RDA News & Notes

Category: City Study Tours

RDA Announces Its 2014 Hometown Tours

San Diego-Tijuana: Architecture at the Edge
January 29 – February 2, 2014
$2,000 pp dbl; $2,510 single occupancy
Registration is closed

Santiago, Chile
June 8 – 14, 2014
Guided by Carlos Jimenez; click here for registration information!

Please join the Rice Design Alliance for a tour of San Diego, guided by architectural historian Stephen Fox with assistance from former RDA President and award-winning landscape architect Jim Burnett. The tour includes four nights in the luxurious US Grant Hotel downtown, dining at the Hotel Del Coronado, George’s on the Cove with its ocean view, and the Prado at Balboa Park, and a crossing into Tijuana, accompanied by Rene Peralta, a native of Tijuana and Director of Master of Science in Landscape Urbanism at Woodbury University in San Diego. To secure your reservation, please complete and return the registration form and the terms and conditions document with your deposit.

San Diego was founded in 1769 as a Franciscan mission to indigenous people and an accompanying Spanish presidio, both named for the Spanish saint, Diego de Alcalá, to whom this territory had earlier been dedicated by Spanish explorers in 1602. The Spanish first visited the area in 1542. San Diego’s original town site (now Old Town San Diego State Park) was developed adjacent to the presidio after 1820. The present downtown, fronting San Diego Bay, was platted by Alonzo R. Horton in 1867 three miles southeast of Old Town’s plaza, nineteen years after Alta California was conquered by the United States. Connected to the national rail grid in 1885, San Diego emerged as a navigational, military, and resort center. One consequence of the railroad boom was the founding of Tijuana, Baja California, in 1889, fourteen miles southeast of downtown San Diego.

At the beginning of the twentieth century, San Diego was home to the proto-modernist architect Irving Gill, whose austere, ingenious buildings provide backdrops for the brilliant sunlight, vegetation, and rugged terrain of the Pacific coast. One hundred years later, innovative young architects in San Diego and Tijuana follow Gill’s do-it-yourself approach, making both cities incubators of exciting trends. Significant works by famed architects (Bertram G. Goodhue in the 1910s, Louis I. Kahn in the 1960s, and Arthur Erickson in the 1980s in San Diego, and Pedro Ramírez Vásquez in Tijuana) enhance the architectural legacy of the sister cities of the Pacific. San Diego (eighth largest city in the US) and Tijuana (fifth largest city in Mexico) today construct architectural culture out of their dissonant contradictions.

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An Arc of Portuguese Architecture

RDA Executive Director Linda Sylvan reflects on the RDA Hometown Tour to Lisbon and Oporto, June 17 – 24, 2013

Thirty-nine RDA members began their weeklong tour of Portugal in Lisbon, the country’s resplendent capital by the Tagus River, and concluded their adventure in Oporto, the country’s second metropolis along another great river – the fertile and aromatic Douro. Portuguese architecture is admired the world over for its poetic rigor and exquisite materiality, and local guides joined Rice School of Architecture professor Carlos Jimenez and architectural historian Stephen Fox for a romantic tour of one of Europe’s most visited destinations.

In Lisbon the group stayed in the Hotel do Chiado, designed by Portugal’s great contemporary architect and Pritzker Prize laureate, Alvaro Siza Vieira (1992). The rooftop bar, with its amazing views of the city, became our gathering place.

The view from the bar at Hotel do Chiado.

Our first evening was packed with activities, beginning with a private reception and visit to the medieval castle of Castelo de São Jorge, located atop the highest hill overlooking the Tagus river. João Luís Carrilho da Graça (RDA’s 1994 lecture series participant), a Lisbon architect who restored the grounds to heighten the castle’s layered history while providing new panoramic views of Lisbon, led us through the archeological site, uncovered in 1998. Dinner followed at 1300 Taberna, located in the LX Factory of the Alcantara district. Alcantara dates back to 1846, and is now occupied by creative companies and industry professionals.

Touring the archeological site at the Castle of St. George.

View of Lisbon from the castle.

Dinner at the hip new restaurant 1300 Taberna.

The next two days were spent exploring Lisbon and environs. The esteemed Lisbon architect-about-town Gonçalo Byrne took us on a meandering walk through the Alfama and Chiado neighborhoods. Sites along the way included Byrne’s remodeled headquarters of the Banco de Portugal (2012). We also saw another recent Byrne project, the Teatro Thália (2008) with Patricia Barbas and Diogo Lopes, which is a radical architectural rescue of the architect Fortunato Lodi’s neoclassical theater (1843). Next the group visited the grounds of Expo ’98, an international exposition. Major Portuguese and international architects designed the individual buildings, including the Pavilion of Portugal by Alvaro Siza and the Pavilion of Knowledge of the Seas by João Luís Carrilho de Graça.

Rossio Square, Lisbon.

Gonçalo Byrne's restoration of a neoclassical theater, Teatro Thália (2008).

The Pavilion of Portugal by Alvaro Siza Vieira at the Expo '98.

Just 18 miles west of Lisbon is the town of Cascais, which faces the rio Rejo estuary near the Atlantic coast. Of medieval origin, it was historically a fishing village, but because of its proximity to the mouth of the Tagus river, Cascais became the site of fortifications to control access from the Atlantic to Lisbon. Now a popular resort town, it boasts two cultural sites that we visited, the Casa das Histórias Museu Paula Rego by Portugal’s second Pritzker Prize laureate, Eduardo Souto de Moura (2011), and the Santa Marta Lighthouse Museum, designed by the brothers Francisco and Manuel Aires Mateus, which entailed the restoration of the lighthouse and several adjacent buildings. They also designed the three tiny buildings on the site to contain museum and visitor spaces. Back in town, tour guest and landscape architect Sarah Lake led a group through the Palacio dos Marqueses de Fronteira at Benfica. Manuel Aires Mateus later entertained us at a private reception at his home in Lisbon.

