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Question: and I admit I am very uneducated on this subject. Remember Block 265 where Southwest Tower was going, it was going to be 82 stories and right in the middle of everything ... could that ever be resurrected or is that like "gone with the wind"? Because that building was beautiful on the drawing board and couldn't be in a better area. Can someone enlighten poor ol' fella whether these things can come back to fruition or the sad truth is that they will never be built?

It's safe to say that old designs like that will never get built. The site that building was proposed for is the current site of the ChevronTexaco Heritage Plaza (or whatever they're calling it these days). When it was proposed, we were at the height of the oil boom and very brash about building skyscrapers; even then it was a bit too brash for us.

I'm not even sure we'd want a building like that: you'd have to make all of Sam Houston Park into a giant parking garage for all the cars, and it would be much better for a variety of reasons for the same number of office workers to be spread out in five smaller buildings in different parts of downtown. If we want downtown to be a neighborhood instead of just an office park, we need mid-size buildings, not just supertalls.

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Personally, I have always preferred the Kohn Pedersen Fox proposal over the competition victor, designed by Jahn; it looks too similar to the Liberty Place towers in Philadelphia, also done by Jahn.

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The site that building was proposed for is the current site of the ChevronTexaco Heritage Plaza (or whatever they're calling it these days).

Different site.

The block in question is still a surface parking lot. It's bordered by Milam, Louisiana, Walker and McKinney.

I remember when the former Southwest Tower occupied the southeast corner of that block, and how shocked I was that a 21 story building, less than 20 years old, was so casually demolished.

The removal of that absurd bronze statue of the semi-nude woman (it looked like something from a Frankie Avalon movie) which stood in front of that building somehow made it all worthwhile.

(She was seriously cheesy; the gal had a pony tail and a two-piece swimsuit. She currently lurks somewhere over by the police station, I think.)

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It's safe to say that old designs like that will never get built. The site that building was proposed for is the current site of the ChevronTexaco Heritage Plaza (or whatever they're calling it these days). When it was proposed, we were at the height of the oil boom and very brash about building skyscrapers; even then it was a bit too brash for us.

I'm not even sure we'd want a building like that: you'd have to make all of Sam Houston Park into a giant parking garage for all the cars, and it would be much better for a variety of reasons for the same number of office workers to be spread out in five smaller buildings in different parts of downtown. If we want downtown to be a neighborhood instead of just an office park, we need mid-size buildings, not just supertalls.

Who wants to re-categorize Downtown (Central Business District/CBD) to being at the same level as a neighborhood anyway ? Midtown is downtown's neighborhood anyway. I think you could build the parking within the building like they are doing at Calpine.

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This building would have been beautiful to look at.

But this discussion brings another question to mind: what would have Houston been like if it wasn't for the bust in the 80's....the downtown/uptown skylines, the population, the demographics....global status and perception.

But i don't want to deviate from the original topic. The BOTSW will never be built in houston. the chance of a building that tall being constructed in houston anytime soon is very slim.

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  • 2 weeks later...

moo, supertalls rarely do much practical good at the street level anyhow. For some reason, many architects have something up their rears dictating that streetscapes should be barren. How many buildings are surrounded by deserted, landscaped pseudo-parks/squares that add nothing to the urban fabric? I recently visited China, and was appalled at how their modern construction replaced lively street-walls with desolate plazas. What is this all about? Is it a classic case of completely arbitrary artistic principles standing in the way of, well, everything else?

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Meh, supertalls rarely do much practical good at the street level anyhow. For some reason, many architects have something up their rears dictating that streetscapes should be barren. How many buildings are surrounded by deserted, landscaped pseudo-parks/squares that add nothing to the urban fabric? I recently visited China, and was appalled at how their modern construction replaced lively street-walls with desolate plazas. What is this all about? Is it a classic case of completely arbitrary artistic principles standing in the way of, well, everything else?

It's not always the case - look at New York. But in general I think you are right that supertall buildings don't breed an interesting streetscape. I wouldn't necessarily say it is the fault of architects as much as an issue of scale. More lively streetscapes seem to work better with shorter structures. For trying to encourage a streetscape, nothing is deadlier than those "deserted, landscaped pseudo-parks/squares." The single worst example in Houston is 1100 Louisiana, the drab plaza with the Dubuffet sculpture. Urban planning at its rock-bottom worst.

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moo, supertalls rarely do much practical good at the street level anyhow. For some reason, many architects have something up their rears dictating that streetscapes should be barren. How many buildings are surrounded by deserted, landscaped pseudo-parks/squares that add nothing to the urban fabric? I recently visited China, and was appalled at how their modern construction replaced lively street-walls with desolate plazas. What is this all about? Is it a classic case of completely arbitrary artistic principles standing in the way of, well, everything else?

Funny, I could've said the same thing about architects that have something up their rears about every streetscape needing to be made 'to a human scale'. A supertall can put a signature on a skyline that is more aesthetically-compelling to more people than any one street intersection could ever aspire to be.

