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The Board of Directors of the American Institute of Architects, Houston passed the following Position Statement at its regular meeting on April 10, 2007. The statement will be presented to the Mayor and City Council tomorrow, April 17, by AIA Houston member Peter Boudreaux, AIA, of Curry Boudreaux Architects. AIA Houston POSITION STATEMENT April 10, 2007 RE: The Center Serving Persons with Mental Retardation Site Lease / Potential Sale The American Institute of Architects, Houston does not support the sale and demolition of the buildings of the Center Serving Persons with Mental Retardation located at 3550 West Dallas. The Center and the City of Houston are in disagreement over the validity of the site lease, where the Center's architecturally significant facilities are located. Invalidation of the lease may result not only in the destruction of the homes of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities but also the demolition of these historically important works of Houston architecture, which anchor a visible site in heart of the city. The current buildings and prominent site comprise first-class urban design and environmentally propitious use of open land, both concepts AIA Houston supports in general. The Center buildings are important examples of the architectural trend called the New Brutalism. They occupy a significant place in the history of Houston architecture, particularly in the wake of the recent demolition of the Houston Independent School District Headquarters on Richmond Avenue. The New Brutalism was a modernist architectural movement inspired by the work of Le Corbusier that flourished internationally from the 1950s to the 1970s. New Brutalist buildings usually are formed with striking repetitive angular geometries and are often constructed of rough, unadorned poured concrete. Howard Barnstone and Eugene Aubry designed the Center for the Retarded (1966), as it was originally called. The Cullen Residence Hall (1978) is the work of S.I. Morris & Associates. These architects are significant in Houston's history and these particular buildings are especially important because they represent a high standard of design in service to a community that has been traditionally under served. The buildings are in good condition and will serve their function for a significantly long future. Together Barnstone & Aubry designed several brilliant Houston buildings such as Rothko Chapel (1971); Guinan Hall, Univ. of St. Thomas (1971); Media Center, Rice University (1970); and 3811 Del Monte (1969). Both architects individually are also well-known for their work. S.I. Morris headed a string of firms (including Morris*Aubry), the successor of which is Morris Architects. The full body of Morris work touches almost all of segments of Houston architecture from the Astrodome (1965) to award-winning skyscrapers, to public buildings such as the Central Library (1975) to small houses. Transactional costs for the Center Serving Persons with Mental Retardation to build a new facility will take away from monies and services that this special needs population urgently requires. The Center for the Retarded, a non-profit organization, invested $7 million (1960's dollars) in the buildings, which probably cannot be recouped (in today's dollars). The $26 million estimated sale price of the land would fund only a portion of the needs for a new facility of comparable size and quality. The cost of comparable new facilities would mirror the inflation rate of the land and construction cost. Loss of this site and its buildings would entail a substantial net loss to the Center and adversely affect its ability to maintain its present level of service. Therefore, because of the outstanding architectural significance of this campus, the Board of Directors of AIA Houston recommends that the City of Houston renew its lease with the Center Serving Persons with Mental Retardation so that the Center may remain in its current location and continue to provide essential services to the citizens of Harris County. Hanover Square
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