Casa das Histórias Museu Paula Rego by Eduardo Souto de Moura (2009).

Interior, Museu Paula Rego.

Restored lighthouse at the Farol Museu de Santa Marta by Aires Mateus, Cascais.

Coincidentally, guests dressed in their sailor striped shirts for the lighthouse tour.

The gardens at the Palacio dos Marqueses de Fronteira at Benfica.

On the fourth day of the trip, we bid farewell to Lisbon after a must-stop trip to Pasteis de Belém and a visit to the Mosteiro da Santa Maria da Belém, a landmark of Portuguese architecture in the Manueline Gothic style. Then it was off to Oporto on the train, leaving from the modern, multi-level station Gare do Oriente (1998), designed by the Spanish-born Swiss architect Santiago Calatrava.

A sampling of pastries at the Pastéis de Belém.

The Mosteiro dos Jerónimos (1501-1601) is a landmark of Portuguese architecture.

RDA travelers went by train to Oporto, leaving from Lisbon's Gare do Oriente station.

Oporto is the hometown of Siza and Souto de Moura, and it is a marvelous city of intricate tiled buildings, multiple shades of porto wine, and striking baroque buildings. Among the places we visited were Siza’s birthplace, Matoshinos, and the Siza’s masterful Serralves Foundation Museum, which houses the national museum of modern art of Portugal. The 44-plus-acre site includes an Art Deco pink villa, formal gardens, and beautiful landscapes.

Gallery, the Serralves Foundation Museum, by Alvaro Siza Vieira (1991-1999).

The pink villa of the conde de Vizela is a monument of Portuguese Art Déco architecture that sits on 44 acres of landscaped gardens.

After a tour of the University of Oporto’s architecture school, where Siza designed the complex of his alma mater, the group visited individual works by Souto de Moura, the magnificent baroque church of Los Clerigos, and the Casa da Música designed by Rem Koolhaas/OMA, an inspired addition to an already rich legacy of singular buildings in the city.

The Casa da Música designed by Rem Koolhaas/OMA (1999-2005).

Our tour concluded with a one-day trip to Santiago de Compostela to visit Siza’s masterwork, the Galician Center of Contemporary Art, with a prolonged pause at the city’s incomparable cathedral and pilgrimage site, and the experience of its innumerable granite streets and portals. On our way back to Oporto, we made a last stop at Peter Eisenman’s controversial Ciudad de las Artes.

The city of Santiago de Compostela's famous cathedral and pilgrimage site.

Back in Oporto, we were lucky that our last night coincided with the Festival of São João. After dark, streets were closed to allow celebrations in the many squares throughout the city. Live music, food trucks, fire balloons, and fireworks were abundant. Revelers participated in an interesting tradition with roots in pagan courtship rituals by hitting each other with garlic flowers or soft plastic hammers. It was great fun to “get bonked” in this family-friendly celebration. It was a night to remember after a memorable week in the romantic cities of Lisbon and Oporto.

Thanks to our fantastic tour guides Carlos Jimenez, Stephen Fox, and Lynn Kelly! We also thank our photographers, Jay Allison and Hill Swift.

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RDA Hometown Tour: Detroit 2013

In May, RDA members made a four-day visit to the Motor City to learn about its glorious past, difficult present, and hopeful future. Planned with the help of Joyce and Larry Lander, both from Michigan, and led by architectural historian Stephen Fox, the tour included a full array of architecture and history of Detroit and its suburbs.

The city seemed to be in sync with our visit – tulips, magnolias, in fact most flowering plants and trees seemed to be in their prime to welcome us. On Thursday, we began our adventure with a tour of the Ford Rouge Plant, where we were privileged to see the world’s largest living roof, which is covered in grasses and succulents and provides energy savings for the factory floor underneath. Of course, a trip to the factory would not be complete without a tour of the assembly line itself, where we saw Ford trucks being created. Several in the group wanted to take one home as a souvenir, but alas, they were not completed by the end of our tour.

We then drove to Woodward Avenue to begin our tour of the inner city. Yes, we passed many empty and boarded-up buildings along the route, but found our way to the Fox Theater (C. Howard Crane, 1928), which is definitely still in full activity. The spectacular art deco theater houses one of only a few Wurlitzer theater organs in the world to remain in its original location. As a surprise treat, our guide was the organist and he gave us an impromptu performance to show off some of the features of this amazing machine.

The Detroit Institute of Arts, “DIA,” (Paul Philippe Cret, 1927) houses significant art collections, including murals by the world-famous artist Diego Rivera. Following a brief tour of the DIA, we set off for a walking tour led by Detroit native Mark Coir to include the Detroit Public Library, Charles Lang Freer House (Wilson Eyer, 1887), and Wayne State University. Thursday ended with a delightful dinner in the historic David Whitney House (Gordon W. Lloyd, 1890).

On Friday, Stephen Fox led the group on a walking tour of downtown showcasing the Art Deco Guardian Building (Wirt C. Rowland, 1929) with its stunning Pewabic tiles, and Washington Avenue among other highlights. After a bus tour of Belle Isle, we were treated to a refreshing lunch at the Detroit Yacht Club, then it was on to a visit to the Grosse Point War Memorial and Alger House (Charles A. Plat, 1910), and then on for a comprehensive tour of the Edsel and Eleanor Ford House and Garden (Albert Kahn and Jens Jensen, 1927). This wonderful estate on the shore of lake St. Clair was designed for the young family an remains largely as it was when the family was still in residence there.

