Architect unveils renovated
tonight of media room to serve as distance learning classroom and teleconferencing
center for students and faculty
By Ken Fountain
Daily Cougar Staff
"Welcome to the future," exclaims maverick
architect Doug Michels as he introduces visitors to the Allen Teleport
2000, a refashioned version of the media room prototype he designed in
the late 1970s.
The Teleport, housed in the Gerald D. Hines
College of Architecture, will receive its public unveiling tonight at a
reception from 5 to 7 p.m.
Michels, whose varied works since the late
1960s includes designing the "Cadillac Ranch" outside Amarillo and working
with esteemed architect Phillip Johnson on the Galleria-area Williams Tower,
is currently an adjunct professor and director of the College of Architecture's
FutureLab design studio.
The Teleport, with its curved H-shaped
couch/work station facing a wall dominated by a circular video monitor,
evokes the bridge of the "Starship Enterprise" of Star Trek fame.
Michels originally designed the room in
1978 as a commission from Houston investment banker E. Rudge Allen and
his wife Nancy. Allen, who owned the first Apple personal computer in Houston,
wanted a way to work from his Memorial-area home and still keep in contact
with his downtown office, essentially pioneering the idea of "telecommuting."
version of a late 1970s media room prototype designed by UH College of
Architecture's FutureLab director Doug Michels will be unveiled today at
a reception from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. in the Gerald D. Hines College of Architecture
where it is housed.
Rich R. Risma/
The Daily Cougar
When the room was completed in 1979, reviews
in publications such as Newsweek, Home Living Today and the
Washington Times hailed its design.
Afterward, Michels went on to other things.
In 1997, he was invited to give a lecture at the College of Architecture.
"After the lecture, one of the professors,
Bruce Webb, said 'Doug, I want to show you something.' And he walked over
and opened the door, and here it was," Michels said.
Unbeknownst to Michels, Nancy Allen had
donated the room to the University after her husband's death a few years
before. With funds provided by Mrs. Allen/Greentree Fund and the Brown
Foundation, the College of Architecture relocated and reinstalled the Teleport
to serve as a distance learning classroom and teleconferencing center for
students and faculty.
"Then I was invited to join the faculty
here in 1999. One of my first assignments with my studio, FutureLab, was
to look at this room and bring it up to speed," Michels said.
For that, Michels teamed up with David
Donnelly, an associate professor in the UH School of Communication and
director of the International Telecommunications Research Institute.
"I'm real interested in what the next media
are going to be," Donnelly said. "Clearly, our media rooms, television,
and how we process information, all of these things are changing."
Donnelly said he hopes the Teleport also
becomes a platform for the Internet 2 Initiative that UH is a charter member.
The initiative is intended to increase the Internet's capabilities without
its current bandwidth constraints.
"The challenge that we would like to meet
with the Teleport is to bring the actual process of cybercasting and videoconferencing
into a new, more spatial, dimension," Michels said.
That will involve the installation of a
matrix of 50 video cameras along the room's ceiling that will simultaneously
record everything about the room and form a "spatial mosaic."
"Right now it's just a framework that's
becoming functional," Donnelly said. "It will become increasingly functional
and interactive and more alive in the future."
UH Professor Gary Eades, the facility's
project manager, said the teleport is "just an open room that nurtures
connections between people."
Curtis Wilson of the UH Computer Center
was in charge of installing the Teleport's upgraded technology. He began
working on the project in August.
"I've been having a lot of fun with it,
even though it's a bit out of my ordinary scheme," Wilson said.
To attend tonight's reception, call Kaye
Patterson, the School of Architecture's development director at (713) 743-2353.