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The Works

Game Of Cones

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As the debate over what to do with Alamo Plaza rages on I thought it might make sense to step back and tell the story of a battle rages every day at the gates of the Alamo. I’m talking, of course, about the fight over what is the best snow cone flavor.

In this episode of The Works I tell the story of those who sell snow cones in Alamo Plaza. Their story is not what you might expect: it is a song of ice and fire and government-sponsored lotteries:

As always, feel free to listen to other episodes or subscribe to the podcast on iTunes where you can also rate the show and leave a comment.

Come And Borrow It

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A couple of years ago I first visited the Gonzales Memorial Museum. I wrote a blog post about it, the cannon and flag that was used in that battle the museum commemorates. The story is something I've thought a lot about since then and so I decided to explore it further in the most recent episode of The Works.

So if you have eleven minutes and want something interesting to listen to, I don't think you'll be disappointed:

As always, feel listen to other episodes or subscribe to the podcast on iTunes where you can also rate the show and leave a comment.

"The Works" gets aggregated

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Back in July of 2016 I released an episode of "The Works" about the development of the Whataburger A-Frame. It was a fascinating story I was trying to tell and I also ended up doing a written version of the story for the Rivard Report

This week I learned the Houston Chronicle picked up the story and published a piece of their own based on my podcast and article. I have to admit I was flattered to have found my way into the nation's third-largest newspaper. I was also flattered to be referred to as a "scholar".

Of course I would have been happy to have been interviewed by the writer of the piece in the Chronicle but he never reached out to me. That's why I didn't know anything about it until a year-and-a-half after it was published.

Anyway, you can listen to the original podcast episode here or read the Houston Chronicle story here

Happy Holidays from "The Works" (and HiWorks)

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Two new episodes of "The Works" in two weeks? What's going on? It must be Christmas...

On this special holiday edition of the podcast we tell the story of an empty lot that once a year turns into something very special. As always, please talk a moment to listen to the story and if you like what you hear, feel listen to the other episodes or subscribe to the podcast on iTunes where you can also rate the show and leave a comment.

Oh, and Happy Holidays.

A Valentine from Valentine

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As I mentioned in the last post I recently attended a radio storytelling workshop in Marfa. It was a great week in which I had the opportunity to meet and work with some great people. Over the course of the workshop each of us students produced a profile of a person doing something interesting in the area. As my subject I chose the postmaster of Valentine, Texas.

The story aired last night on Marfa Public Radio but since it's tangentially related to architecture (the postmaster works in a post office building) I've integrated into the feed for The Works podcast. You can listen to it by clicking the play button below or learn more about the episode on its show page.

As always, feel free to listen to other episodes or subscribe to the podcast on iTunes where you can also rate the show and leave a comment.

Happy Valentines Day.

Marfaland

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A week ago I traveled with my family for a vacation in Disneyland in Anaheim, California. This week I am in Marfa, Texas for a workshop on audio storytelling sponsored by Transom and hosted by Marfa Public Radio. The goal, as you might guess, is to make The Works better.

At any rate, walking down Highland Street in Marfa has reminded me of walking down Main Street in Disneyland. Although the scale of the latter is somewhat smaller - Disneyland famously played with the dimensions of the street and the buildings to make them "feel" better more inviting - the distance from Sleeping Beauty's Castle to the Disneyland Train Station is about the same as the distance from the Presidio County Courthouse to the tracks of the Union Pacific railroad tracks.

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Walt Disney did not use Marfa as a model for Disneyland. It is instead an idealized version of a turn-of-the-century downtown inspired both by Disney's memories of his hometown of Marceline, Missouri and the memories Harper Goff had of Fort Collins, Colorado. The reality is the basic urban model of a main commercial street with set on axis with a "weenie" (be it weenie a courthouse or a castle) can be found in small towns and larger cities throughout the country.

It turns out that in addition to being a cool feature for a theme park it's also a great way to design for the real world as well.

 

Missing From Travis Park

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My grandfather's generation fought Nazis in Europe. I bet he never thought his grandson's generation would need to fight neo-Nazis and the hatred they represent in public parks here in the United States.

On this episode of the podcast we talk about Travis Park and the monument that was built there. As always, please talk a moment to listen to the story and if you like what you hear, feel listen to the other episodes or subscribe to the podcast on iTunes where you can also rate the show and leave a comment.

Episode 21

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Back in march I promised that new episodes of "The Works" were coming soon.

"Soon" is a relative term and although I thought I was going to have this one ready to go the spring it turns out it has taken me until the middle of September. Better late than never, I suppose.

At any rate, on this episode of the podcast we talk about domes - specifically planetarium domes and the magic that occurs under them.

As always, please talk a moment to listen to the story and if you like what you hear, feel listen to the other episodes or subscribe to the podcast on iTunes where you can also rate the show and leave a comment.

