Meanwhile in Fort Stockton...

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As you may remember back at the end of 2015 we worked on a schematic design for the Fort Stockton Community Theatre. The group used the conceptual design we produced to start fundraising and two years later they were at a point where they were ready to release us to start producing the final documentation of the design.

And so at the beginning of this year we got back to work for the good people of Fort Stockton. The design has evolved but the concept is still the same as it was in 2015. Their existing building will be renovated into a flexible event space that can be used to host the pre-performance dinners they have become famous for hosting:

The theatre space itself with have seating for 125 people and provide updated lighting and sound systems for more sophisticated performances. It will also provide for a more comfortable experience for those attending the performances:

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And when there is a performance the marquee will bathe the sidewalk in light announcing to those passing by that there is something special happening in Fort Stockton:

It is an exciting time to be in Fort Stockton and we're of course excited to be a part of that.

$711

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As a small business owner I watched closely as the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 was pushed through Congress at the end of last year. Naturally I was curious about how the bill would impact HiWorks but it was hard to tell - in the final stretch the bill changed from day to day and even after it passed I wasn't sure. HiWorks does not have the luxury of employing a team of accountants to crunch numbers in real time but when it came time to do my taxes for 2017 (the new tax code applies to income earned in 2018) I asked my accountant to see what the difference would be if the new tax code was applied.

All totaled HiWorks will pay $711 less in taxes.

To be fair my tax burden was reduced by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 as promised. But $711 does feel more than a bit underwhelming - especially when I was told “There’s never been tax cuts like we’re talking about.” Given that this tax cut is projected to add one trillion dollars to the deficit next year alone it would seem some businesses are getting more than $711. It would seem the promised tax savings were not as equitably distributed to small businesses as promised

The fact is I can't hire a new employee with $711. I can't increase productivity by buying a new computer. I suppose could put that extra $711 into my daughters' college savings account but at the end of the day it really doesn't amount to much.

Some might say what I need to do is invest in a better accountant but what I'm starting to believe is that what I really need to do is invest in a better Congress.

Architects of Music

 image courtesy weirdal.com

image courtesy weirdal.com

Last week "Weird Al" Yankovic dropped a new single: a polk medley featuring several selections from the musical, Hamilton. It turns out that the creator of HamiltonLin-Manuel Miranda, is a fan of Mr. Yankovic and in an interview from a few years ago he told the story of the first time he met the singer/songwriter/satirist. He also revealed a fact about Mr. Yankovic I did not known before:

Alfred Matthew Yankovic graduated from California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo with a bachelor's degree in architecture. 

It turns out  Mr. Yankovick is not the only artist to have first studied architecture before pursuing a career in popular music. In fact the list is remarkably long:

Art Garfunkel studied architecture at Columbia University where he ultimately graduated with a degree in art history. By then he had already met his musical collaborator, Paul Simon, years earlier in elementary school.

Henry John Deutschendorf Jr. (a.k.a. John Denver) studied Architecture at Texas Tech University in Lubbock. He joined a folk-music band while there and ultimately pursued that career path.

Jerry Harrison of The Talking Heads dropped out of Harvard's Graduate School of Design to join his fellow band mates who had met while studying at the Rhode Island School of Design.

Three of the founding members of Pink Floyd (Roger Waters, Nick Mason and Richard Wright) all met while studying architecture at Regent Street Polytechnic (now the University of Westminster).

Henry Olusegun Adeola Samuel (a.k.a. Seal) also studied architecture in London and earned a two year diploma in architecture before becoming a singer/songwriter and marrying Heidi Klum.

The rapper O'Shea Jackson Sr. (a.k.a. Ice Cube) was interested in architecture as well as rap and earned a diploma in draughtsmanship from the Phoenix Institute of Technology the same year Straight Outta Compton was released.

It was Johann Wolfgang von Goethe who famously said "architecture is frozen music" and the two mediums are more similar than they might at first appear. Both architecture and music play with rhythm and structure. Both architecture and music communicate emotion and meaning. Both architecture and music can transcend their rigid rules and history to create art of endearing beauty.

Perhaps the creative problem solving taught in an architectural education provides a useful approach to those who go on to create music. Perhaps this is all just a coincidence. Perhaps I'm just too white and nerdy.

The Architecture of Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood

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Last week was the 50th anniversary the first national broadcast of Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood. I grew up watching the show and hearing the soft, comforting intonations of Mr. Rogers' voice in a recently rebroadcast interview transported me back to my early childhood. I may have been just as much of a Sesame Street kid, but Mr. Rogers always had a special place in my heart.

This may be because his neighborhood was so familiar.

Whereas Sesame Street took place in an urban setting Mr. Roger's Neighborhood was unambiguously suburban. You can see this in the program's iconic opening sequence where the camera explores a scale model of the titular neighborhood. It wasn't exactly like the suburb where I grew up but it looked a lot like the postwar neighborhood where my grandparents lived.  Even though my grandfather and Mr. Rogers were quite different there was a comforting calmness they both shared.

