Face of the City: Stop Ashby High Rise

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The neighborhoods near Rice University have been wearing war paint for the past four years.

The ongoing battle is the real estate controversy surrounding the Ashby High Rise. The developer Buckhead Investments is proposing a 23 story mixed-use building. The proposed project will be Silver LEED certified and will include a restaurant on the first floor. Elevations can be viewed here (minus the teeth). The nearby neighborhoods are fighting the prospect of traffic congestion, loss of privacy and danger to elementary school children crossing the road. The developers are accusing the residents of trying to enforce zoning laws in a city that has no zoning laws.

There are many chapters in this story. The latest one is that the developer got a green light from the city. Another recent story is the copyright suit. Buckhead Investment Partners and EDI Architecture are being sued by Dallas-based Humphreys & Partners Architects because the proposed tower is very similar to a project called Grant Park in Minneapolis.

No matter who is right, one thing is certain. The graphic manifestation of this battle is interesting to look at. The yellow signs with the menacing building have been called the greatest feat of graphic design in Houston by one CultureMap writer. The creator of this mascot is the late Marshall Williams, a local architect and inventor. He passed away in February of 2010.

We have yet to find out how this epic battle will play out. In the meantime, the toothy Ashby building is making himself at home.

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A Blog Post About Blogging

You probably already know all or most of the following names:

Design Envy, Smashing Magazine, Core77, I Love Typography, Hicksdesign, Mark Boulton, UnderConsideration, Khoi Vinh, Swiss Miss, Typographica, Dexigner, Veerle, LogoDesignLove, Grain Edit, ISO50, The Dieline, Andy Budd, Bobulate, David Airey, Jason Santa Maria, Frank Chimero, Design*Sponge.

One thing that the individuals and teams of people on this list have in common is that blogging holds a central part in their success in the design field.

This is what some of our bloggers at the AIGA Houston Blog have to say about blogging:

John Luu:

The three years Ive spent as a contributor for the AIGA Houston blog have really expanded my expertise and point of view of the local Houston design community, issues facing design professionals today and design and communications in general. In addition, blogging has refined my writing and research skills immeasurably as well as connected me with some of the top design talent in the nation.

From a career standpoint, blogging provides me with clarity on a wide range of design and communication topics that has enabled me to be an effective consultant in the realm of branding, social media, and corporate communications. Usually when my peers are reacting to being blindsided by new technology or trends, Ive already been pondering about the topic for a while and can offer articulate and considered strategic advice. In that regard, Ive found blogging to be a cornerstone of my personal brand strategy and would highly recommend it to people who need a creative outlet for their passions or want to share a unique point of view to a very receptive and supportive audience.

Daren Guillory:

For me, the AIGA blog is a really good way to contribute to the design community. It is another creative outlet, in a sense, because I get to write about things Im passionate about and at the same time, share knowledge that someone could possibly benefit from. That is why I do it if writing benefits the local design community at large, then Im for it.

Nurit Avni:

When I graduated from school I had a strong portfolio and strong skills, but the economy was horrible and I also moved to a new city. It took me two years to find a real full time job in the profession. During that time, that I was working on and off in design while also working at Michaels, the blog was a great way for me to stay involved in the design field. I continued to think about design and be a part of the design community. I also know that blogging helped me find a job eventually.

No matter how well your career is going, its always easy to become complacent and use the same pathways over and over again. Blogging can be a tool for personal and professional development and a catalyst for developing ideas that you wouldnt have thought of otherwise.

If any of this inspires you to blog or if you already are blogging and you would like to reach the supportive, positive audience that is AIGA Houston, you are welcome to contact the Editor in Chief of this blog at nurit@houston.aiga.org and get started.

Face of the City: Christmas Deco

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It doesnt snow very often in Houston, and if it does it really doesnt stick. Only huge Art Deco snowflakes will last (and they come back every year).

I love the simplicity of these decorations. They harmonize well with the Art Deco architecture that surrounds them. There are many buildings in the Art Deco, Neo Deco and Art Moderne styles in Houston and they give it a part of its particular character. Examples include the River Oaks Theater, the JPMorgan Chase Building (formerly Gulf Building) and the Williams Tower (formerly Transco Tower).

Prior to 1927, most architect-designed buildings in Houston were either local versions of classical revival architecture or Victorian designs adapted for the city’s hot, humid climate. Modernistic architecture’s growing popularity coincided with a conscious effort by Houstons business and civic leaders to tie the citys image to the American West and de-emphasize its Southern heritage. For many Houstonians, modernistic buildings represented the citys future.

Source: houstondeco.org

The decorations were created by Always in Season.

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Face of the City: Uptown

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Metro signs in Paris, piazzas in Rome, outdoor urinals in Amsterdam.

What they all have in common is that they are all visual cues that let you know that you arrived somewhere unique. What they also have in common is that they belong in old cities that developed their personalities over centuries or millennia.

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The Marshmallow and the Cubicle

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Herman Miller is an innovative furniture manufacturer with diverse creations that include Mid Century Modern classics such as the Marshmallow Sofa as well as the invention of the cubicle. After WWII, they began to collaborate with some of the design greats of the Twentieth century. These include the Eameses, George Nelson, Alexander Girard, Isamu Noguchi and Buckminster Fuller. While these designers are known for designing furniture, interiors and architecture, they were also involved in graphic design. In fact, George Nelson received an AIGA medal in 1992, post mortem.

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Upside Down Arctic Realities


Muse Says Menil's Arctic Exhibit Spans Centuries by Bloomberg

When winds rise up and powdery snow fills the air, there is neither up nor down and the traveler is left blind white.

Edmund Carpenter, Upside Down Arctic Realities Exhibit Catalog

Last Sunday was a typical hot and humid summer day in Houston, but if you were at the Menil Collection you could still experience the Arctic. Upside Down Realities was a truly exceptional exhibit that evoked philosophical thought about existence, consciousness and human experience. It was on display at the Menil from April 15, 2011 until July 17, 2011.

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Face of the City: CAP Murals

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Citizens for Animal Protection (CAP), founded in 1972, is a local animal shelter that is respected nationally for its high standards. Until recently it was located in a very limited leased space in a strip mall but in January 2011 they moved to a new permanent home designed by PBK Architects.

When I visited the shelter I was impressed by the detailed, imaginative murals that cover many of the walls. I just had to find out more about them. The following interview is with Kristin and Maks, who are designers at PBK, and Diane Mattly, who is a board member for CAP and a very large donor.

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Face of the City: Cultural Crosswalks

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As an avid pedestrian, I have to say that Houston leaves much to be desired. Sidewalks that start and end randomly with no consideration for people who are trying to get anywhere by foot are a common problem. That is why these crosswalks next to the MFAH are a walkers oasis.

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Work in Progress

granny squares in progress

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Face of the City: Montrose

At only four square miles, Montrose is a culturally vibrant, diverse and eccentric neighborhood that includes Houston’s most important museums. This 100 year old neighborhood is pedestrian-friendly, which is a rarity in Houston. The population includes many artists, musicians and an LGBT community.

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