This year’s AIA Houston Celebrate Architecture Gala, dubbed “Frame ReFrame,” highlighted the value of adaptive reuse. It was held at Post HTX, a 1936 building that was originally Houston’s Grand Central Station. The federal government bought it in the 1950s and turned it into the Barbara Jordan Post Office. In 2015, it was transformed into the popular entertainment venue that it is today. Rich with history and peculiar Cold War-era design features, Post HTX provided a wealth of opportunity to showcase the transformative potential of adaptive reuse design.
William Truitt, AIA, commissioned Shawn M. Lutz, Assoc. AIA, and his practice SMLA to design a temporary installation for the party. The installation was set within the confines of an existing chain-link fence enclosure that sits in a large, warehouse-like space. Playing on the transparent qualities of the chain-link box, Lutz employed synthetic yarn constructs woven around recovered bicycle rims and the fencing to create four framed view perspectives. The perspectives are rectangular on one side of the enclosure, and circular on the opposing face, establishing shapes that evoke the roof of Le Corbusier’s Ronchamp chapel and his Expo 58 Philips Pavilion. Coupled with a restrained light installation, the design casts layers of intriguing shadows, which in Lutz’s own words work to “defamiliarize spatial realties upon both oblique and profile views.”
Titled “Framed Conoids,” the installation was a smashing success, drawing groups of curious revelers throughout the evening of the gala. The owners of Post HTX also noticed the artistic value of the piece — they have since decided to keep it as a permanent feature of their space.
A.J. Sustaita, AIA, is a project manager at Corgan in Houston.