Saturday we traveled north on Woodward Avenue for a full day’s adventure at Cranbrook Academy of Art, where the three Wheaton ladies (JoAnne Wheaton, Joyce Wheaton Lander, and Polly JO Wheaton Kemler), all Cranbrook alums, had arranged behind-the-scene tours. Program Presenter Diane VanderBeke Mager led us through the campus with informative commentary on the architecture, art, and history of this bucolic academy. Eliel Saarinen first headed the school and designed many of the buildings that remain today. We toured his family house and the adjacent Millus House, both by Saarinen, and the Natatorium (Tod Williams and Billie Tsien, 1999), the Cranbrook Art Museum (Eliel Saarinen and Albert Kahn, 1926) and the Kingswood Campus. Our last stop of the day was the Smith House (Frank Lloyd Wright, 1946).

Our last morning in Detroit included a tour of Lafayette Park (Mies van der Rohe, 1946), one of the largest residential projects of van der Rohe. In four days, we of course didn’t see it all, but we had visited a wonderful assortment of architecture – from classical to modern, intimate to grand, and institutional to private. The Detroit we found was a place of a proud past and a struggling present, but we left with a sense of hope for what might be ahead. The tour dates were May 2 – 5, 2013.

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From Lisbon to Oporto: An Arc of Portuguese Architecture

$3,750 pp dbl; $4,350 single occupancy

June 17 – 24, 2013, RDA members will embark on a seven-day visit to Portugal. The tour begins in Lisbon, Portugal’s resplendent capital by the Taugus River, and concludes in Oporto, the country’s second metropolis along another great river: the fertile and aromatic Douro. Portugal and Spain recovered their democracies almost simultaneously after enduring long and hard dictatorships. Since then the country’s architecture has flourished under the benefits and perils brought on by this newfound freedom as well as by joining the European Union. The result is an architecture admired the world over for its poetic rigor and exquisite materiality.

The tour will include visits to key works by the country’s two Pritzker Prize laureates, Alvaro Siza (1992) and Eduardo Souto de Moura (2011), as well as works by other notable Portuguese architects such as Joao Carrilho da Graca (RDA’s 1994 lecture series participant), Aires Mateus, and Gonzalo Byrne. Highlights during our stay in Lisbon will cover such remarkable works as the Portuguese Expo Pavilion and the Chiado reconstructions by Siza; the astonishing Jeronimos Monastery in Belem; a visit to the mythical castle of San Jorge with Carrilho da Graca who restored the grounds to heighten the castle’s layered history while providing new panoramic views of Lisbon; and a meandering walk through the Alfama and Chiado neighborhoods accompanied by the esteemed Lisbon architect about town Gonzalo Byrne.

We will travel northward by train to Oporto, Siza and Souto de Moura’s hometown, marvelous city of intricate tiled buildings, multiple shades of porto wine, and striking baroque buildings. Among the buildings that we will visit are Siza’s masterful Serralves Foundation Museum, the Boa Nova Tea House, the architect’s first major work in Matosinhos, individual works by Souto de Moura, the magnificent baroque church of Los Clerigos, and the Casa da Musica designed by Rem Koolhaas/OMA, an inspired addition to an already rich legacy of singular buildings in the city. Our tour concludes with a one day trip to Santiago de Compostela to visit Siza’s masterwork: the Galician Center of Contemporary Art with a prolonged pause at the city’s incomparable cathedral and the experience of its innumerable granite streets and portals.

Rice Architecture professor Carlos Jimenez, along with local architects and personalities will serve as guides.

To secure your reservation, please complete and return the reservation form and the terms and conditions document with your deposit.

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San Antonio Hometown Tour: A Travel Journal

Long-time RDA member, architect, and San Antonio tour-goer Larry Lander documents his time in San Antonio for RDA’s spring hometown tour March 8 through March 11, 2012.

Thursday, March 8

It’s about two hundred miles from the Rice campus parking lot to San Antonio which is a long time for anyone to sit on a bus – even a really nice one like this, so we took a coffee break in downtown Schulenburg, halfway along our route. If you get off I-10 and can get past the Dairy Queen, the Sonic and the gas stations, you should wind your way to Schulenburg’s Main Street. It’s a page out of small town Texana history and marked by the iconic Sengelmann Dance Hall.

Sengelmann Dance Hall

But they weren’t quite ready for our group. It seems our contact at the kolache shop had quit her job a few days before and, in a fit of HR pique, somehow neglected to share the details of our arrival with the colleagues-she-left-behind. So when thirty or so of your closest friends show up with a timetable and a hankering for kolaches and hot coffee – well, it might not end so well.

Before you could say, “Uh-oh, we’re off on the wrong foot,” they rallied. We saw the old time bar and high-ceilinged restaurant downstairs, the delightful upstairs dance hall – “yes, don’t it make you want to dance!” – and Stern & Bucek’s clever renovation, but when we came downstairs, small town can-do had caused hot coffee and fresh kolaches to appear seemingly out of nowhere! Mmm-good. Disaster averted and on to San Antonio de Béxar!

La Gloria
Now it’s lunchtime and this feels good! Platters of your favorite Mexican food – OK, you have to admit it was prepared with maybe a bit more panache than Ninfa’s – along with an ice-cold long neck or two – mid-day on a Thursday, no less! Let’s call it Mexican tapas in a delightful spot along the river north of downtown. (I didn’t know the Riverwalk went way out here! How close is the wax museum and the Texas history IMAX?)

La Gloria

And we met some new participants who filled out our group: “We drove down after a few days in Austin,” “We’re in from our hacienda on Canyon Lake,” “We’re leaving for the ranch after this.” Satiated now, it’s time to get down to business!

