Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Withdrawal, But Not Quite Yet

I was not at the site today, but I was there twice yesterday. In the morning I was to meet someone at 10:00. He was not in the building, so I wandered instead. Ended up on level 3 where I found the "Overheard' wall entirely covered with yellow plastic tubs - emptied and ready to go back to the movers. Must be that employees on level 3 are settling into their new quarters.
The level 3 lobby was filled with people, many of them looking out the window, which I found interesting. I ended up having a chat with one of those folks as each of us moved toward the elevators. I asked if he liked the new building. He said that yes, he did. A big improvement, he added.
I took that as an opening for conversation and introduced myself to John Rodriquez, Pearl Classic Homes. He was there to run plans by a plan reviewer. However, I think he was leaving with the thought of returning another day when things are more settled. The delay didn't seem to phase him or dampen his enthusiasm for the facility.
We talked about the new wood floors in the elevator - which I was seeing for the first time. I remembered that Texas Timbers was to install those floors. They're made of salvaged Texas wood, much of it from Hurricane Ike.
The elevator flooring led into talk about the main lobby's reception area which includes a lowered ceiling made of salvaged wood, also by Texas Timber. The wood beams that make up the lowered ceiling over the reception area and the race track are all words in 'bar code'. You can read them if you're lying down on the floor. We might need a plaque that speaks to that.
Mr. Rodriguez and I talked some more about the art. Talked about Metalab's piece in the lobby and I showed him the CO2 monitors that reflect people movements on the big wall screen by the north entry.
Talked about Jesse Sifuentes' coffee mural, the montage of vintage maps and blue prints on the cashier's wall and Serena Lin Bush's sky monitors in the basement stairwell. This man is one patron who is pleased to see how well this new facility turned out.
At 6:00 p.m., I was back at the site and met with Robynn Sanders until nearly 8:00 p.m. to discuss the 88 ft. long basement corridor wall that she'll begin painting on later this week. For some time now, we've had the concept, the paint colors and translations of recycling words in five languages.
The timing for painting this very long wall is now upon us and we needed to confirm the particulars. Robynn is terrific to work with. We can think things through in tandem with one another, putting ideas out there and knowing when we've hit on the right one. This wall will be a really good one.
The low western sun was golden when we came out of the building, so I took a few photos of Dick Wray's tower, but still don't have the one I want. The photo that says it all. No, I don't have that one.

Still, Dick's tower is the asterisk, the frosting, the building identifier. Call it what you will. It looks pretty good right now and there are just a few more small pieces of powdered coated metal that need to be added.
Dead tired last night. Too tired to read or watch a Netflix or gather together all those emails from the artists so I have the proper verbiage for aluminum plaques that will be made for each work in the building.
Didn't get to that task today either, because I spent a lot of time at the Memorial City APPLE store where I was then referred to the APPLE help hot-line to obtain the serial number for some of my software. Seems that having a new motherboard installed last week obliterated the entryway to Aperture. Stuff like this eats up a day.
Enough. Enjoy the photos. Know that there are more to come.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Gonzo's Aerosol Mural: Level 3

Gonzo 24/7 painted a mural on canvas that, if memory serves, is almost 20 feet long. Really nice interplay of forms that build a cityscape with a swirling highway running through it. Gonzo says that intricate flowery pattern overlaying the deep orange was made by painting over lace. Who knew? Well, it works.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Swamplot Focuses on 'Overheard' and Solar Panels

Just read Swamplot's take on the level 3 text wall titled 'Overheard.' This wall was installed by A&E Graphics just last Wednesday and is immediately adjacent to the lobby elevators. Apparently, it caught someone's eye. Check out all the comments on Swamplot, too.
Thanks to Earl Greer and the countless plan reviewers and inspectors who allowed me to listen in on their conversations over many weeks. And thanks to them again for listening to what I captured to see if it was 'the real thing.'
Thanks to Kelly Musebeck at S.O. Creatives for taking all those overheard phrases I'd transcribed on yellow legal pads, for listening to my ideas for covering an entire wall with these conversational phrases, for designing the wall and finally for tweaking that design again and again as we made it what you see right now on level 3.
And thanks to A&E Graphics for producing this text wall, for cutting the plexi conversation clouds and for installing the entire thing.
One never works alone. I may have dreamed up that idea many months ago, but it takes a village to make it a reality. Everyone adds their skills and creativity to the idea. I've always maintained that collaborations are the way to go.

Swamplot also covered Metalab's new solar panels on the roof of the new Houston Permitting Center.

For more information on how this new permitting center got started back in 2009, here's another Swamplot link.

