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We Are Still In – Countering Climate Change


SYNCRO Architecture Studio works closely with clients to bring energy-efficient solutions to their projects. The design process is inherently a sustainable action, or should be, because it requires consideration of alternatives and their consequences. SYNCRO works hard to provide analysis of sustainable alternatives. Today we show support of all efforts to counter climate change by signing on to an Open letter to the international community along with hundreds of other U.S. businesses, universities, cities and state leaders. From the letter:

In December 2015 in Paris, world leaders signed the first global commitment to fight climate change. The landmark agreement succeeded where past attempts failed because it allowed each country to set its own emission reduction targets and adopt its own strategies for reaching them. In addition, nations – inspired by the actions of local and regional governments, along with businesses – came to recognize that fighting climate change brings significant economic and public health benefits.

 
 
We commend San Antonio’s new mayor, Ron Nierenberg, and his leadership toward our City’s official support of the Paris Climate Accord. As a member firm of the American Institute of Architects, we are proud of the work done by AIA Committee on the Environment and its Advisory Group which continues to play an important “role in carbon drawdown through the design, construction, and operations of the built environment….”

Source: We Are Still In

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Pawderosa Ranch Announces Dog Daycare Project

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Pawderosa Ranch, “The Best Dog Daycare and Overnight Lodging in San Antonio,” has announced the project we have been designing here at SYNCRO Architecture Studio. Initially, we conducted a feasibility study to determine the site’s redevelopment potential and have subsequently completed rezoning, re-platting and zoning variance request services. We are currently in design development phase.

An existing “ranch” theme provides rustic inspiration for a regional contemporary architectural solution. Sustainable design is part of the client’s home-away-from-home-for-your-dog business formula. Western Red Cedar, epoxy flooring, log struts and digitally designed and fabricated steel plate connectors and decorative fencing are working together to bring high-tech and low-tech together into a functional fusion. High-performing, low-maintenance, and sanitary surfaces are being developed by the design team for seamless integration in the design concept.


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“suburban development is an experiment” – Growth Ponzi Scheme – Strong Towns



This article, by Charles Marohn, on The Strong Towns web site, presents a clear and concise perspective on the unsustainable American Dream. As San Antonio considers allocation of funds to be raised in the 2017 municipal bond process, public discussion has never been more important. The past 70 or so years of urban development in San Antonio represents the only pattern most of us are familiar with. We would be better able to make decisions for a more sustainable future if we understand the larger context of our sprawling urbanism. Sprawl is the only urban development pattern most Americans have ever experienced. Please read this, San Antonio. (You might even consider joining in what will undoubtedly be a spectacle of a public forum regarding the bond.)

We often forget that the American pattern of suburban development is an experiment, one that has never been tried anywhere before. We assume it is the natural order because it is what we see all around us. But our own history — let alone a tour of other parts of the world — reveals a different reality. Across cultures, over thousands of years, people have traditionally built places scaled to the individual. It is only in the last two generations that we have scaled places to the automobile.

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Changes to prevent hasty demolitions – San Antonio Express-News

Photograph by ALMA E. HERNANDEZ

Volunteers, David Bogle, Doug Smolka and Jean Mothri help clean out Miguel Calzada’s home Saturday, Dec. 13, 2014, in preparation for renovations. City Councilman Roberto Treviño said he wants the city’s building demolition process to include more of a “human side,” to protect seniors, veterans and chronically ill homeowners from demolition of older, potentially historic houses.

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‘Architecture is now a tool of capital, complicit in a purpose antithetical to its social mission’ – Architectural Review

Waterwijk housing, designed by OMA integrates multiple housing types aimed at various income levels.

Waterwijk housing, designed by OMA integrates multiple housing types aimed at various income levels.



With each announcement of a new “luxury” apartment development along the Mission Reach, or in the low-density pockets around downtown San Antonio I look beyond the images and lists of amenities in the advertisements to find little distinguishing it from the speculative houses and apartments being built for more “affordable” markets. Is the architectural form, material or design quality more enduring or, rather, merely more endearing? I am reminded of the linked article I read few months ago. While I have learned a little something about the economics of cities over the years – about the commodification of our cities and the ability of the relatively few real estate interests to powerfully affect how cities grow and redevelop, I was struck by some of the economic ideas and connections cited. The author, Reinier de Graaf, casts a bright light and a long shadow on architecture and the division of wealth in this essay. Specifically, he looks at architecture in the context of Thomas Piketty’s economic analysis from Capital in the Twenty-First Century which postulates that “inequality is not an accident, but rather a feature of capitalism, and can only be reversed through state interventionism.” Put very simply, wealth itself is far more efficient at producing more wealth than good-ole hard work, or, from the article, “Those who acquire wealth through work fall ever further behind those who accumulate wealth simply by owning it.” While it has been clear to me in the past how architectural production itself can play a role in the continuing trend of income inequality, the idea that there is no alternative is disconcerting.