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Funny, I could've said the same thing about architects that have something up their rears about every streetscape needing to be made 'to a human scale'. A supertall can put a signature on a skyline that is more aesthetically-compelling to more people than any one street intersection could ever aspire to be.

Good design at the top is no excuse for bad design at street level. Why would anyone defend barren, alienating streetscapes?

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It would seem that your opinion and mine of bad design differ. Oh well. No surprise there.

That's where my qualm kicks in - that such as important issue as whether a street-front is useful or not, gets reduced to such a grossly arbitrary, philosophical term as design. It feels too much like an armchair-general version of urban planning. The Stalinists did a great job of upholding their design philosophy; according to speculative theory, it was beautiful and functional. In the end, it was neither. No offense meant. My assertion is simply that we need to kick the elitist, "schools-of-art" attitude (where obscene pencil sketches can be "inspirational") out of the construction of our urban spaces, and use judgments that actually matter for potential residents and merchants. I sit here, looking out my window at the (Dallas) Bank One Tower plaza, sheathed in granite, graced with trees and fountains... and ultimately, besting the best of Pyongyang in bleakness. The only retail is a newspaper stand at an unshaded bus stop. People wouldn't have anything to do with this entire block, even if they got paid for it - that's what it boils down to.

Edited by desirous
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My assertion is simply that we need to kick the elitist, "schools-of-art" attitude (where obscene pencil sketches can be "inspirational") out of the construction of our urban spaces, and use judgments that actually matter for potential residents and merchants.

I actually agree. This is ironically why I favor tunnels, skywalks, and other enclosed venues over outdoor streetscapes. There are just so many clear advantages that matter to potential residents, employees, and merchants of downtown.

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I actually agree. This is ironically why I favor tunnels, skywalks, and other enclosed venues over outdoor streetscapes. There are just so many clear advantages that matter to potential residents, employees, and merchants of downtown.

Yes, that is quite admirable. My rant was based on the fact that design choices are made independently of such considerations. That is, with or without skywalks and tunnels, we would've gotten the same ol' desolate plazas. Houston has coped well against those shortcomings.

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That's where my qualm kicks in - that such as important issue as whether a street-front is useful or not, gets reduced to such a grossly arbitrary, philosophical term as design. It feels too much like an armchair-general version of urban planning. The Stalinists did a great job of upholding their design philosophy; according to speculative theory, it was beautiful and functional. In the end, it was neither. No offense meant. My assertion is simply that we need to kick the elitist, "schools-of-art" attitude (where obscene pencil sketches can be "inspirational") out of the construction of our urban spaces, and use judgments that actually matter for potential residents and merchants. I sit here, looking out my window at the (Dallas) Bank One Tower plaza, sheathed in granite, graced with trees and fountains... and ultimately, besting the best of Pyongyang in bleakness. The only retail is a newspaper stand at an unshaded bus stop. People wouldn't have anything to do with this entire block, even if they got paid for it - that's what it boils down to.

Gee, I've never heard the word 'design' described as grossly arbitrary. It seems pretty all-encompassing to me.

I'm also puzzled as to what in the "elitist, "schools-of-art" attitude" and "obscene pencil sketches" (whatever they are) is intrinsically offensive; they seem to address the very issues on which you place great importance. Certainly it's a superior method of planning and designing public spaces than the old model of "I am your God, The Architect, looking down from on high."

Sure, it's fun to look at scale models of buildings, but it gives a false perspective. To plan from the perspective of street level (and multiple points of view) requires the architect to consider how a space will actually be utilized, not as a mere design element to offset a single building.

Open plazas in urban settings can be a blessing or a curse. Jane Jacobs did time/usage studies of some of the more prominent ones around New York City, and her findings are still relevant. I recommend reading that chapter of The Death and Life of Great American Cities; she explains their dynamics more clearly than I, and in greater detail than belongs here. Some of these rants could use a good editing. :mellow:

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Gee, I've never heard the word 'design' described as grossly arbitrary. It seems pretty all-encompassing to me.

I'm also puzzled as to what in the "elitist, "schools-of-art" attitude" and "obscene pencil sketches" (whatever they are) is intrinsically offensive; they seem to address the very issues on which you place great importance. Certainly it's a superior method of planning and designing public spaces than the old model of "I am your God, The Architect, looking down from on high."

Sure, it's fun to look at scale models of buildings, but it gives a false perspective. To plan from the perspective of street level (and multiple points of view) requires the architect to consider how a space will actually be utilized, not as a mere design element to offset a single building.

Open plazas in urban settings can be a blessing or a curse. Jane Jacobs did time/usage studies of some of the more prominent ones around New York City, and her findings are still relevant. I recommend reading that chapter of The Death and Life of Great American Cities; she explains their dynamics more clearly than I, and in greater detail than belongs here. Some of these rants could use a good editing. :mellow:

I own the book. New York evolved from a dense urban foundation, a density almost unique among American cities. Here, we already have deserted streetscapes, and (tunnels notwithstanding) architects never seem to get tired of building more.

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