Gonzo and Carolyn Get Hitched

"We're getting hitched in June." That's what Gonzo said last February. And so he and Carolyn Casey (aka CKC) did get hitched. They were married at St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church last evening at 7:00 p.m. The church was full and both the bride and groom looked happy and so 'a couple.'
Reception followed at Spring Street Studios and the place was jammed. Lots of food, dozens of small children of all ages and stages, and seemingly hundreds of guests. Good DJ too.
Wish them well.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

What I Saw Today At the Site

Always something new at 1002 Washington Avenue and this morning was no exception. Arrived at 10:45 to see the A&E Graphics van leaving the parking lot. I rolled down my window to say thank you. I knew they'd just installed one of my text walls. I missed the entire installation for an early morning appointment with my favorite physical therapist who made those tight neck muscles bend to her will for my well being. An appointment with her and a really good rain over most of Houston made for the beginning of a really nice birthday. Plus all those Facebook messages that keep popping up on my iPhone. Facebook has totally changed folks' birthdays, don't you think? In a good way. But more about this very special building.
Walked into the lobby, which by the way, is very cold. The air conditioning sure is working. Real folks at the cashier's windows involved in what I assume are real transactions. I think I see some dollar bills being counted there.
Into the elevator headed for level 3 and it was terrific to see that wall for real. At last. After all the scheduling delays because the wall had to be repainted with semi-gloss and then it had to dry and then the size of the wall paper was not exactly right. But now, it's really fine. Looks just as we imagined and planned.
That wall represents hours and hours of time spent listening to plan reviewers and inspectors interact with architects, engineers and designers at the building on Main just south of Westheimer. Last spring, I filled entire yellow legal pads with transcriptions of real conversations, then got it all on a lengthy word document and finally edited it to phrases and expressions that best exemplify what happens when the city takes a look at a set of plans. Had the text vetted by the very folks who use this 'language' and after hearing a few chuckles, I knew it'd be 'good to go', as they say.
This morning there were real people sitting in the reception area on level 3, right in front on Gonozo's cityscape mural.
Couldn't resist relooking at the entire building. Went to level 4 to see Geoff Winningham's photo mural on metal. Reflection of UH Downtown main campus building in ripples along Buffalo Bayou. Two folks fishing in the image too.
Just inside the doors to the administration offices is another text intervention. This one is bar code that reads GREEN. Hand made with many different types of salvaged and recycled local woods by Bob Card and installed by Daniel Adame, this piece is both understated and rich in detail. Each strip of wood is stamped with its provenance.
The installation of Dick Wray's tower panels by Charles Masterson and his crew continues. More photos by Beth Collins Wray coming soon.
Suffice it to say that it's hard to let go of this building. But, we artists don't have to let go quite yet. There's still a reception in the works, when we will all get together to celebrate a project unique in Houston. Date and time to be announced. In the meantime, I need to get those artist plaques ordered and installed and finish the attendant paperwork.
Thanks to all. We're almost 'good to go.'

Monday, June 20, 2011

More on Metalab's CO2 Review

See this link for more about tracking 'people movement' in the lobby of the new Houston Permitting Center: CO2 Review. And remember to mouse over the blank spot in the text to find the link. Still haven't been able to make the links visible on this particular blog of mine.

However, a question about making links visible will be the first words out of my mouth when I go to the Apple store today or tomorrow to pick up my laptop, which, last Thursday evening beeped and turned dark. Turns out that its motherboard was tired, very tired. It just gave out, so a new motherboard has been ordered. Memory - that would be all documents and photos - will remain unimpaired, fortunately. At least, that is what Apple says. But those beeps signaled real distress. This may have been more than you needed to know about why that link in the first paragraph of this post has to be moused over to get anywhere.

Exhale and See Yourself On A Big Screen

See this link for more about Metalab Studio's sensors on eight lobby columns. They record both sound and CO2 (that would be folks exhaling) and then display the sound and people movement on that big glass screen just inside the north entrance. We hope that folks begin to play with this artwork and discover the connection between those sensors and their own movements.
Remember, on this blog at this time, you must mouse over the blank spot in the first line of this post to see the actual link. I still need to have someone redo the code so that links are not invisible. Why this is happening, I do not know. I am neither young enough or tech savvy enough to fix it.

