AIRLINE DRIVE HAS A GRITTY VITALITY THAT HOUSTON AS A WHOLE SHOULD REJOICE IN MORE AND WORK HARDER NOT TO DESTROY
Airline Drive, just inside Houston’s North Loop, is a messy mix of all the ingredients that make for an unplanned, unadulterated urban experience. Unfortunately, a major public works project to improve Airline Drive could unintentionally diminish this vibrancy, privileging the car (and speed) over all else.
Streets are the spines of communities. Yet, streets prompt divergent aims: traffic engineers dedicate their energies to moving more cars, designers work to create space and form, business owners seek ample access and parking, politicians want money spent in their districts, and the public wants many, many different things—sidewalks, safety, convenience, and so on. Amidst these competing interests, who makes decisions about public projects, who establishes the goals, and how can we make these goals more inclusive, multifunctional, and extensive?
One method of reconciling these differences is to adopt an idea the Community Design Resource Center calls “thick infrastructure,” which is the expansion of public works projects to include elements that enhance civic and public spaces. The goal is to reconfigure existing, single-purpose infrastructural landscapes into multifunctional systems.
University of Houston
College of Architecture
Project Team: Susan Rogers, Alex Lara, and Maria Oran
Partner: Greater Northside Management District