Still Under The Bridge

Fiesta is underway in San Antonio.

For a transplant like myself the seventeen-day-lang series of events initially baffled me. Although it was originally a celebration that commemorated the defeat of Mexico by the Texan Armies, it has ballooned into something much larger and more complex. For the record, the Texas Revolution wasn't just a battle between Texas vs, Mexicans: it too was something larger and more complex than (just ask this guy).

At any rate, the celebration as it exists today consists of many seemingly unrelated events. There's an oyster bake, a carnival and lots of concerts. Fiesta has its own acronyms. NIOSA (Night in Old San Antonio) is a block party in historic La Villita. And of course it has its own parades. 

Lots of parades.

In addition to river parades and dog parades, Fiesta has some major street parades. The Battle of Flowers and Flambeau Parades are arguably the crowning events of the Fiesta Celebration. Even though they occur in late April, it can be pretty hot in San Antonio by then (this this year it's already humid and in the 90s). The parade route travels under the U.S. Highway 281 / Interstate 35 interchange and the shade provided by these elevated roadways have become popular places to watch the parades. They are so popular, in fact, that people started camping out days ahead of the actual parades in order to secure a good spot for themselves and their families. 

It's basically a temporary city that forms under the bridge with its own, rules, culture and yes, it's own architecture. This was supposed to be the last year that families were allowed to camp there but the city seems to have backed away from their decision to prohibit it moving forward.

I couple of years ago I produced an episode of The Works that talked about this unique San Antonio phenomenon. It's still one of my favorite podcast episodes and it's worth a listen if you haven't heard it in a while.

So have a listen, have a good laugh and have a happy Fiesta.

New Episodes of "The Works" Are Coming Soon

Today the creators of This American Life and Serial release their newest "spin-off" podcast, S-Town. I know very little about it other than it promises to be in the true-crime genre like the first season of Serial and it will probably be very good.

You might be thinking to yourself, "Hey, Isn't there a really good podcast out there about architecture and design?" There is: it's called 99% Invisible. If you haven't listened to it, you should.

What you're probably NOT thinking to yourself, "Hey, isn't there a second-rate podcast produced by that Brantley guy about architecture, those who create it and those who inhabit it?" Well, in the unlikely event you were wondering about that, you're right. 

Twenty episodes of the The Works have been produced over the past two years/seasons. "Runaway success" is not a term one would use to describe the effort but I've enjoyed drilling into some of the unexpected stories about the built environment that have been featured. Some episodes are better than others, but I'm proud of what's been created even if it's proven to be a lot more work than I imagined.

For the third season I decided to abandon the monthly format in favor of a more relaxed, whenever-I-feel-like-it approach. All that is to say that new episodes are in development but there won't be as many of them.

The next episode will be about planetaria; the curious interior spaces where people go to view what they should be able to see outside. Of special interest are the mechanical devises that project the stars onto the interior of the dome above (see image above). Recently these great steam-punk artifacts have begun to be replaced by modern digital projection systems. As is often the case, this new technology brings with it some exciting possibilities even if something is lost in the process.

In the meantime, you can subscribe to and listen to old episodes of The Works here. Enjoy.

 

 

The View

image courtesy of NASA

image courtesy of NASA

Two years ago I started producing The Works podcast in order to share stories about the built environment. Sometimes I've stretched the definition of what architecture is. In this month's episode, for example, I make the argument that the Lunar Module where astronauts lived while on the surface of the moon is technically part of the built environment and so should be considered to be architecture. This classification gave me an excuse to interview one of the twelve men who have walked on the moon.

It was really cool. 

and I talked at length about what it's like to live for a few days on another world and to see things that very few people have ever seen. That conversation is included in the most recent episode called simply "The View".

As always, please talk a moment to listen to the story and if you like what you hear, feel listen to the other nineteen episodes or subscribe to the podcast on iTunes where you can also rate the show and leave a comment.

La Charreada

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You probably know about the rodeo - the bull riding, the bronc busting and everything else. But what you may not know is that there is another rodeo - a Mexican Rodeo - that predates the version we are familiar with here.

In this month's episode of The Works we talk about charreadas and rodeos; vaqueros and cowboys. We also talk about how the differences between the Mexican and American versions of the sport are reflected in the buildings designed to showcase them.

As always, please talk a moment to listen to the story and if you like what you hear, subscribe to the podcast on iTunes where you can also rate the show and leave a comment.

"The Works" Goes To The Movies

image courtesy 20th Century Fox

image courtesy 20th Century Fox

Relatively few movies show what architects actually do. That said, there are plenty of films that feature characters who are architects. It turns out that from Mike Brady to Howard Roark, these "movie architects" have a lot in common with one another. Seen as a group they tell a lot about how the general public views the profession.