It may be an overstatement to claim the scale model at the beginning of Mr. Roger's Neighborhood was the inspiration for me to build models and design neighborhoods as an architect but it's most assuredly not an overstatement to claim that the testimony Mr. Rogers gave in front of Congress in 1969 remains an inspiration for speaking truth to power. The seven minute clip is worth watching: seeing a gruff Senator straight from Central Casting melt under the overpowering kindness of Mr. Rogers is incredibly cinematic and I'm sure a version of it will appear in the upcoming biopic starring Tom Hanks.

In the meantime, though, PBS will be airing its own documentary about Mr. Rogers and his neighborhood. The program airs on March 6 at 7PM on KLRN here in San Antonio.

 

 

 

This Poster Is Not For Sale

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My Facebook feed contains a pretty diverse collection of posts. From friends who seem to constantly be on vacation to Russian trolls there are lots of things vying for my attention. One ad that caught my eye the other day was for a company that sells posters featuring the control towers of various airports from around the world. Of course I checked to see if they had one for Stinson Municipal Airport. They did not but since we have something to do with that particular project I thought I'd suggest an additional print be offered for sale. Please see above.

I realize there have been a number of Stinson blog posts in the last few weeks and I promise to return to my usual collection of random posts here in the coming weeks.

Stinson Hat

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A few weeks ago I wrote about the progress of the new Stinson Municipal Airport Control Tower. As the main portion of the tower was going up the "cab" - the uppermost part with all the windows where the air traffic controllers actually do all their work - was simultaneously being built on the ground. Last week a large crane lifted it to its final resting place on top of the tower.

This is not how buildings are normally built. Then again an air traffic control tower is not a normal type of building. When you think about it, this approach makes sense. Since the cab contains the majority of the detail work associated with the project you want to build it in the most efficient way possible. Forcing every sub-contractors to climb ten flights of stairs to do all their work a hundred feet in the air isn't very efficient. Hoisting a massive pre-built component may seem like an extreme approach but it turns out to be the best one. AJT, the engineering firm responsible for the main portion of the tower, has perfected this approach having built several multiple versions of the same tower over the years.

Design is about the finished product to be sure, but it is also about how you get there. Strategizing how the "wings" - our contribution to the design - are prebuilt and attached to the tower represented a significant portion of our design as well.

In Praise of Good Humor

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SpaceX launched its first Falcon Heavy launch vehicle this week. I was able to watch it live on my computer at my office and it was a truly spectacular event. As a test flight with a relatively low chance of success the rocket carried no "real" payload. Normally these sorts of tests carry ballast or some other sort of dead weight, but the founder of SpaceX, Elon Musk, thought that would be boring. 

And indeed it would have been. And so instead they sent aloft a cherry red Tesla Roadster. Tesla, of course, is also helmed by Musk and while all this could be dismissed as a publicity stunt, I appreciated the gesture.

I am in no way comparing myself to Musk - obviously he and I function in very different planes of influence and importance - but I certainly recognize his desire to humanize (or at least humorize) the tasks he undertakes. It's the same reason Michael Jackson and David Hasselhoff inhabit the renderings I produce. It's the same reason this website is littered with hidden Easter egg links.

It's good to take seriously the important thing you do in life. But it's also OK to wink at the people you encounter along the way.

 

A Note About Our Residential Work

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At HiWorks we do a lot of different types of projects. Yes we do theaters and control towers but we also do private homes. Out of respect for the privacy of our Clients many of these projects aren't publicized on our website. Even so we are incredibly proud of this work and always feel honored to be a part of the journey that leads to a new home.

One of these homes was recently photographed and the Client graciously gave us permission to make the images public. The house was designed to offer expansive views of the outside world while at the same time providing a private refuge from it. By using a combination of natural wood and stone we created an addition to the hilltop that feels like a natural extension of it.

In the coming weeks we'll be adding this and other projects to the "What We Do" section of our website. So by all means, do stay tuned.

HiWorks in the News in West Texas

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So I was in Fort Stockton last week for a series of meetings with the Community Theatre and my Theatre Consultant. It was a good meeting and as a part of it I was also interviewed by KWES Channel 9. I spoke at length about the project and a few seconds of that detailed, nuanced description made it onto the air. So for better or worse my fame now extends to the West Texas / Southeast New Mexico regional broadcast area.

At any rate, in case you missed it, you can watch the story here.

 

Enjoy.

Stinson Rising

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Construction of the new Stinson Municipal Airport Control Tower is currently underway. So far the effort has focused on the concrete tower (the part not designed HiWorks in conjunction with Work5hop) but in a few months our portion of the design will be attached to that central core. These prefabricated "wings" are currently being assembled in Phoenix and the full-scale mockup looks great.

