UH Architecture Alum's Astrodome Vision Getting Second Look

2012 Master’s Project Sparks Discussion, Media Coverage

Ryan Slattery grew up attending ballgames and events in Houston’s legendary Astrodome. He even was among the thousands of Astros fans who attended the team’s final game at the storied venue – a 1999 playoff appearance against the Atlanta Braves.

Slattery has many fond memories of the domed stadium, but he also has a passion for architectural preservation. During his final year as a graduate student at the University of Houston’s Gerald D. Hines College of Architecture, he completed a master’s project that offered new perspective on how to utilize the long vacant facility.

His hypothetical project addressed topics relevant to the Houston community including historical preservation, green versus gray infrastructures, and repurposing existing structures. He then developed a plan that would preserve the stadium known as the “Eighth Wonder of the World” and proposes new uses for it.

“I used the Astrodome because it’s the most iconic structure in Houston and because it’s important to myself and so many others,” Slattery said.

Slattery’s project envisions added green space, a plaza-like environment underneath the venue’s most iconic feature, the domed roof. It also focuses on removing elements of the facility that would no longer serve a purpose: seating, upper level concourse, mezzanine.

“What I propose is taking something that is ignored and avoided and turning it into something that can be experienced,” Slattery said. “When people go to the neighboring Reliant Stadium for events, they walk around the Astrodome. Why not turn it into part of the experience? It can be like the Grove at Ole Miss. People can tailgate there, or vendors can set up shops. It can be a flexible, functional space.”

Slattery’s project was created for a master’s studio course led by professor John Tsai and found its way on to news site Reddit. Recently, online discussions regarding his Astrodome proposals heated up and caught the attention of local media including KHOU CBS 11 and the Houston Chronicle.

The fate of the Astrodome is the subject of much debate in Houston, and Slattery’s proposal is music to the ears of those who want to keep the structure in tact.

“It’s a lovely conversation, but I can’t say what will happen with my proposal,” he said. “It’s been fun to have so many people interested in these ideas.”

Before arriving at UH, Slattery worked in the political spectrum, mainly overseeing community engagement duties for organizations and candidates.

“The parallels between politics and architecture are impressive,” he said. “In my political career, I’d go into communities and communicate issues and candidates’ positions in simple terms. With architecture, you have to use the same skills to promote urban development.”

In addition to his Astrodome project, Slattery ventured to Barcelona, Spain as part of the college’s Pan American Studio. He also contributed his talents to the college’s Graduate Design/Build Studio and helped design and constructed a “Solar Shade Tree” for McReynolds Middle School.

“When I graduated from UH, I walked away with the idea that architecture elevates communities,” he said. “It also impacts how a city is shaped and developed … and how it is perceived. It’s all part of a larger dialogue that helps cities and communities grow and evolve. It’s not just about design. It’s about where that design goes and how it fits in with respective communities.”

UH’s Gerald D. Hines College of Architecture offers bachelor’s and master’s degrees in a variety of disciplines. These include industrial design, architecture, space architecture and interior architecture. Faculty members include esteemed professionals in the architectural community, as well as award-winning academic veterans. Facilities include studio spaces, the new Materials Research Collaborative, computer labs and the Burdette Keeland Jr. Design Exploration Center. To learn more about the college, visit http://www.arch.uh.edu/.





About the University of Houston

The University of Houston is a Carnegie-designated Tier One public research university recognized by The Princeton Review as one of the nation’s best colleges for undergraduate education. UH serves the globally competitive Houston and Gulf Coast Region by providing world-class faculty, experiential learning and strategic industry partnerships. Located in the nation’s fourth-largest city, UH serves more than 39,500 students in the most ethnically and culturally diverse region in the country. For more information about UH, visit http://www.uh.edu/news-events/.