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.