanimously agree on exactly when to do so). The table is headed for this summer’s NeoCon design trade show, where it’s in the running for a HiP award; if you like the idea, the trade show’s online voting system appears to still be operational (though the voting period appears to have formally ended yesterday).

Renderings: MaRS

Table the Motion
04/22/16 11:00am

900 Commerce St., Downtown, Houston, 77002

A charrette will be held at 9AM tomorrow for anyone interested in entering the design competition for the American Institute of Architects’s new Houston chapter headquarters, to be located at 900 Commerce St. across from Spaghetti Warehouse.  After being outbid on the blue mod Christian Science church on Main St. back in January, AIA and Architecture Center Houston are instead purchasing around 8,000 sq. ft. of space in the 1906 B.A. Reisner building, adjacent to the storied Bayou Lofts occupying much of the block. Part 1 of the competition will solicit ideas only for the 5,400-sq.-ft. storefront, 2,200-sq.-ft. boiler room, and some connections between the spaces; teams making it to round 2 will win a bit of cash and be asked to create detailed designs for the storefront and the building’s facade.

The view of the Reisner building above was snapped from Commerce looking south; below is a black-and-white shot of the building from further east across Travis, taken back in the days of its early-1900s employment by Southern Rice Products Company:


Rice Roaster Reimagining
10/22/14 1:15pm

Proposal for New Randall Davis Condo Tower, 1211 Caroline St. at Polk St., Downtown Houston

There is always excitement surrounding an announcement of a new Randall Davis condo tower — before the design is revealed. Everyone wants to know: What mixture of far-away buildings and long-ago eras will the architecture reference? And what affordable materials will it be constructed from? From atop what garage launch platform will it point toward the sky? And even more simply: How grandiose will it be? Late yesterday, only a few hours after posting news that the developer had announced the impending arrival of a condo highrise adjacent to GreenStreet downtown, Swamplot received the humble design submission pictured above from reader Bill Barfield. He claims to have created the rendering “after much research.”

Rendering: Bill Barfield (bill_b)

Vision Statement
07/22/14 3:45pm

LOCAL DESIGN MAG WANTS YOU TO REINVENT HOUSTON’S POLICE HQ COMPLEX — IN MINECRAFT Minecraft Model of Houston Police Headquarters, 61 Riesner St., HoustonThe online and offline publications of the Rice Design Alliance have announced a design competition to “reimagine” the area surrounding the city’s 21-acre police, courthouse, and jail complex centered around 61 Riesner St. between the Sixth Ward and Downtown — within the virtual world of Minecraft. Models of a number of existing buildings in the area bounded roughly by Houston Ave., Washington Ave, Preston St., I-45, and Memorial Dr. have already been crafted in the video game’s distinctive blocky style for the venture (try this server address:, including Kenneth Franzheim’s 1950 Streamline Moderne HPD HQ itself (above); the publication is still seeking help to model other existing structures, including the Ferris Wheel and Aquarium on the opposite side of I-45. But simply blockifying existing structures isn’t the focus of the competition; instead, the editors of Cite magazine and the Offcite blog hope beginning or experienced users of the gaming environment will be inspired to inflict their visions of the larger area’s possible future on the design jury of one — New York design critic Alexandra Lange. [Offcite; map of site] Rendering: JP Dowling

01/21/14 10:00am

Dog House by Tend Building

Chicken Coop by Smitty RegulaEco-conscious chickens and a dog are the beneficiaries of the just-announced award-winning entries in the Houston division of the annual National ReUse Contest, coordinated locally by the city’s ReUse Warehouse at 9003 N. Main St. Tend Building‘s first-place canine riff on the Beer Can House (at top), called the K-9 Can Cabin, incorporates wood framing and siding found at the ReUse Warehouse, cedar fence slats, reclaimed shutters, a glass mosaic forged from the cast-offs of a local stained-glass company, and aluminum-can shingles. Only the fasteners and sealers are new. Taking third place is this chicken coop forged from used doors, windows, and lumber by Smitty Regula. Entertainment is provided by the roof and removable side panels, cut from local political signage.

Photos: ReUse Warehouse

Nothing New
12/16/13 10:00am

SNøHETTA’S CENTRAL STATION CANOPY DESIGN IS OFFICIALLY DEAD Proposed Design by Snøhetta for Downtown Central Station, Main St. Between Capitol and Rusk, HoustonWhatever glimmer of hope supporters of a distinctive Central Station were holding out for Metro somehow following through on its design competition or for Snøhetta’s winning canopy design have officially been dashed, Dug Begley reports: “Metropolitan Transit Authority chairman Gilbert Garcia and interim CEO Tom Lambert confirmed [last] week that timing crippled any chance of resurrecting a winning design. Instead officials will build their basic canopy for the block-long stop between Capitol and Rusk streets on Main Street.” [The Highwayman; previously on Swamplot] Rendering: Snøhetta

11/22/13 10:30am

Snohetta Design for Central Station Canopy, Main St. at Capitol, Downtown Houston

Wondering whatever happened to the competition entries from architects competing for the new Main St. light rail station planned for the block between Capitol and Rusk streets downtown, where the new East End and Southeast Lines cross the existing rail line? After a long silence about the project, Metro board members voted yesterday to scrap the plan for a signature station at that location, and to spend $1.05 million to build a standard canopy there instead.

The winner of the invitation-only competition — which included SHoP Architects, LTL Architects, and Neil Denari from New York as well as Houston’s Interloop—Architecture — was New York and Oslo firm Snøhetta. But who’d have known it?


