Design Studio at UofH
Adjunct Prof. Paul Kweton
The emergence of observation towers happened due to the need for observing / guarding vast stretches of land. Timely forest fire and enemy troops detection lead to the rise in construction of observation towers. Over time their use and function expanded/changed, now observation towers also operate as monuments, landmarks and radio antennas. The bridge is a horizontal structure, built to span obstacles such as waterways or valleys for the purpose of providing passage. Both building structures allow the anthropogenic urge to explore, observe and pry to be (temporarily) satisfied by experiencing 360 degree views (high or low) above of its surroundings. What happens when both (the tower and the bridge) structures morph together and an additional program is introduced to the mix? The studios objective is to design a holistic structure comprised of the vertical observation tower, horizontal pedestrian bridge over Buffalo Bayou and an additional program being a Bed&Breakfast. Given the topographic, natural provocations (prone to severe flooding) of this specific site and programmatic requirements, students are challenged to question / analyze the archetypical observation tower and pedstrian bridge typology and furthermore investigate and explore a new hybrid building typology that offers a functional and aesthetic solution that operates as focal point, landmark and event attractor for the City of Houston, its inhabitants and visitors. Furthermore the students are challenged to investigate the relationship of the private B&B program and the highly public bridge/tower program and propose a holistic/unified building structure that respects the spatial requirements and functions. Subsequent changing economics and/or building potential re-use in the future call for a peculiar design solution that offers directed flexibility to add or subtract bedrooms from the overall building structure. The success of the design is not based on the height or structural complexity of the observation tower, rather on the execution of a hybrid building typology that goes beyond utilitarian function and whose form and spatial qualities are derived from the merging process of the building functions as response to this unique site and attached challenges.
University of Houston
College of Architecture and Design