A New Home for the AIA Houston and the Houston Architecture Center Foundation
Houston, TX | 2016
Winning Entry for the Re-Imagine Architecture Center Houston Design Competition
Architecture Center Houston
Three interventions at street, basement, and roof level are proposed to demonstrate AIA Houston’s commitment to sustainability, design and community at the new home for the Architecture Center Houston.
To use the Boiler Room for events, even in its raw state offers a unique opportunity for fund-raising, exhibiting inspirational design, and lessons available only by contrasting old and new construction techniques. This space can be used most effectively if its atmosphere and ambiance are retained as the treasure long lost, hidden by being landlocked, then re-discovered and appreciated in new ways. After the Boiler Room has been cleaned, the roof fixed and code-required egress provided, new construction within the space can be self-supporting, not unlike interventions and exhibits within warehouses of the Venice Biennale.
The ramp to the lower level is self-supporting and constructed of inexpensive materials, preserving the utilitarian ambiance. Recent student projects at the University of Houston and Rice University have demonstrated what can be achieved with modest means: 2 x 4s, plywood and coordinated efforts.
Beyond an efficient and flexible floor plan, the principal functions of the new AIA office at street level are organized by suspended ceiling planes that express interior volumes. The ceiling folds project each of the three existing structural bays of the original building to convey zones of activity specific to interior programming: reception, central public space for classroom, lectures, and exhibition and a separate flexible conference area.
Original openings in the West façade of the Riesner Building are proposed to be restored. Exterior brick is to be returned to its original paint-free state. New steel awnings mark the entrance and offer places for pedestrian scaled signage.
This sequence of interventions, when applied to the rich context of the site, places goals for the new Architecture Center within REACH.