So stay tuned - things are about to get interesting.

The Graflex Lightsaber

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One of the gifts my daughters received for Christmas were light-up toy lightsabers. Sammy received "Rey's" lightsaber and if you've seen the most recent installments of the franchise you know this is also "Luke's" lightsaber from the original trilogy and "Anakin's" lightsaber from the prequels. The story of how that came to be is rather convoluted but I think the more interesting story is how this particular lightsaber prop came to be designed.

Here's a hint: it has something to do with a accessory for an obsolete medium-format camera.

In 1976 the production design team was hard at work creating the cinematic universe for Star Wars. It's important to remember that the original movie had a relatively low budget and many of the props were and sets were cobbled together from things that already existed in the real world. The story goes that a set decorator went into a photography store to buy a couple of lenses to make a pair of futuristic binoculars. While he was there he asked if the store had any "interesting" gear that no one was buying anymore. He was pointed in the direction of a box included the flashgun for a Graflex Speed Graphic camera. This particular camera was popular with photojournalists in the 1940s and 1950s but by the 1970s it was out of production and rarely used. The flashgun consisted of a cylindrical metal tube containing batteries that connected to a bowl-shaped flash mechanism.

He took one look at the metal tube and he saw Luke's lightsaber.

Some additional detail was added including plastic strips for the grip and parts from a Texas Instruments calculator (there's always a Texas connection), but the basic form of Luke's iconic lightsaber was sitting there all along in a box of unused camera parts. The movie's other lightsabers were made in similar ways: Obi-Wan Kenobi's lightsaber notably made use of both a residential sink knob as well as a part form an aircraft machine gun.

 Luke Skywalker's lightsaber can be seen at the far right while Obi-Wan Kenobi's lightsaber is second from the left

Luke Skywalker's lightsaber can be seen at the far right while Obi-Wan Kenobi's lightsaber is second from the left

For me the moral to this story is that good design can come from anywhere. You just have to remember to keep your eyes (and your mind) open so that you can see it.

"The Works" gets aggregated

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Back in July of 2016 I released an episode of "The Works" about the development of the Whataburger A-Frame. It was a fascinating story I was trying to tell and I also ended up doing a written version of the story for the Rivard Report

This week I learned the Houston Chronicle picked up the story and published a piece of their own based on my podcast and article. I have to admit I was flattered to have found my way into the nation's third-largest newspaper. I was also flattered to be referred to as a "scholar".

Of course I would have been happy to have been interviewed by the writer of the piece in the Chronicle but he never reached out to me. That's why I didn't know anything about it until a year-and-a-half after it was published.

Anyway, you can listen to the original podcast episode here or read the Houston Chronicle story here

Return of the Guardrail

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In an earlier post I wrote of how the Star Wars universe would have been considerably safer had they decided long, long ago to  install more guardrails. After seven films where Jedi, Sith and smugglers are all constantly falling to their doom I was thrilled to see in the newest episode that basic safety measures are beginning to be implemented in that galaxy far, far away. Guardrails can clearly be seen in Supreme Leader Snoke's throne room (see above). In terms of occupant welfare this is a definite improvement and as illustrated in the film it results in a much safer environment for all those who occupy it.

And with that I wish all of you a happy 2017. I'll see you in 2018.

Happy Holidays from "The Works" (and HiWorks)

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Two new episodes of "The Works" in two weeks? What's going on? It must be Christmas...

On this special holiday edition of the podcast we tell the story of an empty lot that once a year turns into something very special. As always, please talk a moment to listen to the story and if you like what you hear, feel listen to the other episodes or subscribe to the podcast on iTunes where you can also rate the show and leave a comment.

Oh, and Happy Holidays.

A Valentine from Valentine

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As I mentioned in the last post I recently attended a radio storytelling workshop in Marfa. It was a great week in which I had the opportunity to meet and work with some great people. Over the course of the workshop each of us students produced a profile of a person doing something interesting in the area. As my subject I chose the postmaster of Valentine, Texas.

The story aired last night on Marfa Public Radio but since it's tangentially related to architecture (the postmaster works in a post office building) I've integrated into the feed for The Works podcast. You can listen to it by clicking the play button below or learn more about the episode on its show page.

As always, feel free to listen to other episodes or subscribe to the podcast on iTunes where you can also rate the show and leave a comment.

Happy Valentines Day.

Marfaland

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A week ago I traveled with my family for a vacation in Disneyland in Anaheim, California. This week I am in Marfa, Texas for a workshop on audio storytelling sponsored by Transom and hosted by Marfa Public Radio. The goal, as you might guess, is to make The Works better.