River North and the Pearl Brewery

Stephen Fox’s outstanding San Antonio background material was augmented here by Irby Hightower – the first of a host of fabulous San Antonio experts we would meet – and Irby gave us an overview of the Master Plan that guides development of the San Antonio River. It’s no longer just the loop we all know so well downtown. (By the way, this is all new to me – when were we last in San Antonio?).

The river has always been here, but the channel has been restored, the banks are landscaped, and a string of the city’s historical and cultural landmarks now stretch both north and south from that part of San Antonio that every tourist knows. The water taxi connects you downtown and to the nearby Museum Reach and here the Pearl Brewery complex has been transformed into a delightful mixed-use development linking the historic brewery buildings with new infill and an eclectic mix of shopping and dining – La Gloria (re long necks above) is part of this. RVK’s Culinary Institute of America building provides a focus for the development and other San Antonio architects are well represented too: Ford, Powell & Carson and Lake|Flato among them. Time to walk off our lunch before we move downtown.

San Antonio Central Library

San Antonio Public Library

Stephen and David Sprinkle gave us a guided tour of Ricardo Legorreta’s public library – what San Antonians affectionately refer to as the Red Enchilada. David’s firm, Sprinkle Robey Architects, worked with Legoretta on the design of this landmark building on the north side of downtown and it’s location in the peculiar-angled street pattern of old San Antonio makes even a walk around the building a memorable experience.

The interior is even more dynamic: interlocking volumes house the library functions and are arranged vertically around the center atrium. Bold use of color, outdoor connections, control of the Texas sun, and a monumental Chihuly centerpiece all work together to create a fantastic public space.

The St. Anthony

Facing Travis Park a few blocks from the river, this would be our home away from home for the weekend. We checked in, stashed our bags, put our feet up for just the briefest of a moment and then: Off to dinner (but first, a stop at somebody’s house)!

The St. Anthony

Mrs. Steves

Wow. Stephen did his best to prepare us, but the understated front door (and the circuitous route the bus took because of that pesky water main break in Terrell Hills) did not really give us a hint of what awaited us. Chris Carson (of Ford, Powell & Carson) and Patsy Steves herself greeted us at the front door, and then we were off to explore what truly must be one of the grandest modern houses in Texas.

Mr. and Mrs. Marshall Steves worked with Chris Carson and O’Neill Ford to create this stunning house, which is at the same time both modern and completely evocative of Old Mexico. The spaces are both grand and intimate, and the art and artifacts speak to a lifetime of travels to Taxco or San Miguel or Guanajuato. A margarita in hand, and you’re a part of San Antonio high society. (Probably no real need to see anything else – I think I can just stay here for the weekend.)

Club Giraud and the Ursuline Academy

We strolled through the Academy grounds in the shadow of the library earlier in the afternoon before returning for dinner at Club Giraud. This historic complex dates back to the 1850s and has new life as the Southwest Craft Center

Club Giraud

Our dinner entertainment included Rick Casey – late of our own Houston Chronicle – and Maria Watson Pfeiffer, the city’s most renowned historic preservation expert. Over a fabulous dinner we were treated to an entertaining narrative on preservation, San Antonio style: The Power of Little Old Ladies in Tennis Shoes!

Friday, March 9
On A Mission

It’s cloudy with rain likely but that’s not enough to change our plans. This morning we’re off to the south to start our mission day at San Francisco de la Espada and the Espada Aqueduct. With the rural setting of San Francisco, it’s easy to imagine yourself back several centuries, no longer in the center of one of the biggest cities in the United States.

Our stop at San José y San Miguel de Aguayo brought the rain but a beautiful backdrop for this most intact of the San Antonio missions. While the restoration is a twentieth-century phenomenon, the feeling of this special place is no less compelling.

Our last stop was the church at Mission Nuestra Señora de la Purísima Concepción de Acuña. Here, the church is the most original of all the missions and its richly-hued interior is a counterpoint to the wet and gray outside.

Willow Way
Wanda and O’Neil Ford made this their quirky and very unique home along the San Antonio River in 1940, and all the eccentricity and spontaneity of their family’s lives are certainly still visible here today. This evocative setting melded both their personal and professional lives, housing the extended family, Ford’s brother, Lynn’s, workshop and Ford’s architectural studio.

Willow Way

Tile Table at Willow Way

Liberty Bar lunch
OK, now it’s really raining. (I was certain that it’s dry and hot here all the time!) But not to worry: A fantastic meal at a warm and friendly communal table and even time for the obligatory group photo made this a memorable lunch.

Linda Pace Foundation

This counterpoint to the eighteenth century was the unique complex of the Linda Pace Foundation, including the gallery of world-class modern art, the loft apartments, and the quiet but powerful CHRISpark across the street. Architect Jim Poteet added his own take to Stephen Fox’s perspective and once we figured out the load capacity of the freight elevator…

King William
The clouds parted – well, not really, but the rain did stop for awhile – and historian Lewis Fisher joined our group for truly an insider’s walking tour of the historic King William District ending at River Place, a magnificent house restored as a private residence for a San Antonio philanthropist helping to preserve a significant part of the King William urban fabric. The special tour of this private home highlighted both a painstaking restoration and an incredible collection of art.

King William

The Maxwell House gave a uniquely local angle on preservation and the contributions of Judith and Isaac Maxwell with their beautiful punched-metal designs that are such a surprisingly pervasive detail of San Antonio.

The Palazzo

Gwynn Griffith’s fantastically personal conception of a Venetian palazzo provided the backdrop for our last stop of a darkening afternoon. Her complete makeover of an old brick warehouse created a spectacular setting for sip of champagne accompanied by a visual feast.

The Bar

Our last stop at the restored Esquire Tavern introduced us to Chris Hill through his renovation of the oldest establishment on the Riverwalk and the longest bar in Texas. We knew how to enjoy this!

