Location, Location, Location

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Apple recently announced its closing some of its stores in north Texas. It’s not doing this because the stores are unprofitable, or they need more space. They’re closing the stores, the story goes, because they happen to sit in the Eastern District of Texas.

Why should it matter what federal district an electronics store happens to be located in?

It turns out the Eastern District of Texas has historically been very favorable to patent litigants. More specifically, patent trolls flocked to Marshall, Texas to file suites against large tech companies like Apple. Federal law historically allowed litigants to file lawsuits in any district where the defendant “Has committed acts of infringement and has a regular and established place of business”. Since Apple had stores in the district, Patent Trolls could file suite there.

Recent court decisions have made it more difficult for litigants to choose courts (a fact that has the town of Marshall worried) but to better insulate itself from these lawsuits, Apple has decided to move their stores over imaginary lines so won’t get sued as much.

It all seems very strange, but it all goes to show that location matters.

Inside the Rink

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A couple of years ago I took my daughter to a roller skating rink. It was the first time I had strapped wheels to my feet in over twenty years and it was a memorable experience. I even wrote a blog post about it.

Well, two years later, it gets the official podcast treatment.

The Rollercade is a local institution and generations of San Antonians have skated across its smooth wood floor. In this chapter of the San Antonio Storybook, we tell the story of how the Rollercade came to be built and the family responsible for keeping the Alamo City rolling.

As always, you can listen to it here or subscribe to the podcast on iTunes or wherever you download your podcasts.

Building Magical Worlds

So my daughter recently finished reading all 4,000 pages of the Harry Potter series. In doing so I'm pretty sure she developed a lifetime love of reading.

Back in the early 2000s I read the first book (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone) and although I enjoyed it, I didn’t feel the need to keep reading the new volumes as they were released. I watched the movies, so I had a general idea of what was going on as my little reader became completely engrossed in reading the second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh volumes.

I’m not quite sure what secret ingredient J. K. Rowling put into her stories, but it’s definitely there. Maybe it’s the characters, maybe it’s the story, but I think a lot has to do with the rich and complicated world she was able to build. Details matter - that’s what makes Hogwarts and Hogsmeade seem just as real as London.

I try and insert a little bit of magic whenever I design a building. Of course you have a little more freedom in fiction than you do with concrete and steel and wood. Still, I think it’s a good thing to aspire to do.

Fort Stockton rising

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It’s been almost four years since we first started working with the good people of Fort Stockton on their new community theatre. In the time since then the design has evolved and funds have been raised. For so long it remained a hypothetical exercise - something that existed only on paper - and so it’s incredibly exciting now that dirt is moving and concrete is being poured.

The new theatre will actually be an addition to their existing facility. Their old building will become an event space and next to it will be their new stage and 125-seat house. On the corner there will be a support wing with storage and dressing rooms for the actors and restrooms for the audience.

Construction is expected to take a year and so by 2020 - the five year anniversary of the beginning of the project - The Fort Stockton Community Theatre will finally be able to move into their new home.

Know Your Audience (And Their Cargo)

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The people who are interested in purchasing Chevy Bolts are different than the people who are interested in purchasing Chevy pickups. Chevrolet knows this and markets its vehicles appropriately.

I was amused by the different items they illustrate their vehicles are capable of hauling. In the image galleries for these respective vehicles they show the bed of the pickup full of lumber and the back of the Bolt loaded with an Eames DCW chair because of course driers of electric vehicles are fans of midcentury furniture design.

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Chapter 2

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A few weeks ago a large group of politicians descended on an empty lot in downtown San Antonio to break ground on a new federal courthouse. Of course, San Antonio already has a federal courthouse. It’s an odd little building but it has a fascinating story.

In this chapter of the San Antonio Storybook we’ll discover the story of this building and the important part it played in the history of San Antonio.

You can listen to it here or subscribe to the podcast on iTunes or wherever you download your podcasts.