Move In

This morning the Houston Permitting Center opened for business. I am absolutely sure that the facility will surprise both employees and their customers. I may be over-attached to the place, certainly over-invested, but nevertheless, this building has been repurposed in sophisticated, eye catching ways. The original brick and concrete columns remain throughout and the white sheet rocked interior walls do not detract, but reinforce what we can see of the history of this place. Studio Red certainly had a vision for how this 85 year old rice warehouse could morph into a 21st century green building, retain some of its original character and yet, function in new millennium ways.
The original skeleton is everywhere in evidence and we can see how well the new has been incorporated. The 'new' would be those hundreds of cubicles, glass walled offices around the perimeter of each floor, interior stair railings and the exterior elevator tower, mesh covered open stairways and the green roof. And then there's the civic art and lots of it, too.
Jesse Sifuentes' murals, Serena Lin Bush's Houston sky views in the basement stairwell andMetalab's CO2 monitors that gauge people-traffic in the lobby are just some of the public art that is accessible to all Houstonians.
So, I have to believe that this morning everyone is ramped up and ready to work in this new space. I hope the system itself works too and that there aren't too many IT issues or too many plans and project numbers lost? misplaced? in the move.
I will take myself over to this building soon, just to sit in the lobby and watch the flow. Just to see how it feels on the first Monday.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Open For Business

Tomorrow is the first day that the new Houston Permitting Center will be open for business. How will it be? I just know that I'll go to the building and watch whatever happens. I won't be able not to go and watch.
On Friday and Saturday, I couldn't tear myself away from following the move-in, talking to the folks I recognized from the building on Main St. and simply soaking in the whole process of moving 700 employees from a half dozen locations.
And then, of course, at the same time, four art installations were also underway. As was the planting of the green roof, the final paint touch-ups, all that IT business and the dozens of other issues and punch-lists about which I knew nothing. Like what was that electrician fixing down under the floor on level one?
Charles Masterson is five days into the installation of Dick Wray's tower. It's been a sight to see as one panel after another goes on to the corrugated metal wall of the exterior elevator shaft. On Wednesday evening, Beth Wray, Bill Neuhaus and I stayed on through that golden sunset time, watching those first two panels go up. Here are some of Beth's photos from that first evening.
Here's Charlie Genella passing out hard hats to Charles' crew. And Wednesday was the first day I saw both JB and Charlie WITHOUT hard hats.
It's now days later and more and more panels have been added. Progress is 'slow and steady.' Yesterday I began to see the figures and faces in the north panel. Stunning.
Inside the building, Metalab was at work Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Here's Joe Mepplelink alongside Manhattan's electrician working on the last of the CO2 monitors.
Their piece is really looking good. The series of eight CO2 monitors were installed on eight concrete columns in the lobby and connect to the big screen just inside the main doors.
Breathe near any of the eight monitors as you move down through the lobby and the air your exhale will be recorded on that screen. We're hoping folks have fun with this piece. Once they figure it out.
Here's Travis from Metlab working on cabling for the piece at the base of one of the lobby's concrete columns. Travis wrote all the HTML code that makes the patterns on the big screen from the very air we exhale. BTY, see Agnes Welsh Eyster's etched metal panels on the meet and greet reception area immediately behind the column.
Apparently, a lot going on with this cabling that I don't know about.
Robynn Sanders spent Saturday in the building finishing up tiny text interventions. The small yellow painted Post-It notes she painted on level 2 were the 'tiniest' of all. Hope folks like them. They look so real you want to tear them off.
Serena Lin Bush returned for one last adjustment or two on her monitors. They are all uncovered now, even though work on the central staircase is endless and there is always the possibility of a stray nail falling onto a monitor, leaving a dent, a ding. Or throwing them off altogether. We're hoping for the best as they beautiful and such a surprise to see.
Bill Neuhaus, Susan McMillian and I took a look a Serena's monitors the day before she came to make her final check. We talked about the possibility of putting crushed windshield glass under the wooden beams. The idea seems to work and would give ever more light reflections. I need the name of Manhattan's glass vendor, so I can ask about getting recycled broken glass. Another day, another idea.
Kaneem Smith spent a second full day in the lobby. She had help from her mom Thelma and Beth Collins Wray - all three were steaming the burlap columns and putting wire rings in the bottom seams, so each hangs like a full circle and folks can look up inside them where Kaneem has now added some wind chimes. The chimes really add magic to the work.
Lots of steaming going on here. Thank you, Beth.
So, the building opens tomorrow. It's clear that hundreds of folks have worked really hard to make this building truly wonderful. I see a lot of people giving a lot of time and energy to making the facility a really good place in which to work and do business. Every day, I witness the care that is taken to make this building green, sustainable and quite beautiful.
BTW, Jesse Sifuentes' coffee mural was unwrapped on Saturday morning. It looks really good in its space just off the main lobby.
I'll say it again. I just know I'm going to walk up the steps into the lobby tomorrow just to take a look around. I can't help myself. And I'll be wearing open toed shoes too. Nothing else will do after months of clogs.
I don't think that there is any other public building in this city that has quite the variety of civic art we've installed, within budget and with a couple of exceptions, exactly on schedule.
To the public and to the employees who will work here, I say, "Enjoy, enjoy, enjoy." We had a very good time making art that is meant to be taken with a lightness of heart. Have good days.