For the fourth time in five years, Asakura Robinson participated in the 2018 Rice Design Alliance rdAGENTS Charette competition. This year’s team consisted of Taylor McNeill, Leslie Wren, George Johnston, and Saima Musharrat from Asakura Robinson, and David Rader, an M.Arch student at Rice University. The team was thrilled to take a crack at the competition, titled “Nexus – Activate Commerce”, to reimagine the site of the Meat Packing Building along Commerce Street in downtown Houston. Located within both the floodway and floodplain, the site challenges the current development practices in these highly sensitive locations post- Hurricane Harvey.
Through the lens of proactive approach to resilience, the team proposed buoyant architecture which responds to the fluctuating water level of the bayou. This buoyant architecture is envisioned as an open, scaffolding like structure which rises and falls together on a series of structural pylons. The “open source” architecture has the ability to support a variety of different programs, and allow for these programs to change over time without changing the building form.
In this particular site, the configuration was an urban place that functions as an extended ‘front porch’ for the proposed transit center across the site, a threshold for the proposed Bayou Greenways system, and a multi-level public space for Houstonians with flexible programming options. Rising up and down with the water level, the bayou level floors house temporary, floodable programs and moor tethered floating wetlands. The plaza level floor caters for public events, and the upper floors could host space with modular furniture, art galleries, concert venues, playgrounds, or even urban forest. Each of the floor levels could also be converted into leasable space for retail, residential, or commercial use, based off the market needs. To reduce the amount of polluted runoff entering the bayou and reduce peak flow leaving the site, a series of rain gardens starting at street level and moving down the bayou bank capture and clean stormwater runoff, and serve as a Novel Ecosystem garden. These gardens are coupled with roof-top planting to iprove water capture and transpiration.
The team created a range of alternative development typologies that can be scaled and replicated to a variety of sites- both upstream and downstream, for different levels of water- including 100-year, 500-year, and 10,000 year floodplains, and for various site-specific programs. The team proposed a multitude of potential sites along the bayou system connected by shared design strategies to engage with an ecological corridor and become a new, inspired citywide architectural typology.