01/17/12 11:35pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: IN DEFENSE OF THE SAME OLD-LOOKING STUFF “I hate to say it, but there’s a lot going for inoffensive tried-and-true faux-historical designs built from readily available, durable, and inexpensive materials by contractors that have done dozens of projects before, just like it. Spectacular architecture necessarily entails the risk of spectacular failure.” [TheNiche, commenting on Apartments Planned for Montrose Fiesta Site Will Go Tall Mediterranean]

12/09/11 11:40am

Dedicated Houston Apple Store sleuth Tracy Evans has posted a revised sketch of the glass-ceilinged retail space going up at 4012 Westheimer Rd. in the Highland Village Shopping Center, showing a number of details he’s figured out from careful study. The new sketch shows the store’s glass facade extending beyond the front of the bookending limestone-clad slabs on the east and west sides, as it does in the Upper West Side store this location is clearly modeled after. And contrary to an apparently mistaken report from another source, Evans says the Highland Village Apple Store will feature an entrance in its all-glass back wall, facing the back parking lot and Marmi and Francesca’s behind it.

The 3,100-sq.-ft. Houston store across Drexel St. from Crate and Barrel will be Apple’s first glass-ceiling structure to have glass walls and entrances at the front and back. So where will the back-of-house space go? Evans thinks it’ll be masquerading as part of the cupcake shop next door:

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12/07/11 12:37pm

How might a Houston building with an all-glass roof stand up to the Gulf Coast’s formidable sun, heat, and gloppy rainfall? We all should be able to find out after Apple’s Highland Village store opens early next year. Thanks in part to the sleuthing of Houston production company owner Tracy Evans, the building going up at 4012 Westheimer next to the Sprinkles cupcake store has been identified as a smaller and somewhat altered version of the patented design for the Apple store the company opened 2 years ago on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. Unlike that design, however — which lists the late Steve Jobs as one of its creators — the company’s first outside-of-a-mall store in Houston will feature not just a glass ceiling and facade, but a glass back wall as well.

Evans’s friend Jeffrey made the napkin sketch above showing the likely appearance of the finished building — based on Evans’s description of what he saw at the Highland Village construction site. Here are a couple of views of the UWS store:

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11/14/11 10:46am

A stone panel from the 9th floor of the vacant 10-story 3400 Montrose office building crashed to the sidewalk over the weekend, according to a reader report. “Was at Starbucks [Saturday] morning and all was good. An hour later things had fallen apart,” Swamplot’s informant writes. One of the submitted photos shows a policeman looking up at the jumping-off point: a now blank dark space where a panel had been mounted, in the top left corner of the building’s Montrose Blvd. facade.

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11/11/11 9:30pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: ANSWERS TO YOUR LINGERING QUESTIONS ABOUT PREFABRICATED BATHROOM PODS “. . . Offsite Solutions manufactured the Rice University bathroom pods in panel form, they were then shipped to the US where they were assembled & fitted-out by Kullman Buildings Corp. Bathroom pods were originally developed for boats, aeroplanes, trains & RV’s. Aside from these applications they are now widely used for military, hospital, university, care home, hotel and residential accommodation. They can be made in any size and with nearly any specification from small & basic to large and luxurious – the only real constraint being transport of the units from the factory to site. Bathroom pods are now used in most large construction projects in the UK & Europe where a large number of similar units are required (> 100). Quality can be closely monitored in the factory environment, the construction programme can be decreased, wastage is significantly reduced and less skilled labour is required on-site giving significant cost & time savings to the main contractor. Pods are of two types – FRP and Steel Framed, the former is preferred where a more robust finish is needed, the latter where a conventional (residential) finish is required. Offsite Solutions currently produce 5,000 units a year from their facilities in Somerset, England . . .” [Richard Tonkinson, commenting on Reducing Bathroom Waste: Rice’s Prefabricated Pods]

11/10/11 6:58pm

Cutting through some 2×6 pine boards he was using to build a table yesterday at the Potetz Home Center in Cleveland, Texas, carpenter Eddie Fregia found Jesus. Or at least what appeared to be an image of Jesus. A long-haired, bearded figure was revealed in a knot Fregia cut through in the hardware supply store’s woodshop, 50 miles north of Houston. “It looked a lot like J.C.,” Fregia tells the Cleveland Advocate. “Either J.C. or my brother.” Fregia notified a coworker and his boss, and they agreed with Fregia’s assessment, though manager Kenny Rogers later told reporter Cassie Gregory that someone else who examined the knot said it looked more like musician and movie director Rob Zombie.