….it becomes relatively easy to dissociate a (high) selling price from a (low) cost base and reap record profits as a result.Ironically, this development affects both rich and poor. With sale values exceeding production costs to the current extent, quality no longer resides in the product, but in a potential profit through selling. The whole notion of physical luxury is superseded by a value on paper. However, the value on paper in no way represents the real material value of the product. The price of property is created by a combination of size and location. Unless major technical flaws come to light, the material or technical quality of buildings barely plays a role. As long as the hype continues, the ‘investment’ is safe.

This shows some of San Antonio's inner-city neighborhoods relative density mapped by zip code.

This shows some of San Antonio’s inner-city neighborhoods relative density mapped by zip code.

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Public meetings, Public input at San Pedro Springs Park

Roberto Trevino, Delia Cardenas, Diego Bernal, David Bogle and ___, left to right.  Photo courtesy City of San Antonio Transportation Construction and Infrastructure (TCI) graphic designer Shannon Pacheco-Caldera.

Roberto Trevino, Delia Cardenas, Diego Bernal, David Bogle and ___, left to right. Photo courtesy City of San Antonio Transportation Construction and Infrastructure (TCI) graphic designer Shannon Pacheco-Caldera.



I attended the groundbreaking ceremony for the improvements at the park last week, and was surprised when our former District 1 Council representative, Diego Bernal asked me to join them in the shovel line. “Diego,” as he insists all his constituents refer to him, was the driving force behind the initial bond allocation for the park and subsequently found additional funding that was required to round out the scope of work to include perimeter improvements along North Flores Street. It was rewarding to have been asked to join in for the photo alongside our new District 1 representative Roberto Trevino, another neighbor and CoSA Parks and Recreation.

Through several public meetings, public input managed to help steer the design development of the project. I, along with several other neighbors and professionals, voluntarily advised the neighborhood association, as well as the councilman, on some of the technical and urban design-wise aspects of the improvements. Some of the benefits of citizen involvement included a revisiting of the San Pedro Springs Park Master Plan (abbreviated as it was) with public input, promotion of native plant materials, prevention of construction that would later be required to be removed when future phases of work gets funding, and removal of the existing perimeter sidewalks along North Flores Street where the most popular street parking is.

The new lighting will have LED technology lamping, but in matching “historicizing” lamp poles. Along the new walking trail and around the perimeter of the park, this should provide a visible improvement to the night time atmosphere of the park. The hope is that this near-perimeter fitness trail feature and lighting will attract more activity to the park and health to our neighborhood. The next time bond money becomes available for park improvements, I hope there will be funding for a planning process to update the park master plan and develop a prioritization from public input before the decisions about what will be built next are made.

KENS5 reporter interviewing David Bogle about the public input process.

KENS5 reporter interviewing David Bogle about the public input process.

Diego Bernal addressing attendees.

Diego Bernal addressing attendees.

District 1 Council Representative Roberto Trevino and fellow Alta Vista neighbor Delia Cardenas.

District 1 Council Representative Roberto Trevino and fellow Alta Vista neighbor Delia Cardenas.

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Treasure Hill Residence – Part 3 – “a moment becomes a movement”

Press release announcing proposed changes to city's demolition procedures.  Councilman Roberto Treviño proposes changes to the city's code enforcement procedures and policy to reduce demolitions of buildings like this historic home.

Press release announcing proposed changes to city’s demolition procedures. Councilman Roberto Treviño proposes changes to the city’s code enforcement procedures and policy to reduce demolitions of buildings like this historic home.


The community effort to save this Treasure Hill residence from demolition (#SaveMiguelsHouse) has inspired our city council representative to propose changes to the City of San Antonio policies and processes. The changes are intended to slow the enforcement process for long-time residents, veterans and the elderly, and reduce demolitions. Additionally, it could lead to better-educated Building Standards Board members that participate in code enforcement procedures. A press conference was held at the house to announce the proposed changes, and I would like to thank Councilman Roberto Treviño for his work on behalf of our client’s case. Thanks also go to Vianna Davila of the Express-News and Page Graham of the Rivard report for their coverage of this continuing story. See links in the right-hand column on this page.

