Thursday, November 4, 2010

Wortham Center Fish Plaza Lighting Project

Urban Architecture announces the completion of the new lighting infrastructure and installation for the City of Houston’s Wortham Center Fish Plaza - South Entrance. Funded by the Downtown Redevelopment Authority (TIRZ #3), the fa├žade, with its references to classical architectural details, serves as a backdrop to Fish Plaza’s grand entry. It has been illuminated to maximize the play of the evening light with artificial light against the natural and built environments. The design allows the extension and reciprocity of the drama from and between the interior and exterior spaces respectively. The expertise of nationally recognized lighting consultant, Michael J. Smith assured the dramatic success of this project.

Responding to the Needs of a Community

Representing 5 % of Houston’s population, the Acres Home Community is located in the Northwest quadrant of the City. This early African American Settlement is home to the Cameron Iron Workers Social & Charity Club - constructed in 1975. More recently known as the Cameron Project or Cameron Center, founding members established programs and services that met the changing needs of the community.

Continuing the legacy of community service through the Cameron Project as the Cameron Community Center is an opportunity that has been extended to the Houston Area Urban League. As stewards of the community, Urban Architecture answered the call to support the initiatives of this community project through site/user specific design.

The design intent of the Cameron Community Center is to communicate a sense of ownership, permanence, and flexibility of use.

We propose a design concept that references the traditional character of the neighborhood and functionally serves the growing needs of the community. Collectively, the existing site and adjacent land (4.9648 acres) are designed to enhance outdoor experiences with shaded exercise trails, family picnics, theater field events, garden projects, and patio socials.

The program provides classrooms and landscape features for hands-on sustainability activities. Framed views and the integration of natural light are designed to compliment and activate space where chance meetings and large gatherings occur. Green initiatives are an integral part of the design and function. The design seeks opportunities to optimize energy performance, daylight and views, indoor air quality, use of local and renewable materials and resources; and water use reduction.

Preservation Conference 2010

Urban Architecture Associate Crystal Granger was invited to speak at the National Trust for Historic Preservation 2010 National Conference in Austin, TX. The Affinity Session, titled Realized Communities: Necessary Spaces, attracted professionals with specific or related backgrounds in preservation to discuss their respective experiences and current work. Crystal presented a case study on one of Houston’s Historic African American Churches and the preservation challenges of its surrounding community.

The speakers highlighted the challenges they face during information gathering, applying for designations and funding, identifying resources, and navigating the regulatory process. Representatives of a historic community in Florida shared some helpful tips about their successful marketing efforts fund ongoing preservation work for the last ten years receiving national recognition. Many agreed that the conversation must continue through similar sessions in their respective locations. There were several recommendations that information and ideas should be available for reference through a recognized source such as the National Trust with specific guidelines for preservation work in minority communities. In addition to assembling a resource guide representing collaborative input from the participants, the session ended with an exchange of ideas on how to move beyond the challenges that are commonly faced when studying underrepresented communities.

Cameron Community Center

Urban Architecture has been selected by the Houston Area Urban League (HAUL) to provide professional architectural services for the development of a new community center in an early African American settlement in Northwest Houston. The Urban League has received an opportunity to continue the community service legacy of the Cameron Iron Workers Social & Charity Club in the Acres Home Community. The original building was demolished due to major structural and mechanical problems. As the Urban League prepares to launch a Capital Campaign with the leadership of State Representative Sylvester Turner, Urban Architecture looks forward to providing the professional design and planning services necessary to achieve the goals of this campaign.