[flood] ZONE

Since the founding of Houston flooding has been an invariable hazard.  Over time it has become even more frequent as we pave over acre after acre.  614 square miles of Harris County, an area nearly equivalent to the size of Houston, are either in a floodway, 100 year, or 500 year flood plain, this is 35% of all land area.  In Houston nearly 500,000 people live in a flood zone. A major flood occurs in our city on average every two years.  It is not uncommon for over 100 homes to be flooded in any single event. During Tropical Storm Allison in 2001 73,000 homes were flooded. More flood insurance claims have been paid here than anywhere else. | Flooding isn’t constrained to good or bad neighborhoods.  The flood waters don’t discriminate. The question is, are you in a ZONE?

Community Design Resource Center | UH CoA | Sept 20 – Oct 14

Project team: Susan Rogers, Maria Oran, Jay Taylor.

With volunteer assistance from: Rachel Wilkins, Mike Cutulle, John Rezsonya, Josh Sawyer, Zhu Chen , Kim McGrath, Zach Copeland — Many Thanks|

[photographs by Jay Taylor, M.Arch Alumn — Susan Rogers, CDRC Director]


Airline: Can We Thicken That Infrastructure Please?

Public works projects are primarily single-purpose, we are interested in what it means to expand these projects and the Airline Corridor was the perfect place to test the hypothesis. We call this idea THICK INFRASTRUCTURE, or the expansion and thickening of public works projects to include elements that enhance public spaces, or build the civic infrastructure of a site.


The Airline Corridor  measures 3600 feet from the North Loop to Cavalcade.  Along this length there are 30 parking lots, 10 markets, 7 produce companies, 7 loading docks, 7 restaurants and bars, 2 gas stations, 1 washateria, 1 used appliance store, 1 unsavory motel, and 1 very popular Mexican bakery.  There are no parks, no ATMs, no public restrooms, and no general public parking.  The closest sizable public park is more than a mile from the center of the corridor.  Sidewalks are narrow, uncomfortably adjacent to the fast-moving traffic on Airline, and are discontinuous, interrupted frequently with driveways, loading docks, and parking.


Parks in the Airline corridor

Fundamentally, the Corridor is defined more by the lack of public amenities than their presence, and is currently being re-designed as a wider, faster street.  The primary premise of the expanded right-of-way is to move more traffic.  Yet, the street is primarily a social gathering place and there is something very twentieth century about the idea of streets as simple traffic conduits, we thought we had evolved.

So what did we propose? 
Building the civic infrastructure of the Airline Corridor by carving out public places from parking areas, under-utilized, and leftover spaces that became unusable remnant pieces after the widening, and using these spaces for both permanent programs and temporary events, creating places to eat and linger while reinforcing the informal qualities of the site that make it unique.


Vision plan for the Airline  corridor

The idea focused on the potential synergy of merging public works expenditures, in this case street widening, with public amenities, and forming new strategies for decision-making that combine investment in infrastructure with investment in the public realm.