Fate of the Houston skyline : stategies adopted for rehabilitating mid-century modern high-rises



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A recent report by Terrapin Bright Green “Mid-century (Un) Modern” discusses the desperate condition of mid-century modern high-rises in Manhattan. The article argues that it would be beneficial both economically and environmentally to demolish these buildings and build new ones with an assumed increase in FAR. To re-build, repair or re-skin are the questions Mid-century Modern High-rises (MMH) face today. This study focuses on Houston, Texas, which is very different from New York City both climatically and from a planning stand point. It is dreaded for its hot and humid climate and notorious for its consistent refusal to adopt any zoning. These high-rises in Houston represent the economic success of the city immediately after WWII. These buildings were constructed as the city transformed from the Bayou City to the Space city. In this study I have mapped the status of these high-rises and the strategies that were used to renovate them. The questions I further wish to address are how preservation or energy efficiency are addressed while renovating these buildings. Even preservationists might agree that all buildings are not equal and a new look would benefit some. The real challenge lies in resolving the grey areas, where one is not talking about a Seagram or a Lever House, but a well designed environmentally sensitive building.