We are pleased to announce the winners of the eleventh annual “Initiatives for Houston” grant program, which supports and funds projects that focus on Houston’s built environment. From enhancing Houston’s cultural identity to improving the city’s infrastructure, this year’s winning proposals encompass a wide range of focus. Proposal titles include “Enhancing Infrastructure: Highways and Energy” submitted by Prairie View A&M visiting professor Ross Weinert; “Urban Aeries” submitted by Rice University architecture graduate student Melissa McDonnell; “Make Houston Colorful?” by Robert Hadley, an architecture graduate student at the University of Houston and Samuel Jacobson, an undergraduate architecture student at Rice University; and “Scavenge” a proposal submitted by Jorge Galvan, an undergraduate student in Industrial Design at the University of Houston.
This year’s jury members included Catherine Callaway, architect at BNIM Architects; Ben Crawford, AIA, LEED AP, senior associate, senior project designer, HOK; Sarah Deyong, assistant professor, Texas A&M College of Architecture; Christine West, executive director, Lawndale Art Center; and Celeste Williams, architect at Kendall/Heaton Associates. The jury, who assessed the proposals based on their potential to contribute to understandings and betterment of Houston, were very impressed with this year’s projects. “It was a great experience and I am so inspired by the proposals and the energy and thoughtfulness the students and faculty have given to improving Houston,” says jury member Christine West.
The project “Enhancing Infrastructure: Highways and Energy” by Ross Weinert seeks to incorporate photovoltaic vaults into the spaces above Houston’s highway system, making the spaces viable sources of clean energy for the city. Having been awarded $2,500, Weinert hopes that his project will have implications beyond technological energy production, and also benefit the environmental, cultural, and experiential landscapes of Houston.
Melissa McDonnell’s project, “Urban Aeries,” endeavors to increase awareness and build homes for overlooked city inhabitants: birds. Claiming that Houston is home to dozens of species of birds that are rarely seen among the downtown area, Melissa seeks to bridge the gap between the dense population of people and birds by means of various urban interventions. With the aid of the $2,500 grant, one such suggestion is using the rooftops of city garages to incorporate urban roosting and observational structures. An image from her project is featured with a link to this article on RDA’s homepage.
“Make Houston Colorful?” received $2,500 to beautify the Houston cityscape by painting the underpass at U.S. Highway 59 and Greenbriar Street a dazzling array of colors. In doing so, Robert Hadley and Samuel Jacobson hope to transform Houston’s notorious reputation for being an ugly city into a colorful city. The students also hope that their project might serve as a platform for similar models throughout the city.
Jorge Galvan’s project entitled “Scavenge” was rewarded $2,500 to document Houston neighborhoods’ trash output, and create neighborhood identities based on the kinds of trash a particular neighborhood produces. Like archaeologists, Galvan wants to trace local neighborhood histories via their discarded materials, documenting the process, and ultimately creating neighborhood emblems created from the trash to serve as a material identity. Galvan will choose up to seven distinct neighborhoods based on socioeconomic and demographic makeup of each area chosen, and hold an exhibit of his found materials to conclude the project.