Revealing Houston’s Midtown Disposition

Like other sprawling cities, Houston is witnessing a reinvestment in its central areas. Companies and businesses looking for a key location, as well as young professionals and empty nesters searching for urbanity, are pushing factors of this inner-city resettlement. As commercial and service amenities follow their potential customers, mixed-use activities start flocking together, particularly in pockets of Houston\’s downtown and strategic implants around it. Houston\’s \”Midtown\” plays an essential role in the process of urban regeneration. With two important \”anchors\” (Downtown and the Museum District) at each end of \”Midtown,\” and the new light-railline along its central spine (Main Street), this highly underused and derelict area of early Twentieth Century origin, is predestined to become Houston\’s privileged urban setting of the future. As for now, however, developers build only suburban models in this central location. An urban design competition in 1999 reproduced merely traditional models for Main Street development.For that reason, the fundamental aim of this studio is to rethink the image of qualitative redevelopment that suits the constraints and purposes of an area like \”Midtown.\” It starts with Houston\’s abolishment of \”zoning\” and with the systematic negotiation of each project that ensues from it. It wants to avoid ending up in short-sighted pragmatism, but clearly desires not to fall back on the common representation of a \”utopian\” vision without practical consequence. To do so, the studio will closely investigate the logic, horror, and poetry behind the physical evolution at hand. It will work in synergy with vital local protagonists, and explore the potentials and limitations of the urban grid\’s dimension and form. It will use design as a tool of both analysis and prospect, and establish a go-between, linking the scale of the area with the scale of the block and the particular intervention. Its vital ambition is to arrive at a feasible innovative design strategy for Houston that incorporates the generic and distinguishes the specific character of similar redevelopments in other American cities.The studio will require the student to participate in a sponsored five-day field trip to Houston in the first week of October.