Corpus Christi Caller Times

"Sweeping Designs"

A church, an art center, a library, a bank. The words conjure up images beyond brick and mortar - each is an institution representing worship, creativity, knowledge and wealth. So when Corpus Christi architect David Richter draws up plans for a new building or an addition, he chooses materials and features that are not only functional, but expressive of the traditions inherent in each institution.

Richter used that philosophy in four designs created by his architectural firm, Kipp, Richter & Associates, that received honors in the 1991 design competition sponsored by the Corpus Christi chapter of the American Institute of Architects.

Three state directors in the Texas Society of Architects examined 17 entries from the Corpus Christi chapter, said Tom Ferrell, design committee chairman and an architect for Ferrell-Brown & Associates. The judges, Bob Brooks of Brooks/CoIlier Architects in Houston, Rick Morgan of JPJ in Dallas, and Tom Cowan of Graeber, Simmons & Cowan in Austin, could honor as many or as few entries as merited recognition, he said. Only five designs received awards, Ferrell said.

Kipp, Richter & Associates entered seven designs of local facilities completed since 1985. They were the only Corpus Christi architectural firm to receive an award. The other regional honoree was Wilson-Kullman of Victoria for its design of the Rhino-X Industries Plastics Manufacturing Facility.

Each entry included slides and a written presentation and judges made their selections without knowing the name of the architect, Ferrell said. Selection was made based on problems each facility posed and the quality of the architect's design solutions, he said.

Designs by Kipp, Richter & Associates that received awards were:

St. Mark's Episcopal Church, 2727 Airline Road. The 8,000-square-foot first phase completed in 1989 received the Honor Award given only to those designs deemed outstanding by all three judges. "It struck us as being done so thoroughly and with such an attention to detail" said Bob Brooks, a Houston architect who judged the contest. "The design thoroughness is marvelous. There were many things that represented a real design commitment from this architect that you wouldn't typically find in a design that size," he said.

Special features include a multipurpose room with acoustic panels that adjust for several configurations of worship, education and celebration. The church presents a clean, clear exterior image and its architectural formations are simple and straightforward, Brooks said. The essence of the building is clean and materials are not expensive, he said.

"We felt like St. Marks was a cut above the others in completion of design solutions and overall expertise it embodied," Brooks said. The L-shaped structure wraps around one corner of a courtyard and is designed so a sanctuary and education wing can be added later. The exterior design of concrete block walls covered in unornamented stucco draws on the Spanish mission style. The church design has won a Texas Society of Architects statewide award.

Del Mar College Fine Arts Center, east campus at Baldwin and Ayers streets. This 40,000-square-foot facility completed in May 1 989 is home to the school's art department, art gallery, drama department theater, and radio and television department studios. It received one of two Merit Awards given to designs considered good, but one that all three judges said had minor design problems.

"The interior of that project is what we were most impressed with," Brooks said. "They used materials in a very timeless, high-class way. It sort of tells you you're in a very special place," he said.

Richter said the building is designed to provide a good environment for handling art since art is being taught and created there. "Along that theme it tries to take functional materials of the building and express them in an artful way," he said. The use of concrete, wood, aluminum, steel and ceramic tiles instead of softer materials like sheet rock, vinyl and carpet isn't a matter of convenience, he said. "This building works with hard materials because they're part of the art environment. It also expresses them as important part of the architecture," he said. The corridors are designed to encourage student traffic and to capitalize on direct and indirect lighting so that art can be displayed there, Richter said.

Greenwood Branch Library, 4044 Greenwood Drive. This 3,200-square-foot expansion completed in May 1991 received a Citation Award given to those designs considered worthy by two of three judges. "This is an intriguing addition to a building whose plan almost defied you adding onto it," Brooks said. The original building had what he described as a pinwheel shape, creating problems for anyone trying to add onto it. Brooks said Richter solved the problem without ruining the overall look.

"When you go by the building in real life it looks like it's always been that way," he said. Richter said the addition's serpentine shape plays off the pinwheel by exploding from the usual order in a random and exciting way.

Banded glass and a set of louvers allows a high level of indirect light into the building, but keeps harmful direct light out, he said. The louvers allow more glass than is normally permissible in a library and provides a window into the neighborhood, Richter said.

Brooks described the addition as sort of oozing out from the original plan. He also liked the louver system. "It recalls earlier tropical architecture before air conditioning when you could get a breeze and keep the rain out by the louvers," he said.

Bank of Corpus Christi - Esplanade Branch, 6130 S. Staples St. This branch bank completed in March 1988 also received a Citation Award. ''I think all of us felt the combination of unusual forms was intriguing," Brooks said. "It has a sort of dome roof done with red clay tile and then wrapped by some linear forms; it looks like one building swallowing up another, he said.

Richter said the bank was one of the first facilities designed as a branch bank instead of a stand alone bank. It was completed in March 1988 shortly after legislation legalized branch banking in Texas. "The main thematic element in that design was to try to express simultaneously the tradition of banking and a sort of new age banking," he said.

The core and front of the building were classically designed with the secretaries and receptionists placed in a rotunda. The rotunda represented the classical roots of banking and evoked a sense of substance, Richter said. The interior of the bank is a round foyer with a octagonal dome covered in Spanish-style red tiles. The drive-up represents the other extreme of modern banking because it's technologically oriented, he said.