Another exciting development is that we filed an application for landmark designation of the house on the same day. Here’s some of the history we found for this prominent site overlooking the San Pedro Springs and downtown San Antonio.

• (February 2, 1906)
Treasure Hill Plat filed for record, owned and subdivided by Adams, Kirkpatrick, and Nicholson (J.E. Adams, J.H. Kirkpatrick, and B.F. Nicholson). Includes Lot 21, Block 1, N.C.B. 3030 (now 1123 W. French Pl.). Nicholson releases several properties within plat to Adams and Kirkpatrick. However, Lot 21, Block 1 is not mentioned in these deeds.

• (1907)
Various properties within N.C.B. 3030, including Lot 18, Block 1, (now 1135 W. French), sold by B.F. Nicholson to one T.E. Hawkins. Deed for Lot 21, Block 1 not found.

• (1908-1911)
Various properties within N.C.B. 3030, again including Lot 18, Block 1, (now 1135 W. French), sold by T.E. Hawkins and wife G.L. to one G.B. Hawkins. Deed for Lot 21, Block 1 not found.

• (March 21, 1912)
Ten properties, including Lots 18 and 21 of Block 1, N.C.B. 3030, sold by G.B. Mitchell and wife L.E. to one J.S. McNeel, (James), a prominent real estate figure in town at the time. The following year’s directory lists the house at 1123 W. French Pl. as owned by J.S. and Emma McNeel.

• (1916)
A widowed Emma McNeel, wife of J.S. Sr., retains ownership of 1123 W. French Pl.

• (1922-1923)
The house at 1123 W. French is listed as owned by William P McNeel, City Fire Marshall and son of J.S. Sr. One Kathryn McNeel is also listed as an owner, and is assumed to be his wife. Emma McNeel is listed as a renter at this time.

• (1924-1930)
1123 W. French is listed as owned by Frank and Angelina Liberto. Frank is president of Frank Liberto & Co., a wholesale grocer and roaster of peanuts and coffee.

• (1931-1937)
Home owned by Andrew and Stella Mae Dilworth. Andrew Dilworth is a partner of Thomson, Dilworth, and Marshall Title and Trust, and is vice president of Union Title & Trust Co.

• (1938-1939)
The house at 1123 W. French is rented to one Marion A Olson and wife Martha. Marion is a lawyer at the Frost National Bank Building.

• (1940-1947)
1123 W. French is rented once again by Orvis E Meador and wife Mildred. Orvis works as a dentist in the Nix Professional Building.

• (1948-1958)
In 1948 William J Lytle is listed as owner of the house at 1123 W. French Pl. At that time, one Hortense E is also listed at said property. In 1958 one Mrs. Susan Lytle, named widow of William J, is listed as owner of the house.

• (1959)
The house at 1123 W. French Pl. is listed as vacant for the first time since its plat.

• (1960-1966)
Solomon Sfair and wife Hasna are listed as owners of 1123 W. French. There is little occupational information regarding Solomon Sfair listed in the respective city directories. According to Miguel Calzada, current owner, the Sfair family owned the “Navy Club” downtown San Antonio, a 24-hour club of some notoriety.

• (1967-
Vincente and Francisca Calzada are listed as renters of the home. Later in 1970, Miguel and Guadalupe’s names are included in the directory.

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Save our History for our Future | Trinity University


The San Jose Mission of San Antonio, Texas.

The San Jose Mission of San Antonio, Texas.


Apr 07, 2015 7:30pm

Parker Chapel

The lecture and panel discussion, "Save our History for our Future: Why Historic Preservation Matters and What’s in it for You,"

The keynote lecture will be by architect Carolyn Peterson, who has worked on the restoration of San Antonio’s missions for decades. A panel discussion with preservation professionals will follow.
Panelists:
Bill DuPont, Center for Cultural Sustainability
Michael Guarino, Historic Design Review Commission
Claudia Guerra, Office of Historic Preservation
Bruce MacDougal, San Antonio Conservation Society

For more information, contact Larsen Andrews at landrew1@trinity.edu or 207-749-5181

via Save our History for our Future | Trinity University.


Archives

In ‘Birdman,’ The Crossroads plays itself



The Crossroads was a classic New York City project – turn-of-the-century tenement apartment buildings; a stone’s throw from Times Square; client-tenants mixed across all lines of income, ethnicity, age and interests; publicly funded; private ownership; gut-remodel; selective historic restoration; excavation into Manhattan Schist; contemporary design solutions; etc.