Ribbon Cutting

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I know I’ve posted a lot about the Stinson Municipal Airport Control Tower project over the past several years so I’m not going do it again here other to say that the FAA has taken control control over its operation. The official ribbon cutting ceremony was this week and it was a fine ceremony that featured an all-female mariachi band and a cake that featured the image of the tower design.

It also featured some very large scissors.

There was this one woman who was apparently the keeper of the scissors. She was more than a little intimidating, but I understand the need for there to be a dedicated person to keep hold of such things. Oversized ceremonial scissors are expensive.

Who gets to break the ground

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This past Monday I was able to attend the groundbreaking of San Antonio’s new federal courthouse. It was a moment 10 years in the making. I was still at Lake|Flato back in 2009 when they won the commission and sat next to Joe Ben as he, David Lake and the rest of the design team developed scheme after scheme and endured delay after delay.

Very little of that was mentioned at the groundbreaking (Lake|Flato was only mentioned once). Instead it was a day for the politicians to make grand (and at times unintentionally ironic) statements about the role of the judiciary and the rule of law. Even so, it’s great to see the project get underway and hopefully the architects will get a little more credit at the ribbon cutting ceremony in 2022.

See the CCC

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This past week was spring break and because I don’t have a real job I was able to take my girls up to visit my family in north Texas. We decided not to take I-35 and instead took the backroads so that we could pass by Lake Brownwood State Park.

As state parks go the landscape there wasn’t the most spectacular but the buildings are. Built by the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Great Depression, Lake Brownwood has an impressive Group Recreation Hall and a grand staircase that early visitors would use when they arrived at the park by boat.

The cabins were also nice; especially cabin #9 where we stayed. I’m sure many families have made many happy memories there and I’m glad we went a little out of our way to see the CCC.

Morning Boom

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The first chapter of the San Antonio Storybook is now live.

My town can be pretty quiet before it wakes up and before its streets fill with traffic. That’s what makes it so jarring when the silence of the morning is broken by the sound of a distant boom. In the opening chapter of the San Antonio Storybook we discover the story behind that boom as well as the people who are responsible for it.

You can listen to it here or subscribe on iTunes or wherever you download your podcasts.

All things must come to an end...

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…including my first podcast, The Works. We had a good run for the last four years but it’s time to move on to other things.

One of those things is the San Antonio Storybook.

Each chapter of the Storybook will tell a different story about the sights, the sounds, and the people of the Alamo City. They will be stories you haven’t heard before. They will about the people behind the headlines. They will be about the things that make San Antonio such an amazing place to live and work.

Produced in conjunction with the Rivard Report., the first episode of the San Antonio Storybook drops next week but you can subscribe now (here or here) and even listen to a trailer that gives you an idea of what to expect.

It's Official...

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…the ground has been broken on Fort Stockton’s new community theatre. It’s been almost four years since I first started working with the good people of Fort Stockton and it was moving to see so many people show up too see the start of the next phase - the actual building of the thing.

It’s been a fun adventure so far and I can only imagine that adventure will continue in the coming year. The board and everyone else I’ve worked with out in west Texas have been incredibly kind and generous - the type of client that make you put up with all the clients that aren’t so great.

Another note from a contested border

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As part of my job I travel out to west Texas fairly often. If I take US 90 to get there I hug the border for about 150 miles of the drive. I've been doing this for years now and have never had any issue. I have never seen a caravan or a cartel. They may exist somewhere, but not here. 

What I do see are dozens of Border Patrol vehicles. What I do see is a government agency doing their job to keep the border secure. 

What I don't see is a national emergency.

A World Without Handrails

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I was able to attend given by Juan Miró, a former professor of mine from UT. It was fun to see him again and all the amazing work his firm has been doing over the last several years. His office tends to “push the envelope” of what seems to be possible.. He also showed some of the work they’ve been doing in Mexico and I was reminded of how different things can be if you tweak the rules just a little bit.

When I was in Mexico City last year I kept noticing how “clean” all the stairs looked. It wasn’t the lack of trash I was noticing - it was the lack of handrails.

Don’t get me wrong, handrails are a good thing - especially if you happened to have mobility issues. That’s one of the reasons accessibility standards were established (that and it became federal law).

