Sunday, April 17, 2011

AIA Gala: 1002 Washington Avenue

What a lovely evening. Guests would never have guessed that on Monday afternoon, the main lobby was covered with piles of sand in preparation for laying the terrazzo floor. Who would have known that the concrete steps to one of the main entrances was still to be poured, as was a part of the front parking area. Party lights, filtered through geometric shapes, covered the lobby ceilings. Would that those lights could remain in perpetuity. Beautiful way to show off after dark.
1002 Washington Avenue looked good tonight. And I never saw so many bars at one party. A crowd of over 700 gathered to celebrate architectural firms receiving awards and to be the first to see this almost-finished City of Houston building. Must have been quite a night for Studio Red's Bill Neuhaus, architect in chief. Mayor Parker spoke with pride about the facility's greenness and the city's commitment to sustainability. The building is tracking for LEEDs gold right now. The Mayor also mentioned the public art that will soon fill the building which brought a burst of applause. I liked that response.
When I spoke with Mayor Parker after dinner, she asked when the art will be installed. "May," I told her. Everyone is anticipating the artwork. And strangely, though I know that May will be enormously busy and all kinds of things could go awry, I'm confident about the end result. The art is going to work in this place. There will be a lot of it and it will be exciting and totally unexpected. And for the record, civic art is good public policy in action. From the City of Houston website:

"The program was established in December 1999, when City Council adopted an ordinance mandating the inclusion of civic art in selectedcapital improvement projects. Each year, the civic art component of the CIP includes design, acquisition and/or construction of new civic art as part of the City’s collection.

The primary objective of the program is to enhance the environment through the inclusion of artist-designed features in new municipal facilities, contributing to a sense of community pride. The Civic Art Program supports the City’s commitment to neighborhood enhancement and improving overall quality of life. As projects are completed,they will add to Houston’s image as a vibrant and culturally rich metropolis, both nationally and internationally."

Nice to be working with such clear objectives.
Earl brought his camera tonight and suddenly there were pictures of me at the party. A new experience as I am usually the one behind the viewfinder.
I am wearing that costume I made with brocades, silks and linens salvaged from Hurricane Ike flood waters. I thought it was the thing to wear because it mirrors this building where the original interior brick and concrete have been preserved and reuse and repurposing are the verbs of choice. Repurposing is at the core of some of the artwork too. Dean Ruck and Dan Havel's piece is assembled from recycled metals and is dynamite, baroque, wonderful. If we care to toot our own horn, Dan's included a bouquet of trumpets and coronets in the piece.
Saw Minnette Boesel, Mayor's Assistant for Cultural Affairs and Susan Christian, Mayor's Office of Special Events.
Here is Lorie Westrick, Rey de la Reza Architects. When I was president of the Greater East End Management District, we worked together on the East End Streetscape Project with TXDOT. Seems eons ago.
Lovely to see Rock Gremillion and his wife. Rock and his brothers own A&E Graphics and they will be involved in fabricating two of the my text walls for this new facility. Wait until you see those walls.
Here I am with Steve Andrews of Texas Timber Plank, the company that supplied the recycled wood beams that form the lowered floating ceiling on the main floor. Each section of the lowered ceiling spells out a word in bar code. If you stretched out flat on the floor and looked up, you could read all the bar codes. that is, if you could translate into the language you speak. the barcode words are meant as encouragement as one goes through the permitting process. Subliminal messages. By the way, Texas Timber knows the provenance of each piece of its timber. Lots from Hurricane Ike and lots of good reused Texas trees.
Chatted with Sarah and Lance Gandy, Gandy2 Lighting Design. Every fixture in this facility comes from them.
At dinner, we sat with Louis Skidmore, consultant to Skidmore, Ownings & Merrill, LLP and his son Chris Skidmore who manages the art gallery Gremillion & Co. Charming dinner companions. Louis told me that lamb shanks seemed to be the plate of choice at this year's galas. Seems he's eaten more than one or two of late. I'd say those lamb shanks made a very tasty dinner.
Now, about the bathrooms. For months, I've wanted to put text interventions on the wall near the bathroom ceilings or at the tops of columns where folks don't expect words. The words would be sly green messages and thoughts about code. I see them as plexi conversation bubbles or I'd have a sign painter paint the words or, what about Gonzo 24/7? He's already painting two aerosol murals for the place. I am still hoping I have a sliver of budget funds for small messages up high on bathroom walls. Folks wouldn't forget them. I really do want to do this.
Just time for one last photo as we waited for the car. BTY, I saw JB White, General Services for the City of Houston and Manhattan's Charlie Genella. Both of them sure look great in black tie. Absolutely should have taken their photos. You'll just have to imagine them.
So, here we are. Earl's seen the building for the first time. Tonight was the 'before'. The 'after' will be when the building is filled with what are called 'artful interventions'. Indeed. The artists are intervening all right. All twelve of them. It's the art that will make this building sing the really high notes, that will give voice to its greenness, that will speak to the city's energy and diversity, that will bring wonder and perhaps a smile to those folks working the permitting process. Don't you think?
This green building is a terrific project and does the City of Houston proud. I am glad to be a part of it.
For the record, here a list of the artist's who will absolutely make this building. They are quite a group:
Dick Wray
Dean Ruck
Dan Havel
Serena Lin Bush
Joe Mepplelink
Andrew Varna
Kaneem Smith
Jesse Sifuentes
Gonzo 24/7
Agnes Welsh Eyster
Geoff Winningham
Mary Margaret Hansen

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