The building has been in the movies a few times, now; and much like the nearby St. James Theatre featured in the article quoted below, The Crossroads plays itself, just more anonymously. A while back my clients got in touch and let me know a film was being made there with Michael Keaton. I may not have been a Michael Keaton fan, but I certainly am moved by some of director Alejandro González Iñárritu‘s work. Now I’m looking forward to this one, and seeing an old friend on West 43rd Street.

The building has now been used for film locations 3 times: 2006 – a Lindsay Lohan film titled, “Just My Luck”; 2014 – the Michael Keaton film, “Birdman”; and just last month, an HBO film with a working title of, “Bluff”.

The film production crews especially like the ADA-compliant exterior ramp. Camera operators can back up the ramp while filming a walking actor from an angle not usually open for such a shot. The ramp was designed to get from the sidewalk up to the stoop entrance. Another, interior ramp in the lobby continues the rise to the existing first-floor level and a new elevator.

Below, it is shown staged for the filming with all manner of signage in the windows.

All dressed up for the filming with commercial signage in the windows.

All dressed up for the filming with commercial signage in the windows. Note the set’s traffic light (this is in the middle of the block.)

Reminiscing about the project led me to some “lost New York” photos I took before demolition, as well as construction photos I took after the interiors had been removed. Scroll down below the St. James Theatre article blockquote to see a few of these.

"Birdman," the latest movie from director Alejandro González Iñárritu, is generating significant awards buzz for its comeback leading man, Michael Keaton, and a supporting cast that includes Edward Norton, Emma Stone, Amy Ryan and Naomi Watts.

One of the movie’s key stars won’t be found in its final credit roll, however.

A Broadway house with a storied history, the St. James Theatre plays itself in the movie’s plot about a has-been action star (Keaton) and his attempt at career resuscitation through a vanity stage adaptation of Raymond Carver’s "What We Talk About When We Talk About Love."

The action of "Birdman" takes place almost entirely in and around the St. James, which is located in prime Broadway territory on 44th Street between 7th and 8th Avenues.

Shooting took place over 30 days in April and May of 2013.

One of the existing kitchens with bathtub in the kitchen before the project removals began.  Photo by David Bogle.

One of the existing kitchens with bathtub in the kitchen before the project removals began. Photo by David Bogle with Pierre-Olivier Milanini.

Existing light well space between the two, typical 1890's apartment buildings.  The stair core for each building has a wide double-hung window opening onto these.   Laundry line hardware pulley just outside the kitchen window from which this photo was taken before construction began.  Photo by David Bogle.

Existing light well space between the two, typical 1890’s apartment buildings. The stair core for each building has a wide double-hung window opening onto these. On the right, a laundry-line hardware pulley is just outside the kitchen window from which this photo was taken before construction began. Photo by David Bogle with Pierre-Olivier Milanini.

Leveling tops of existing, new and repaired joists.

Leveling tops of existing, new and repaired joists. Photo by David Bogle.

One of the most fun days of Construction Administration - observation of the existing joists - all 4 floors worth.

One of the most fun days of Construction Administration – observation of the existing joists – all 4 floors worth. Photo by David Bogle.


Click Here to view The Crossroads project gallery

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Treasure Hill Residence – Part 2

Treasure Hill Residence workday gathering.  December 13, 2014.

Treasure Hill Residence workday gathering. December 13, 2014.


This week, more news coverage of the neighborhood effort to Save Miguel’s House (see Part 1) came out in theRivardReport (online) and in the San Antonio Express-News. It centered around the volunteer work day organized by Bob Comeaux, and it was nicely covered by two neighbors, authors Jessica Belasco in the San Antonio Express-News article and Page Graham of The Rivard Report in #SaveMiguelsHome – The Work Begins. The work day was a success thanks to approximately 50 persons who came to help.

Click here for the Express-News article on SYNCROSTUDIO which appeared on the front page of Monday’s paper (in case you don’t have a subscription to read it at The Express-News website.)

1906 Treasure Hill Plat

1906 Treasure Hill Plat

We’re calling this project Treasure Hill Residence, after the original name of the subdivision created in 1906. Legend had it the early Spanish explorers hid treasure here, but the name has been overshadowed by “Beacon Hill” which abuts this property on the north and is the current name for the whole neighborhood. The elusive treasure, however, is being mined today in the trove of neighbors and folks from all over the city generously donating to the cause. E-mail Bob Comeaux at bobtheunionguy “at” aol “dot” com if you want to find out more about how you can help.

Detail of 1911 map showing Treasure Hill Residence and outbuildings.

Detail of 1911 Sanborn map showing Treasure Hill Residence and outbuildings near Blanco City Road.