Saturday, March 10

Campus of Trinity University

Our old RDA friend, art history professor Kathryn O’Rourke, led us around raindrops through the lush green campus of Trinity University. From its simple early buildings to more elaborate contemporary buildings – and sometimes in spite of the impact of recent additions – the campus is truly a beautiful testament to the genius of O’Neil Ford.

Light and Bright

Two modern houses closed our morning: the Walter and Patsy Light House in Alamo Heights, highlighted by a glass pavilion for living with art, and the modest but noteworthy modern house Milton Ryan designed for Rena and E.H. DuBose.

Flowers with Giles and Ambasz

The Bistro at the San Antonio Botanical Garden served as our lunch spot and it is housed in an 1896 stable that was relocated from downtown and repurposed by Irby Hightower. Before we left, we dodged raindrops to see Emilio Ambasz’ Lucile Halsell Conservatory with its superb structural expressionism.

Collections, the New and the View

Susan Toomey Frost’s exquisite stone cottage and her incredible collections culminated in her scholarly work on the San Antonio clay tile industry. Her house was a counterpoint to the grand suburban house we later toured, designed by Michael Imber, that illustrated influences from across the architectural spectrum with attention to craft and detail. Our afternoon ended with cocktails hosted at the Olmos Tower apartment of Margaret and Bill Kanyusik. Their art collection and hospitality were paired with a misty view of San Antonio and the Trinity University campus below where we started our day.

Sunday, March 11

The rain stopped and the sun came out! Suddenly, it was the most beautiful Texas spring day there ever was!

The Leon Springs House

A brilliantly clear Sunday morning at this Lake Flato house for two doctors takes full advantage of Hill Country views and native landscape. Let’s stay here all day and just enjoy this pool along with the Sunday paper.

The Leon Springs House designed by Lake Flato

A Pipe Springs Jacal

Rick and Kristin Casey’s weekend place is really just a simple screened-in porch on a spectacular bend in this creek in the Texas Hill Country. I know they’ve added some things along the way for sleeping, kids, guests, bathrooms, entertaining, and air conditioning, but the beautifully simple heart remains. OK, I’m actually just going to stay here this afternoon. And I don’t need a paper – Rick can just fill me in while I enjoy this hammock…

A Helotes Ranch

Take a historical nineteenth century ranch headquarters and add a dash of 1920s dude ranch with the vision of a twenty-first century developer and drop it down on a spectacularly quintessential Hill Country site, and this is something like what you might get. Oh, did I mention topping it off with red-checked tablecloths under century-old live oaks, a barbeque lunch with now old friends and a Bloody Mary or two to take any edge off? Now I really want to go herd some cattle with the vaqueros or dress for dinner with the Viceroy and his beautiful daughter. Do we really have to go back to H-Town?

Helotes Ranch

A Postscript

San Antonio Tourgoers

Well, we did go back but in best RDA Hometown Tour tradition, we never saw the Riverwalk, El Mercado, or even the venerable Alamo. Fantastico!

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2012 City Study Tour: Brazil

BRAZIL: The Escola Carioca: Modern Architecture in Rio de Janeiro and Brasilia, June 12 – 19, 2012
Price to be announced soon.

Modern Architecture in Brazil made a first timid appearance in the city of São Paulo, yet it was in the city of Rio de Janeiro that a particular, and internationally recognized, brand of architecture was forged. The brand consisted of a Brazilian twist on modern architecture, which had been theorized by such architects as Lucio Costa, and prolifically practiced by Oscar Niemeyer, Affonso Reidy, and the Roberto Brothers. Unlike its counterparts in Europe and North America, early 20th-century architecture in Brazil sought no rupture with tradition even if it paradoxically resisted four centuries of colonial influence. This subsequently required the construction of an identity that was able to connect the virtues of Brazil’s perceived primitivism with the promise of a technically advanced future. The state was finally convinced to construct an image for the nation that would heavily rely on modern architecture, beginning with the 1936 projects for a Federal University (unbuilt) and the Ministry of Education Building (built), both having had Le Corbusier act as a consultant. At the apex of this architectural movement is, of course, Brasilia designed by Lucio Costa within the very architectural culture of Rio de Janeiro to the sound of Bossa Nova music.

Rice University Professor Farès el-Dahdah, who grew up in Brasilia, and architecture historian Stephen Fox will be our guides. Price to be announced shortly.

If you are interested in receiving additional information when it becomes available, please contact Lynn Kelly, lynnkellyrda@gmail.com.

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2012 Tours to the Heart of Texas and Brazil

RDA is pleased to announce its 2012 Hometown tour destinations:

BRAZIL: The Escola Carioca: Modern Architecture in Rio de Janeiro and Brasilia, June 12 – 19, 2012.
$3,999 pp dbl; $625 single supplement

Modern Architecture in Brazil made a first timid appearance in the city of São Paulo, yet it was in the city of Rio de Janeiro that a particular, and internationally recognized, brand of architecture was forged. The brand consisted of a Brazilian twist on modern architecture, which had been theorized by such architects as Lucio Costa, and prolifically practiced by Oscar Niemeyer, Affonso Reidy, and the Roberto Brothers. Unlike its counterparts in Europe and North America, early 20th-century architecture in Brazil sought no rupture with tradition even if it paradoxically resisted four centuries of colonial influence. This subsequently required the construction of an identity that was able to connect the virtues of Brazil’s perceived primitivism with the promise of a technically advanced future. The state was finally convinced to construct an image for the nation that would heavily rely on modern architecture, beginning with the 1936 projects for a Federal University (unbuilt) and the Ministry of Education Building (built), both having had Le Corbusier act as a consultant. At the apex of this architectural movement is, of course, Brasilia designed by Lucio Costa within the very architectural culture of Rio de Janeiro to the sound of Bossa Nova music.