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11/04/11 11:29am

THE HOUSEWRAP RED CARPET TREATMENT “Tina McPherson, whose day job is as the supervisor of the William R. Jenkins Art and Architecture Library at U.H., . . . conducted interviews of arriving guests (pretty much anyone who came through) similar to those red-carpet interviews one might see on awards shows or celebrity-oriented shows. I’ve always thought it was weird how the backdrop to these interviews would be wallpaper printed with copies of corporate and/or product logos. iPageant parodied this tendency by putting up Tyvek, the super-strong water-proof paper that home builders use to cover the wooden balloon framing of modern houses. Tyvek has its logo printed in a regular pattern, making Tyvek paper perfect for a red-carpet backdrop. McPherson treated everyone who came in as if they were a celebrity, whose answers to her repetitious questions were actually worth hearing. This went out live on the closed-circuit feed.” — Robert Boyd, describing artist Dennis Harper‘s homey one-night performance last month at The Joanna, across the street from the Menil Collection’s Byzantine Fresco Chapel. [The Great God Pan Is Dead] Photo: The Joanna

10/21/11 10:26pm

Just 6 months after a companywide audit of worker IDs resulted in the loss of 269 of its 489 employees, Champion Window has decided to shut down its entire manufacturing division — axing an additional 135 workers. The largest manufacturer of vinyl and aluminum windows in the South Central U.S. was served with a grand jury subpoena last November over its hiring practices; a subsequent investigation by federal agents revealed that a large number of the company’s employees had no legal authorization to work in the U.S. Champion will shift its manufacturing operation from its Houston plant at 12427 Duncan Rd. near the Willowbrook Mall to its parent company, Dallas-based Atrium Windows and Doors, in December. Recently, Champion filed suit against 2 former top executives, alleging their “negligent disregard” for whether job applicants had authorization to work in the country “nearly crippled” the company’s operations.

Photo: Champion Window

09/15/11 9:06am

How design blogger Joni Webb’s Calacatta slabs have been acclimating themselves to West U.: “Is white marble really practical in a kitchen? Yes, that age old question. Doesn’t white marble stain? I’ve had my marble countertops for almost three years now and I have to say, I don’t have any stains at all. But, what I do have are a few smudges. You can’t really see them unless you look sideways in the sunlight – and then you might notice that there are – for lack of a better word – smudges. These spots look like clear water dried on the marble. I know that all I need to do is get the marble cleaned and resealed again, but truthfully, these few marks don’t bother me at all.”

Photo: Cote de Texas

08/19/11 12:53pm

Sculptor Dan Havel sends in photos of the construction he and fellow demo artist Dean Ruck have been working on for months in a new pocket park at 3705 Lyons Ave. More than a month before its debut as the backdrop for a community concert (yes, that’s a stage poking out from the front), Havel says their project is “substantially complete,” though there are still a few more details to fill in, including stairs for the stage and some landscaping. Working from a ready-to-be-knocked-down house from a couple miles northeast at 3012 Erastus St., Havel and Ruck added, ahem, a whole lot of support to the interior, as these photos taken earlier in the summer show:

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07/29/11 11:46pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: SALVAGE VALUE “I am not attached to the nice appliances, wood floors, etc. . . . but they have a very large and easily accessible resale market . . . its not being sentimental it is just not wasting money on something that can easily be resold. A mod house like this has a very small market. Only a select few like this style of house, and even fewer are willing to pay for them.” [Marksmu, commenting on Battle Over Swank Sugar Land Supermod Won By Komatsu Excavator]

05/27/11 10:57am

It looks like those last-ditch fundraising efforts that might have saved Historic Houston’s Salvage Warehouse from undergoing its own salvage operation weren’t enough. A local auction company will be selling all remaining inventory at the local building-parts-preservation group’s warehouse next week, in what the nonprofit is clearly labeling a “going out of business” sale. Everything at the 1307 W. Clay warehouse will be up for sale: doors, windows, flooring, lumber, plumbing fixtures, tools and equipment for DIY salvagers who’d like to carry on in Historic Houston’s 7-plus-year tradition, office furniture. And yes: Even the organization’s black and white twin Dodge trucks. A page on the website of Worstell Auction Company features photos of many of the vintage goodies, including a screaming “Eisenhower Wins in Landslide” cover from an old Houston Chronicle. (No R-value provided, though. You’ll need to test that out yourself.) Auction date: next Thursday, June 2, at 10 am on the warehouse grounds.

Photos: Historic Houston

04/18/11 10:53am

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.

Photo: Adam Brackman