New Issue of Cite Examines Connections Between Finance and Design

The Rice Design Alliance has published the 98th issue of the award-winning Cite: The Architecture and Design Review of Houston. Dubbed “The Finance Issue,” Cite 98 examines the economics of architecture and the way that risk-versus-reward decisions made by developers, banks, and other institutions shape the built environment.

“Though many of Houston’s problems stem from its business-first and developer-friendly policies, if we understand finance and push that thinking in creative ways, we can meet some of those challenges,” says José Solís, guest editor of this special issue.

“The Finance Issue” opens with a note about Downtown Houston’s Pennzoil Place, the twin towers designed by Philip Johnson and developed by Gerald Hines. In 1976, The New York Times architecture critic Ada Louise Huxtable heralded how that development “marries the art of architecture and the business of investment construction.” Hines, who celebrated his 90th birthday last year, says he used great design to manage the risk of his investment. The issue asks: Can we apply this approach to other areas? “The articles cover innovative ways to fund everything from building more affordable housing options to planting more trees,” says Cite Editor Raj Mankad.

Contents include:

  • Mankad examines the design and finance of three successful mixed-use developments in three Houston neighborhoods
  • Victoria Ludwin explores how developers work with nonprofit Trees for Houston to “finance the canopy”
  • Kyle Shelton of Rice University’s Kinder Institute for Urban Research illustrates transportation funding in the Houston region
  • Solís, Mankad, and Houston developer Monte Large share a tongue-in-cheek glossary of terms to help you understand the language of real estate

Additionally, one of the most daunting questions that the issue considers is how to improve conditions for Houston’s construction workers. The Wall Street Journal recently reported that during the first half of this decade, Houston issued more building permits than any other city in the nation. At this time of unprecedented demand for skilled workers, unions have declined, and schools have cut vocational programs. The industry is increasingly reliant on workers who don’t have access to insurance or training. The consequences for safety and construction quality are dire. A major feature article takes a deep dive into the Construction Career Collaborative (C3), an innovative accreditation program developed in Houston that attempts to address this crisis.

A final reflection by Solís calls for designers to learn from 2016 Pritzker Prize winner Alejandro Aravena, whose “Half a Good House” concept recalls the two towers of Pennzoil Place.

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