civic complex; Houston, TX

The Cast of Civic Characters is a civic complex for Houston that couples municipal service counters with other public amenities including an auditorium, dining hall, outreach center, gym, and pool. Each program is housed in a separate small building that takes on the likeness of an animate creature. The aggregate "herd" is co-sited on a single city block.

The project posits that creature-buildings intensify architecture's communicative and storytelling potential; by soliciting a fictional vitality, they mythologize architecture's agency and enable public institutions to craft narratives about their identities. Each Character's form is generated from an extruded profile that is broken along a central seam, hinged, and partially rotated according to a shallow angle. This technique conjures an image-able, dynamic figure that is graphic and immediate, but also temporal and modulating from multiple vantage points. The simple act of slightly rotating the elevation condenses both pictorial and sculptural perception into a single architectural form.

While their physical and behavioral quirks may be funny, the Characters are seriously invested in the cock-eyed but calculated politics of making government in the post-public city lovable once again. Characters invite their users to suspend their disbelief and immerse themselves in the imaginative notion of civicness. By assuming the likeness and behavior of something outside the domain of architecture, namely animate creatures, Characters invite people to project narratives upon buildings. Above all else, by appealing to the human proclivity for telling and listening to stories, Characters summon architecture to participate in and shape people's pleasures, rendering the world a more wondrous place.