At any rate, walking down Highland Street in Marfa has reminded me of walking down Main Street in Disneyland. Although the scale of the latter is somewhat smaller - Disneyland famously played with the dimensions of the street and the buildings to make them "feel" better more inviting - the distance from Sleeping Beauty's Castle to the Disneyland Train Station is about the same as the distance from the Presidio County Courthouse to the tracks of the Union Pacific railroad tracks.

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Walt Disney did not use Marfa as a model for Disneyland. It is instead an idealized version of a turn-of-the-century downtown inspired both by Disney's memories of his hometown of Marceline, Missouri and the memories Harper Goff had of Fort Collins, Colorado. The reality is the basic urban model of a main commercial street with set on axis with a "weenie" (be it weenie a courthouse or a castle) can be found in small towns and larger cities throughout the country.

It turns out that in addition to being a cool feature for a theme park it's also a great way to design for the real world as well.

 

Missing From Travis Park

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My grandfather's generation fought Nazis in Europe. I bet he never thought his grandson's generation would need to fight neo-Nazis and the hatred they represent in public parks here in the United States.

On this episode of the podcast we talk about Travis Park and the monument that was built there. As always, please talk a moment to listen to the story and if you like what you hear, feel listen to the other episodes or subscribe to the podcast on iTunes where you can also rate the show and leave a comment.

The Architecture of the Justice League

 image courtesy Hanna-Barbera Productions

image courtesy Hanna-Barbera Productions

Justice League opens this weekend and to be perfectly honest, I don't care. The reviews haven't been great and when it comes to movies that pander to my childhood nostalgia I'm much more of a Star Wars man.

But the marketing barrage that has accompanied the release of the film did remind me of a Saturday morning cartoon I would occasionally watch as a kid.

I don't remember much about the plot of individual episodes of Super Friends beyond the fact it featured the adventures of a group of superheroes. That said I do remember something about the architecture of the show. It seams this team of costumed vigilantes hung out in a headquarters called the "Hall of Justice". This was no subterranean Batcave but a monumental piece of civic architecture that would have been a prominent landmark regardless of if it was located in Gotham, Metropolis or Cincinnati.

I mention the third-largest city in Ohio because it is the real life home of Union Terminal, a train station that clearly acted as an architectural precedent for the hall portrayed in the cartoon.

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Not being a superfan of DC superheroes I don't know much about the Hall of Justice or how it came to be built. But as an architectural supernerd I do know a few things about Cincinnati's Union Terminal.

It was designed by a team of superarchitects that included Paul Cret, a French architect who immigrated to the United States and became a successful and influential designer of public buildings. He helped design much of the campus of the University of Texas, including its iconic main tower building.

Around the same time he was working on the UT campus he was also working on an art deco train station for Cincinnati. It was completed in 1933 but because of the great Depression, World War II and the subsequent decline of rail transportation, it never served the capacity it was designed to accommodate. It was eventually abandoned but in the 1980s it was repurposed as a multi-use cultural facility that contains museums, theaters, and a library.

Cincinnati, it turns out, was the home of the broadcasting company that owned Hanna-Barbera Productions, the animation studio responsible for the creation of Super Friends. I'm certainly not the first one to point out the relationship between the fictional Hall of Justice and the real Union Terminal and the latter has actually been used as a set for several live-action portrayals of DC Comics superheroes.

I am unable to go into more detail about how the real life Union Terminal is incorporated into theses shows (or even if the building makes an appearance in the new movie) because as I've mentioned before, I really don't care.

HiWorks at Five

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Data from the Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics suggests that about half of new businesses don't survive past their fifth year. HiWorks is now officially five years old so, well, I guess that means we're awesome.

Of course one interesting (and telling) thing about this particular anniversary is that I totally forgot about it. Legal documents say HiWorks was established on November 1st of 2012. November 1st, for the record falls right smack in between Halloween and one of my daughter's birthdays. This year it was particularly busy in that we were preparing for a birthday party and had a dance performance to attend. All that is to say the anniversary came and went and I didn't even realize it until a week later.

I suppose it's a good thing that the survival of my business enterprise is no longer a noteworthy event. HiWorks today is a lot different than I would have expected five years ago. It'll be interesting to see where we are five years from now.

Selwyn School

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Earlier this year I mentioned we had started work on a master plan for Selwyn School up in Argyle, Texas. It was a busy summer but the team of architects, administrators, faculty members and students all worked together to create a campus design that fits the uniqueness of the school's approach to education as well as the uniqueness of the school's wooded site. We are all excited to start work on designing the actual buildings that will make up the campus.

On a purely personal note it was incredibly fun to finally have the opportunity to work professionally with Michael Malone and Audrey Maxwell of Malone Maxwell Borson Architects. Although we have been friends and colleagues for years and had always talked about trying to work together, Selwyn School represented our first opportunity to actually do so. Hopefully it will not be our last.

In the meantime, additional images describing our work on Selwyn School are now available on the website. Go Unicorns.