Rice University Professor Farès el-Dahdah, who grew up in Brasilia, and architecture historian Stephen Fox will be our guides.

Registration is open for Brazil and a completed reservation card, a signed responsibility statement, and the full trip fare is required to confirm your reservation.

For more information, please contact Lynn Kelly, lynnkellyrda@gmail.com.

SAN ANTONIO — March 8-11, 2012
$1,275 pp dbl; $200 single supplement; $1,020 tour only (without hotel)

San Antonio, founded in 1731 adjacent to the Mission of San Antonio de Valero, is the oldest city in Texas. It is also the most magical. The enchantment of San Antonio is embedded in its architecture. The Rice Design Alliance will experience the architecture and history of San Antonio as we visit some of the most remarkable buildings, sites, and neighborhoods that give the city its exceptional character.

Our visit will include a walking tour of downtown San Antonio and historical sites such as the River Walk. We will visit eighteenth-century Franciscan missions that preserve the Spanish frontier culture of San Antonio. We will tour the King William neighborhood, the most intact elite Victorian neighborhood in Texas. And we will have opportunities to visit special works by San Antonio’s greatest architects, both historic and contemporary.

Architectural historian Stephen Fox along with local architects and designers will be your tour guides. The Rice Design Alliance will conclude with a survey of historic and modern ranch architecture on the outskirts of San Antonio. Registration is open for San Antonio and a completed reservation card, a signed responsibility statement, and a deposit are required to confirm your reservation.

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To Helsinki and Back

RDA Executive Director Linda Sylvan documents her time in Helsinki with fellow tourgoers during RDA’s City Study Tour.

Helsinki Cathedral, Senate Square

Thirty-five RDA members arrived in Helsinki in time for a heat-wave that brought bright blue skies and highs in the mid 80s. Perfect weather for us Houstonians whose friends and families back home were sweltering in temperatures reaching 100 degrees! The group was led by architect Carlos Jimenez, whose Finnish friend and fellow Pritzker Prize juror Juhani Pallasmaa assisted in the planning of the trip, architectural historian Stephen Fox, and intrepid RDA tour director Lynn Kelly.

A welcome dinner was held at the famous Savoy Restaurant, whose interiors were designed by Alvar Aalto. Juhani Pallasmaa gave a brief preview of the walking tour of Helsinki Centre that he would lead the following day. Sights included work by C.L. Engel, Senate Square and University Library; Lars Sonk, Jugend Hall and the Stock Exchange and Telephone Company; Alvar Aalto, Iron House and Academic Book Store; Eliel Saarinen’s Railway Station; and Steven Holl’s Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art. Late afternoon was spent shopping at stores along Esplanade Park – from Artek to Littala, from Marimekko to Aarikka.

Kiasma Contemporary Art Museum

The following day we visited additional sights in Helsinki, including the National Museum, the Rock Church, and Aalto’s Finlandia Hall and National Pensions Institute. Then we left Helsinki and drove to Turku, the 2011 Cultural Capital of the World. We stopped along the way for lunch at the Hvittrask Museum, the former compound designed by Gesellius, Lindgren, and Saarinen as a summer retreat for the architects and their families. Other sights included Erik Bryggman’s Resurrection Chapel and Pekka Pitkanen’s Chapel of the Holy Cross.

Resurrection Chapel

In Turku we visited the Turku Castle, Turku Cathedral, and the Sibelius Museum. That night several people chose to eat dinner on one of the many boats docked along the river Aru.

Turku Castle

River boat restaurant, Turku

The next day we left Turku and traveled to Old Rauma Town, a World Heritage Site and then on to Pori for lunch and a visit to the Pori Art Museum (renovation and extension by Kristian Gullichsen). The highlight of the day was a visit to the Villa Mairea, the summer house that Alvar Aalto designed for Maire and Harry Gullichsen and their children in 1937-39, which ranks as one of the greatest houses of the 20th century. Juhani Pallasmaa arranged for us to have complete access to the house, which is furnished with the possessions with which Maire and Harry Gullichsen lived.

Villa Mairea

On our way back to Helsinki, we toured the Tampere Cathedral by Lars Sonck and Kaleva Church and Municipal Library by Reima Pietila as well as the Hattula Medieval Church, the finest medieval church in Finland. We arrived in Helsinki and went straight to the harbour to catch a ferry to the Boathouse Restaurant for lunch on one of the many islands off the coast.

We ended our tour as we had begun, with an homage to Alvar Aalto. After touring Aalto University we ended at the Aalto House and Studio for a private tour and festive dinner.

Alvar Aalto Studio

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RDA Visits Dallas

RDA Executive Director Linda Sylvan documents her time in Dallas with fellow tourgoers during RDA’s Hometown Tour.

RDA’s Dallas Tour Group

When the organizers of the Dallas Art Fair approached RDA Tour Director Lynn Kelly and me last year to discuss an RDA tour of Dallas in April 2011, we couldn’t refuse their invitation. The Art Fair staff promised a weekend full of art and architecture, and they came through, giving the group of thirty-three entry into houses designed by Philp Johnson, Richard Meier, Tod Williams and Billie Tsien, Antoine Predock, O’Neil Ford, and Dan Shipley, among others. The Mansion at Turtle Creek was our home away from home during our stay April 7-10, 2011.

