“Does a building have diplomatic immunity to local ordinances if [its site] is deemed international soil?” asks Architect’s Newspaper reporter Jay Thomas, reporting on the variance request made on behalf of a new General Consulate of Saudi Arabia complex in Westchase — which Houston’s planning commission denied in December. The applicants for the variance appear to say yes, it does: “The Consulate should be considered foreign soil and should be allowed to develop the property as they have planned as long as it doesn’t harm the public in any way,” reads the application.
But the design team went ahead and applied for the variance anyway. Why?
“We recognize that while we are asking to be considered foreign soil, the development will also need to access city utilities,” reads the application, explaining why an earlier request for a 5-ft. setback for the 2.5-acre complex’s frontage along Wilcrest Dr. between Richmond Ave and Meadowglen Ln. had been relaxed to a request for a 10-ft. setback — and gained approval from the Westchase management district.
The plan by Studio Red Architects submitted with the application (below) shows 2 guard houses in front of the required 25-ft. setback along Wilcrest. The consulate office building itself is sited 40 ft. back from the property line; the complex also includes sites for several residential structures, dubbed villas in the plans and “temporary housing units” in the application.
“The guard houses will keep the general public from accessing the property, preventing incidents. Security for the Consulate is extremely important,” the application continues. “We believe this request is reasonable and just.”
A representative of the planning department tells Swamplot it isn’t clear whether the applicants intend to abide by the commission’s denial — for example, by moving the guard houses deeper into the site — or to submit plans for a different scheme.
- Line in the Plan [The Architect’s Newspaper]
Photo: The Architect’s Newspaper/Jay Thomas. Site plan: Studio Red Architects