In this month's episode of The Works we talk about how Hollywood treats the architecture profession. Some of that treatment is good, some of it is not. Somewhat surprisingly, all of it is fairly accurate.

As always, please talk a moment to listen to the story and if you like what you hear, subscribe to the podcast on iTunes where you can also rate the show and leave a comment.

Walking (and Podcasting) the San Antonio River

Of course San Antonio is known for the Alamo but the most popular tourist attraction in the city is its River Walk. Its an integral part of the city, but it wasn't always that way.

In this month's episode of The Works we tell the story of how San Antonio tamed its river and how that river has tamed San Antonio.

As always, please talk a moment to listen to the story and if you like what you hear, subscribe to the podcast on iTunes where you can also rate the show and leave a comment.

The Whataburger A-frame

Somewhere in the Texas Constitution it states that as a resident of the state you are required to like Blue Bell Ice Cream, Willie NelsonShiner Beer and Whataburger. Even if you're a vegetarian you can you can still respect the orange and white buildings where you could once get a made-to-order Whataburger.

In this month's episode of The Works we tell the story of how a small, otherwise unremarkable burger stand in Corpus Christi grew to build some of the most unique buildings in Texas.

As always, please talk a moment to listen to the story and if you like what you hear, subscribe to the podcast on iTunes where you can also rate the show and leave a comment.

Judging Roy Bean

When I was in junior High I had a season pass to Six Flags Over Texas. The amusement park was designed and built in the early 1960s and was based on Disneyland and like the park in California, the one in Texas was organized into different themed areas. At Six Flags these areas were based on the different eras of Texas history. This subject matter also informed the naming of the rides.

Take, for example, the park's oldest wooden roller coaster, the "Judge Roy Scream". It's name is actually a pun that references Judge Roy Bean. Bean was a frontier Justice of the Peace who was the self-proclaimed "Law West of the Pecos" in the closing decades of the 1800s. His story is an interesting one, as is the story of pretty much everyone who decides to light out for the territory and live out west.

In this month's episode of The Works I tell his story as well as that of the man who is the superintendent of the Judge Roy Bean Visitor Center in Langry, Texas.

So please do subscribe to the podcast on iTunes where you can also rate the show and leave a comment.

In Defense Of The Toilet Seat Museum

When he was twelve years old, Barney Smith memorized a poem about painting. As luck would have it, he would grow up to be a painter although the canvases upon which he chose to paint were somewhat unusual. In this month's episode of The Works we tell the story of Barney and of his museum.

As always, please talk a moment to listen to his story and if you like what you hear, subscribe to the podcast on iTunes where you can also rate the show and leave a comment.

Fortresses and Boxcars

image courtesy the Commemorative Air Force Gulf Coast WIng

image courtesy the Commemorative Air Force Gulf Coast WIng

On last month's episode of The Works I talked about the house my grandfather built. This month I talk about the airplane my other grandfather flew. Specifically I talk about the B-17 and the B-24 and why one of those planes is remembered and why the other is mostly forgotten. I talk about form and function and meaning and a bunch of other things that make this discussion of a non-architectural topic surprisingly architectural.

So please do a listen and as always if you like what you hear, subscribe to it on iTunes where you can also rate the show and leave a comment.

Pershing Park(ing)

A recent competition sponsored by the Pearl, Centro San Antonio, The Rivard Report and Overland Partners sought ideas about how to improve Broadway, one of the main arterial corridors that heads north out of downtown. We just found out that we are a finalist in that competition.

As a street, Broadway has been a central part of my daily routine for as long as I've lived in San Antonio. I used it to drive to Lake|Flato when I worked there and each of the three office spaces HiWorks has leased has been only a few blocks off Broadway. I've told stories about things that happen along its length - see the "Under The Bridge" and "The Kiddie Park" episodes of The Works Podcast. It's the road I take to drive my girls to school in the morning and it's the road I take to drive home at the end of the day.

Broadway is a very diverse street. Along its 8.5 miles it has both cultural museums and seedy motels. Brackenridge Park runs along the west side of it and several historic neighborhoods are located along its edge. One of these is Mahncke Park. That's where Dave Evans, a good friend of mine lives. Like me, he loves to take his kids to the DoSeum and the Kiddie Park and like me he is often frustrated by the parking situation associated with these two immensely popular family destinations. He had the great idea to insert a centralized parking structure over an existing drainage channel - known as Pershing Channel - that runs between Broadway and Brackenridge Park.

While simply covering a ditch with a parking lot would trade one eyesore for another, we together proposed a second landscape deck on top of this parking structure to create a linear park experience. Bridge elements cross both Broadway and Mulberry so that it becomes possible to walk with your kids from the parking structure to either the DoSeum or the Kiddie Park. This avoids dangerous pedestrian surface crossings. 

The winner and runner up and each of the three categories will be announced at an event on Wednesday night. In the meantime, here's a article that highlights the other finalists.