What does one do first when arriving in Dallas? Go to Neiman Marcus, of course! Architect Mark Dilworth, the recently retired managing partner of Omniplan, the architecture firm responsible for NorthPark Center, joined the group for lunch at the Neiman Marcus Café. Before giving us a tour of the center and the public art installed throughout, Dilworth, a Rice School of Architecture grad, spoke about the history of the design of the center (1965, Harrell & Hamilton, with Eero Saarinen & Associates designing the Neiman Marcus store) and talked about its owner and patron, Raymond Nasher, and his daughter and son-in-law, Nancy Nasher and David Haemisseger, who continue to manage the retail center, which includes curating its amazing collection of contemporary art and its no-less beautiful plantings. According to architectural historian Stephen Fox, NorthPark Center is known for its dignity and refinement and “feels more like an art museum or public place than a shopping mall.” For Houstonians it was a breath of fresh air compared to the noisy and crowded Galleria.

Nasher Sculpture Center's orange balloon installation

From Neiman’s the group dashed over to the nearby Temple Emanu El (1956, Howard R. Meyer and Max Sandfield with William W. Wurster), Dallas’s oldest Jewish congregation. Congregation member Kathy Aferiat led us on a tour that included the breath-taking prayer hall, with its still intact installations by artists Gyorgy Kepes and Anni Albers.

Next the group toured two projects designed by Philip Johnson. The H.C. Beck, Jr. House (1964) displayed what Johnson called his New Formalism. The house is monumental in scale and outrageous in detail. The expansive grounds feature large sculptures, and the house contained an amazing art collection, including works by John Chamberlain, Ed Ruscha, and Olafur Eliasson. The house has been meticulously restored by Dallas architects Bodron + Fruit and Boston landscape architects Reed-Hilderbrand installed a calming pastoral landscape.

The second Johnson project was the Interfaith Peace Chapel of the Cathedral of Hope (2010, Philip Johnson-Alan Ritchie and Cunningham Architects), which describes itself as the world’s largest Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgendered congregation. Dallas architect Gary Cunningham met us at the site and explained that after Johnson’s death his firm was hired to oversee the construction according to Johnson’s design, an example of “blob” style architecture with which Johnson experimented during his last years in practice. Still to be built is the “cathedral” that Johnson designed in 1995.

Interfaith Peace Chapel of the Cathedral of Hope by Philip Johnson

Tired from all that touring, we concluded our first day at the courtyard-centered town house of Ed Baum, professor of architecture and former dean at the University of Texas at Arlington, for wine and spring rolls. His compact house in the Oak Lawn sector, just north of downtown Dallas, is a marvel of spatial compression and clarity.

Day two in Dallas began with a driving tour of Highland Park, Dallas’ most elite residential neighborhood. Our first stop was a visit to Turtle Creek House by Antoine Predock, designed for Deedie Rose and her husband Rusty. Deedie Rose is the driving force behind the Dallas design boom. According to Stephen Fox, she is to visionary architectural patronage in Dallas what Dominique and John de Menil and Gerald D. Hines once were in Houston. Rose’s daughter, famed New York fashion designer Lela Rose, says that she is inspired by art; the magnificent but very personal art collection inside the house surely influenced their talented daughter. Deedie Rose invited us to roam through the house and grounds, which included the ex-municipal waterworks plant next door that Gary Cunnigham turned into guest quarters and exhibition and meeting space for the Roses.

Turtle Creek House

Another Highland Park house, this time designed by Merrill, Pastor & Colgan of Vero Beach, Florida, and Atlanta, was next. In contrast to Turtle Creek House, this serene house paid homage to the early twentieth-century country houses of the English architect E. L. Lutyens, whose designs inspired the homeowners.

After a full morning of touring, we went for lunch to the hot downtown restaurant Stephen Pyles. Dallas also can be a small town as we found out when PaperCity’s Catherine Anspon dropped by along with Houston artists McKay Otto and Selven Jarmon to greet fellow Houstonians.

Following lunch the group visited a mid-century Texas modern house designed for a Texas Instruments executive and his family that is one of the best-known works of San Antonio architect O’Neil Ford. It is a case study of Ford’s distinctive regional modern architecture. Set in a ravine bordering a creek in the Preston Hollow section of north Dallas, the house makes a compelling setting for the current owners’ art collection.

Diane Cheatham of Urban Edge Developers met the group and accompanied us to her newest community project, Urban Reserve, located on a 12-acre site along White Rock Creek. This is an ecologically designed subdivision of modest houses by Dallas architects Max Levy, Robert Meckfessel, Dan Shipley, and others outside of Dallas. The group toured the house designed by Tod Williams and Billie Tsien of New York, which will be Diane Cheatham’s home once completed.

The day ended with a stop at the third annual Dallas Art Fair. The Art Fair showcased more than 70 galleries this year, representing artists working in all kinds of media, and was held at the Fashion Industry Gallery, a mid-century modern building in the heart of downtown Dallas. Afterwards RDA members joined a VIP group for an exhibition opening at the Nasher Sculpture Center (2003, Renzo Piano Building Workshop and Beck with Interloop A/D).

On the morning of our third day, we went to the south Dallas neighborhood of Oak Cliff, passing by the bridge over the Trinity River designed by Santiago Calatrava on which construction has begun. Fox commented that it looks like an exuberant rendition of a McDonald’s golden arch. Dallas architect Dan Shipley met us at the house he designed for ceramic artist Marla Ziegler. One of the crowd’s favorites, the house was designed to display Ms. Ziegler’s art collection as well as respond imaginatively to its sloping site.

Ziegler House

As much as the crowd could imagine easily living in the Ziegler House, the next house on the tour, designed by New York architect Richard Meier, is home to an art collection rather than a family. Howard Rachofsky and his wife Cindy, who made a brief appearance during our visit, now use the house for an ever-changing exhibition of his contemporary art collection. The house, collections, and grounds were over the top.

