Imagine Houston's Future
Big ideas: It takes a village to create a HIVE from recycled shipping containers
If you have been to Europe, or even New York, or Chicago, you have experienced something of what sustainable urban living can be.
You may have stepped from your hotel to an open-air market, then walked to an outdoor concert, dropping your empty bottle into a recycling bin along the way. Maybe you enjoyed sitting under the shade of a tree, and perhaps you even got to talk to someone you encountered while walking around. You interacted with people because you were on foot, not isolated in your car, and you got fresh air, which is good for you.
Why can’t Houston be more like that?
The first thing people say is, it’s too hot in Houston to be outside much of the year — unless you are near that shady tree. Evenings are nice, though, especially in the summer. It rains a lot, but think for a moment of nearby New Orleans. It’s a walkable city, with a climate similar to ours. There are lots of places in the United States and around the world where the weather isn’t always perfect, and people do the things they need to do without using a car.
What we really must do is rethink the way we do things in Houston. We are used to doing things the way we have been doing them for a long time. The old ways are not sustainable, however, and here’s one idea we can try:
Why not make a village in Houston out of recycled steel shipping containers? Why not build a whole community out of them?
We propose to create such a place, with as much efficient new green technology as possible, and with power and cable lines buried, so we can have trees and shade. Cars will be parked outside, and inside people will be on foot or bicycle. Our plan is a nonprofit endeavor, meant to be affordable. We can keep rents low, and enable the creative core of our community to come together in a way that has never been done in Houston, or anywhere.
The HIVE mission is to design and build an affordable, inhabitable work of art as a community. By recycling the humble and strong steel shipping container, nearly 500 of them, we propose to create a beautiful, sustainable, walkable, safe, and secure village for thriving cultural exchange and enterprise.
Inspired by artists, creative professionals and environmentalists, we will work in partnerships with individuals and organizations to experiment and discover the next generation of responsible building and living practices. We plan to offer an increasing variety of tenant uses, including office, studio, retail, restaurant, entertainment, and residential opportunities. There will be gardens and places to play and the chance to come together as a community.
Our ideas are practical and they make sense, and our design will show the world that Houston is more than an assemblage of uninspired strip malls and houses with far more square footage than we really need.
This year our goal is to acquire the land on which to build HIVE and break ground. We have identified a six-acre plot in a less-than desirable area in town we think we can use, and our efforts will make that part of Houston a better place to be. Someone should do it, and we’re willing to be the ones.
We intend to establish relationships with Houston-based partners who can assist us in obtaining materials, reused wherever possible, and to help us get the transportation and paths we need so that people won’t need a car to get to HIVE. We intend to work with university art, architecture and environmental programs, anybody who has something to contribute, really, for mutually beneficial collaborations of every kind.
We expect all HIVE building phases to be complete in 2016. By then, our organic gardens will be up and running, contributing to our restaurants and our farmers’ market. Resident artists, artisans, and musicians will draw tourists to HIVE.
Our restaurants and shops will be different, no chains, and they will be special. People will be living and working at HIVE, hundreds of them, and even more will come for our special events and to experience what life will really be like, has to be like, in the new millennium.
In 2036, we’re going to celebrate Houston’s 200th birthday with a big party at HIVE. As the city most identified in the world with energy, Houston needs to be the leader in new energy technologies and new ways of living, and thinking, and we believe it will be.
Heidi Vaughan is executive director of HIVE, a non-profit group whose mission is to design and build an affordable, inhabitable work of art as a community. CultureMap profiled HIVE creative director Nestor Topchy last summer.