Again, I’m not proposing that all handrails be abolished. I’m just pointing out that it’s fascinating to see how the built environment changes when you tweak just one little requirement.

Stephen Miller is not an Architect

Not an architect…

Not an architect…

During this first month of 2019 I performed a little experiment. I set up a Google Alert to notify me whenever the phrase “architect of” was used. I did this because I was curious how often the term was used to describe an architect who designed a building as opposed to being used metaphorically to describe the designer of something else.

It turns out the term is rarely used to describe actual architects.

Below is a compiled list of all the other things “architect of” can be used to describe. You’ll notice some trends. The phrase is disproportionately used to describe NFL defensive coaches and Republican political strategists:

the architect of Train-18 retires from ICF retires from ICF

the architect of immigration policies

the architect of the foundation of Boise State's football success

the architect of it all

the architect of the strong culture of competent, compassionate caring

the architect of the ascension of the UW program

the architect of the Favre-era Packers

the architect of its progressive economic measures

the architect of a broad measure that House Democrats

the architect of much of Mr. Trump’s immigration agenda

the architect of Senate Republicans' plan to give President Donald Trump his border wall

the architect of the North's governing "juche" ideology of self-reliance

the architect of many of the run schemes

the architect of the memo

the architect of a growing program

the architect of the Saints roster that earned home-field advantage

the architect of their stylish attack

the architect of the Moody Blues sound

the architect of Australia's downfall as he ended the innings with figures of 6/41

the architect of the most successful run in the last century of Cubs baseball

the architect of both goals in his side's hard-earned 2-1 win at ANZ Stadium

the architect of India's bright start

the architect of the bombing attack against the U.S. Navy destroyer USS Cole

the architect of ESSA, which passed in 2015

the architect of an FA Cup giant-killing four years later

the architect of the German unification

the architect of neoconservatism

the architect of what types of customized spaces and components should be introduced

the architect of one of the top companies in the space

the architect of Finland’s golden generation

the architect of the world’s largest biometric project

the architect of undying memories

the architect of two Ravens Super Bowl squads

the architect of the NFL's 27th-ranked offense

the architect of the Sept. 11 attacks

the architect of the Renault-Nissan alliance

the architect of the Boston Red Sox team that steamrolled the opposition in 2018

the architect of the network's burgeoning Star Trek universe

the architect of the scheme used to survey about a thousand nearby star systems

the architect of Bearcat football

the architect of the Constitution

the architect of Trump's Tuesday night speech

the architect of No. 2 Michigan's lockdown defense

the architect of the law that created Medicare Part D in 2003

the architect of two Super Bowl-winning teams

the architect of Wakanda

the architect of the financial system in the fledgling United States

the architect of the best defense of all time

the architect of mega-bank mergers

the architect of Bahrain's growth

the architect of the broad strokes of the Marvel Cinematic Universe

the architect of the 1985 Bears defense

the architect of building Furniture Row Racing to a championship level

the architect of the rise to power of President Donald Trump

the architect of product innovation for the California-based Deutsche Telekom

the architect of the Renault-Nissan alliance

the architect of the disengagement

the architect of a legal theory of obstruction that was unanimously rejected by the Supreme Court

the architect of the 1963 March on Washington

the architect of an unprovoked nuclear attack carried out by the United States

the architect of the Environmental Protection Agency

the architect of choice for developers and luxury brands

the architect of the country's economic reforms

the architect of the Cowboys early 1990s renaissance

the architect of L.O.L. Surprise!