No Snøhetta for Main St.
11/20/13 4:30pm

Rendering of Floating Astrodome by HiWorks Architecture and Erica Goranson

Sure it’s dug 35 ft. into the earth now, but who’s to say sometime after an additional 3 decades or so of mulling it over we couldn’t insert a steel hull under the thing — so that when the waters of the rising Gulf came for Houston, the Astrodome, stuffed with valuables and maybe a species specimen or two, couldn’t just up and spirit itself away? Of course in this scenario the whole Reliant Park area has already reverted to swamp, and raised-seawall Galveston’s been entirely underwater for a number of spring break cycles. It’s 2050, and after an extra water surge from Hurricane Rick — Rick? — overcomes the submerged island’s new dike, Houston has just a little bit of time left to get the Dome up on moorings, so the gently but steadily rising waters can lift it and carry it off to sea.

“One of the best things about this proposal,” writes the distinguished Reliant Stadium-loathing jury, not missing a beat, “is that it gets the dome away from its neighbor.” And so: second prize for “The Houston Ark,” by San Antonio architects Brantley Hightower (of HiWorks) and Erica Goranson (of Lake Flato Architects), in the strangely timed whatever-shall-become-of-the-Astrodome design competition sponsored by The Architect’s Newspaper and the zippy folks at YKK AP, whose winners were announced earlier this month.

What would this cargo-laden Astrodome carry?


The Houston Ark
11/08/13 5:00pm

What kind of crazy idea is this — an actual open design competition for proposals to remake the Astrodome? And even stranger: One where the winners are scheduled to be announced a few days after voters pass judgment on what county officials had already declared to be the only viable alternative to demolition? Only now — given the results — maybe the timing and the concept don’t seem so absurd?

“Reimagine the Astrodome,” of course, was meant to be a design competition — not one focused on financial or political viability. (Maybe some other folks could put together a corresponding challenge focusing on those aspects.) The sponsors, the Architects’ Newspaper and YKK AP (yeah, the company with its name on your zipper) were hoping that “winning proposals would serve either as a swan song for a doomed architectural icon, or as inspiration for its possible future.” And what came in? 23 submissions ranging from “feasible interventions . . . to wildly imaginative and utterly improbable schemes that nevertheless encapsulated the heady spirit that originally propelled this project to completion in the 1960s.” And the winner, as announced yesterday by a jury not looking for cash flows or approval by the Houston Texans and the Rodeo but rather “strength of concept” and “quality of presentation”: this parking garage. A monument, as the jury of designers put it, “to the pain in the ass that parking is in Houston.”


09/06/13 12:05pm

ANYONE GOT A BETTER IDEA FOR THE ASTRODOME? The Harris County Sports and Convention Corp. might have passed over everyone else’s ideas about what to do with the Astrodome, but that doesn’t mean that no one would pick them: Thus, Architect’s Newspaper and YKK AP are sponsoring a Dome design competition to launch its new Southwest edition. The gist of the contest: A jury will award cash prizes to the 5 best ideas, which will be featured in the inaugural issue to debut November 6: “[W]e feel that the current proposal can only be made better by an infusion of fresh ideas. . . . Great aspirations and utopian schemes are welcome, as are feasible proposals that mesh with The New Dome Experience.” You’ve got to pay to play and register by September 17 to compete. [Arch Paper; previously on Swamplot] Photo: Allyn West

04/01/13 5:00pm

Kirksey submitted the rendering above in a 4-firm competition to design a general office with some temporary housing for the Saudi Consulate, now occupying a suite in the 22-story Westheimer highrise shown here, which dates to 1982 and sits across the street from an IHOP. But Kirksey lost that competition — to Studio RED.


12/20/12 3:50pm

Seen any images floating around of the new building Houston’s Museum of Fine Arts is planning for the northwest corner of the Bissonnet and South Main, next to the Cullen Sculpture Garden? Well then, this watercolor-and-charcoal “concept sketch” for the building by architect Steven Holl from a year and a month ago may interest you. It’s going up for auction tomorrow — as part of a fundraiser for the nonprofit Architecture for Humanity. Holl was selected from a group of 3 finalists this past February, beating out LA design firm Morphosis and Oslo’s Snøhetta for the MFAH commission of a new structure to house 20th- and 21st-century art.


02/06/12 3:52pm

Here’s a scheme for the Independent Arts Collaborative building in Midtown that won’t get built. It’s one of at least 2 concepts developed for the block bounded by Main, Travis, Francis, and Holman streets by Morris Architects — the same firm that had earlier put together the first round of “initial concept drawings” for the IAC center, helping the fledgling arts organization sell the concept to city officials and local arts groups. What’s the big idea here? An inverted yurt. Filled with people and art. A garden and light on top. Like so:


02/02/12 3:21pm

Houston’s Museum of Fine Arts just announced the winner of its 3-architecture-firm face-off for the commission to design its new building for 20th and 21st century art. It’s New York’s Steven Holl Architects, but the institution put itself in the limelight too, declaring the firm had been chosen “to partner with the board and staff of the museum in developing” the expansion, which will also include a new parking garage.

That garage will be needed because the new structure will take up the 2-acre parking lot across Bissonnet from the museum’s main building between Montrose and South Main St. (Architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe added onto that building twice; it’s now known formally as the Caroline Wiess Law building.) The museum and its new director, Gary Tinterow, expect Holl’s design to integrate the existing sculpture garden on the northwest corner of Montrose and Bissonnet, and allow for expansion of the glass-block Glassell School just to the north.


02/01/12 10:00am

The reddish steel structure shown here is UH architecture grad Neil Denari‘s design for the new light-rail transfer station on Main St. between Capitol and Rusk downtown, where the new East End and Southeast Lines currently under construction will intersect with the existing rail line. Besides Denari, whose firm is based in LA, 3 New York and 1 local architecture firm were invited to dream up schemes for the long open-air, 11-ft.-wide rail platform. A jury selected by Metro will pick the winning design, but Metro is still asking for rider comments on each of them.