THREE TRACK MIND

hybrid civic complex; Houston, TX

Three Track Mind is part building and part urban condition. It accommodates a library, auditorium, and courthouse, yet it privileges the in-between public spaces framed by these more formal programs. With an accessible storefront presence to the street, a ring houses the main library. A vertical box, with an axial entry ramp, facilitates the shifting privacy of court happenings. A hovering band, which houses the auditorium, gives the public the opportunity to literally reach for something pleasurable.

The open air spaces framed by the three primary formal components become shared zones, free from any specific institutional authority. Defined by the library ring and shaded by the hovering band, the Transaction Forum is an open trading floor. As an antithesis to frustrating queue lines, here workers freely circulate the floor with handheld devices ready to help the public pay traffic fines, check into performances, or renew books. And though the Transaction Forum retains its character as open ground, the floor is calibrated with conditioned cold-spots which create landmarks, meeting points, and temperate respites on hot Houston days. A track, running along the roof of the library ring, is a second shared zone. It circumscribes the site, offering transparency into all of the complex's activities. While running around the track, multiple publics commingle, race, and work out—collectively relieving the tension created by the strange juxtaposition of judicial stress and public leisure.

© CARTOGRAM 2012.