the architect of much of Mr. Trump's immigration agenda

the architect of the Hotshots' title triumph in the season-ending Governors Cup

the architect of unified modern India

the architect of some of the White House stiffest immigration measures

the architect of Acts of Random Kindness

the architect of U.S. foreign policy to sustain their aura of power

the architect of the currency union

the architect of the King legacy

the architect of complicated legislative maneuvers

the architect of programmatic passivity

the architect of Thaksinomics

the architect of the TPP

the architect of Robb’s brief, turbulent tenure

the architect of the cross-party move

the architect of the SNP's rise to power

the architect of their defense

the architect of the Paris Agreement on climate change

the architect of Renault's increased Formula 1 commitment

the architect of the 2019 revision of the Book of Common Prayer

the architect of a U.S. military strike in Syria

the architect of your police leadership career

the architect of the Giants' success

the architect of disinformation

the architect of his misfortune

the architect of bad governance in Kenya

the architect of a nearly $2 million real estate investment scam

the architect of Warner Bros.' stable of DC Comics films

the architect of the New England Patriots' reign

the architect of the 1985 Chicago Bears' defense

the architect of the president’s campaign platforms in its early days

the architect of the Specials and the 2-Tone movement

the architect of the Blüthner piano

the architect of an eye-popping $50 billion acquisition spree

the Architect of the Slam Poetry Scene

IKEA in SA

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I had the opportunity to tour the new IKEA furnishings store that’s going to be opening in San Antonio next month. As with all other IKEA locations I’ve been to (7 so far) this one was big, blue, and a little overwhelming. I was able to see some of the massive preparation that goes into the opening of a 289,000-square-foot retail store. I was also fascinated to learn how the design of IKEA stores have evolved.

Each IKEA location is a little different. For one they purposefully tweak the design (as well as their product offerings) to make each store a better fit for where they happen to be located. They also modify things to try and sell more stuff.

For example, in all the other IKEAs I’ve been to the little food area that sells frozen meatballs, Swedish chocolates and $1 dairy-free soft-serve ice cream is located just outside of he checkout lanes. For the store in San Antonio they moved this area to inside the checkout lanes so you only have to pull out your wallet once.

Obviously IKEA will track the results of this change and if it improves sales, the design tweak will be incorporated into future stores. It’s one of the advantages of having over 300 buildings - each one can be a little experiment to improve to overall fleet. That’s a luxury most buildings - which tend to be one-off affairs - don’t get to have.

The best place to see art in San Antonio

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Last week my daughter’s third grade class visited the McNay Art Museum this week and I volunteered to be a chaperone so that I could assist in bellowing at eight- and nine-year-olds to not touch the art. The McNay has an impressive collection of (mostly) modern works but what I’ve always enjoyed the most about the museum is the building in which it is located.

To be more precise, I’ve always enjoyed the house in which it is located.

Marion Koogler McNay was an artist who was lucky enough to inherit a large oil fortune from her father. With that money she built a beautiful Spanish Colonial mansion (props to Ayres and Ayres) that she bequeathed to the City of San Antonio when she died.

In addition to house/museum being full of amazing spaces and details, the McNay is also a great place to view art. The domestic-scaled spaces provide a unexpectedly intimate setting to take in works ranging from Picasso to Hopper.

Newer additions to the museum fall squarely into the “big-empty-box-with-a-glass-roof” category that dominates so many museums these days, but the original McNay itself remains the best place to see art in San Antonio.

Just remember, the art is for looking. Not touching.

HiWorks in "Texas Architect"

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So HiWorks is featured in the current issue of Texas Architect. It’s a short little piece that runs along with a description of nine other “emerging” architects in the state. I put “emerging” in quotation marks because at 42 I would have thought I would have emerged by now.

Still, it was flattered to be featured along with the work of so many others that I admire. Free publicity is great, but unfortunately only architects read Texas Architect so my phone hasn't quite been ringing off the hook...

And suddenly it’s 2019

As has been my tradition these last few years I DIDN’T stay up until midnight but did begin the new year by spending a few hours getting my work and personal email inboxes cleared out so that for a brief, shining moment I had zero messages staring at me from my inboxes.

I also spent a moment to consider the coming year. It should be an interesting one. The Fort Stockton Community Theatre is scheduled to start construction in February. In April I get to learn what part of the $10 trillion tax cut HiWorks will receive. There are also a number of projects on hold that will hopefully start up again soon and of course there are the random opportunities that always seem to fall into my lap on Thursdays.

It should be fun. I look forward to telling you about how it all turns out.