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Hey, look, it’s another Astrodome proposal

Meet A-Dome Park.

A Houston architect is touting a new idea for the Astrodome’s overhaul, urging the county to avoid an indoor park concept and instead strip the structure down to its bones.

The concept, dubbed “A-Dome Park,” is being advanced by James Richards and Ben Olschner, architects who previously worked at Herzog & de Meuron, the firm behind London’s Tate Modern and the Olympics stadium in Beijing.

As Richards sees it, Harris County’s current plans for the stadium — essentially, an indoor park and events space — aren’t particularly unique, especially given the proliferation of world-class parks in Houston and abundant event space that already exists at the NRG Center complex.


Richards, who moved to Houston in 2014, isn’t a fan of the current concept, with its emphasis on indoor activity, and he thinks the 2013 vote is a testament to the fact that Harris County residents aren’t either.

He believes that despite the region’s brutal summer heat, few Houstonians will want to spend their free time within an indoor park — especially given the relatively mild weather Houston enjoys the rest of the year — and he’s skeptical that the plans for vast amounts of plant life inside the facility are realistic. He also doesn’t think restaurants and others vendors on the first floor of the Dome (part of the ULI proposal) will actually be financially viable, based on the number of people who will visit the indoor park on a regular basis.

So instead, Richards and his partners on the “A-Dome park” proposal are envisioning something totally different. The idea isn’t to just preserve the Astrodome but to highlight — and even expose — the architectural elements that made it world famous.

Richards wants to strip the structure down to its steel bones. The idea is to remove the non-structural surfaces of both the Astrodome exterior and interior, leaving only the dramatic steel frame, which would be painted to prevent decay. The plan, Richards argues, highlights the innovative engineering that went into the dome structure itself while also creating a space that offers a completely unique experience.

The A-Dome Park website is here, and you can see plenty of pictures of the proposal at the Urban Edge post. If some of this sounds familiar, it’s because it is similar in nature to Ryan Slattery’s strip-the-Dome-to-its-skeleton idea from 2013. The first comment on the Urban Edge post deals with that, so good look and see what you think. I’m not enough of a design nerd to comment on the merits of one versus the other or the current Harris County plan. I will just say again, generating ideas for the Dome is easy enough – I’ve long since lost count of the plans and proposals that have been floated, and every time anyone writes about the Dome more people will chime in with “what about this…” suggestions. The hard part is finding one proposal that can get enough support to be politically and financially viable, since the stumbling block all along has been how to pay for it. Maybe this is it, maybe the county’s plan is it, maybe it’s something else, who knows? I’m sure Judge Emmett would like to have whatever it is in motion by the time he steps down. Swamplot has more.

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  1. voter_worker says:

    Why are live oaks the default choice? In addition to being a grackle magnet which would create a thriving colony, the dense canopy depicted would counterintuitively obscure views of the structure and create a gloomy, dark place where few other plants could exist. The designers should rethink this portion of their plan and perhaps get some landscape architects involved. As for the structure, the skeleton concept is very appealing but I have strong qualms about the viability of the spiral ramp. A Swamplot commenter claims it’s length would be 8 miles! Is that dimension mentioned anywhere in the proposal? Thinking of negatives, I quickly came up with health emergencies on the long treck to and from the top, collisions between cyclists and walkers, suicides, thrown objects, lighting and wind risk. So my first take is that the basic concept is perhaps viable in the way that the Eiffel Tower is viable, but many of the details seem very problematic.

  2. Maybe steve radack will have another hill-of-dreams epiphany and shower us with his brilliance.

  3. A-Dome park is a concept. We are open to any and all suggestions about landscaping and tree species. The total distance to the top of the dome on our proposed flat and inclined boardwalks is 9208 feet or 1.7 miles or 2.8 kilometers NOT the 8 miles calmed on Swamplot. LOL

  4. Bill Daniels says:

    Once again, the answer is clear: Tear. It. Down. Then restore some parking spaces and put up a plaque naming all the people responsible for bringing Houston Relia….er, um, NRG stadium, with the caption “These People Killed the Astrodome.”

    Of course, most of those people took their payoffs and have since moved on, but at least they can be memorialized for all time.

  5. Brad says:

    Three words…”Roller Derby Rink”

  6. The length of the flat and inclined Boardwalks to the top of the dome is NOT 8 miles, it is 9203 feet or 1.7 miles.

  7. voter_worker says:

    @James Richards Thanks for clearing up the length of the boardwalks. Eight miles did seem excessive.