Rachofsky House

After lunch Fox led a walking tour of the Dallas Arts District, which includes the Wyly Theater (2009, OMA/Koolhaas, REX, and Kendall/Heaton Assoc.), the Winspear Opera House (2009, Foster + Partners and Kendall/Heaton Associates), and the Booker T. Washington School for the Arts (2008, Allied Works). Tom Cox then gave us a detailed guided tour of the Meyerson Symphony Center (1989, Pei Cobb Freed). As Dallasites never tire of mentioning (especially to Houstonians) the Dallas Arts District boasts four buildings designed by Pritzker Prize laureates. Our afternoon of touring concluded with an architectural bus tour of downtown Dallas, dipping south into the Cedars, a historic working class neighborhood where Dan Shipley has just moved his studio.

Meyerson Symphony Center

That evening RDA members were invited by our Art Fair hosts for cocktails at the Goss-Michael Foundation, which promotes contemporary British art in the U.S. That night featured a premiere exhibition and personal appearance by artist Jim Lambie and amazing people watching.

Sunday was sports day and began with a morning tour of the public art collection at the new 80,000-seat Dallas Cowboys Stadium (2009, HKS Sports and Entertainment Group) in Arlington. It is the largest domed stadium in the world; it has the largest column-free interiors in the world; and it has the world’s largest retractable roof.

Our guide explained that when conceiving Cowboys Stadium, team owner Jerry Jones and his wife Gene wanted to create a place that would appeal not only to fans of sports and entertainment but also to those of architecture, art, design, engineering, and technology. The collection consists of nineteen commissioned and original works of art by established and emerging contemporary artists. An advisory council of cultural leaders from the North Texas area was formed to assist with the selection of artists. Seeing art on such a large scale in a sports stadium was an amazing experience and a testament to a culture of appreciation for art and architecture that Dallas has generated.

Dallas Cowboys Stadium

On the way out of town, the group stopped at the mid-century, Spanish-style Belmont Hotel for brunch and its views to the downtown Dallas skyline. We were awed by the amazing collection art and architecture we visited in Dallas, and the generous hospitality of our neighbors to the north.

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RDA Announces 2011 Hometown Tours

AT&T Performing Arts Center, Dallas, Texas

The Rice Design Alliance is pleased to announce its 2011 Hometown tour destinations:

Dallas Architecture and Art Fair – April 7-10, 2011
$1275 pp dbl; $330 single supplement; $975 tour only (no hotel)

Please join us for a beautiful spring weekend of architecture and art as RDA teams up with the Dallas Art Fair. The Mansion on Turtle Creek will be our home base as we tour Dallas’s amazing arts district that includes buildings by starchitects Foster + Partners, REX/OMA, Joshua Prince-Ramus and Rem Koolhaas; I. M. Pei & Partners, and Renzo Piano; art collectors’ home tours and receptions; homes by O’Neil Ford, Edward Durell Stone, and Dan Shipley, among others; and a visit to the new Cowboys Football Stadium, which contains an amazing collection of public art. Architectural historian Stephen Fox along with local architects and museum curators will be your tour guides. A visit to the Dallas Art Fair will be included where over 60 prominent national and international art dealers and galleries will be exhibiting paintings, sculpture, drawings, prints, and photographs by modern and contemporary artists.

Registration is open for Dallas and a completed reservation card, a signed responsibility statement, and a deposit are required to confirm your reservation.

Finlandia Hall, 1971, Alvar Aalto, architect.

Helsinki, Finland – World Design Capital for 2012 – June 7-14, 2011
$3,550 pp dbl; $700 single supplement.

Helsinki was founded in 1550, and the “Daughter of the Baltic” has been the Finnish capital since 1812 when the tsars of Russia rebuilt it along the lines of a miniature St. Petersburg. Today, Helsinki pulls off the trick of being something of an international metropolis while still retaining a small-town feel.

The city’s architecture is typified by Nordic minimalism and refinement through the works of Alvar Aalto. Modernism, functionalism, and the largest concentration of Art Nouveau buildings in Northern Europe make Helsinki a major city of architecture. The city centre, especially around Senate Square, forms a unique and cohesive example of Neoclassical architecture. Uspenski Cathedral, the largest Orthodox church in Western Europe, represents Helsinki’s Byzantine-Russian architectural heritage. The Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma by American architect Steven Holl and the Sanomatalo building in the city center and the High Tech Center in the Ruoholahti district represent the latest architectural trends. We will also visit works by Finnish contemporary luminaries such as Kristian Gullichsen, Juha Leiviska, and Heikkinen and Komonen, as well as key works by renowned masters Eliel Saairnen, Lars Sonck, Erik Bryggman and Raili and Reima Pietila. We will also travel to Turku, the European Cultural Capital for 2011 (http://travel.nytimes.com/2010/10/10/travel/10Turku.html?hpw); the medieval town of Rauma, a Unesco world-heritage site; Pori; and Tampere. A visit to Villa Mairea, Aalto’s masterpiece, is another one of the trip’s many highlights. Rice professor of architecture Carlos Jimenez and architectural historian Stephen Fox will lead the tour.

Registration is open for Helsinki and a completed reservation card, a signed responsibility statement, and a deposit are required to confirm your reservation.

Space on both trips is limited and reserved on a first-come, first-served basis. If you have questions about either trip, please email RDA Tour Director Lynn Kelly at lynn_kelly_tx@yahoo.com for more information.

RDA introduced its Hometown Tour program with a visit to Savannah in 2000. Subsequent tours have taken RDA members coast-to-coast and around the world. Domestic destinations have included Pittsburgh, Los Angeles, the Texas-Tamaulipas Border, Chicago, Miami, Boston, Seattle, Phoenix, Charleston, San Francisco, Marfa, and New York City; international destinations have included Mexico City, Paris, Buenos Aires, Berlin, Madrid, and Barcelona.

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