Houston Report

201 The good ship TexHex, on its maiden voyage into the heart of darkness. CLUI photo

CLUI Houston
A NEW KIND OF INTERPRETIVE research platform has been deployed at the CLUI Gulf States Field Office in Houston. Constructed over the last year by Simparch, with the support of the Mitchell Center for the Arts, the Buffalo Bayou Partnership, and the Center for Land Use Interpretation’s Inland Waterways Initiative, the vessel is a floating workstation designed to support the production and presentation of creative interpretive projects on the nation’s inland waterways.

Built on an aluminum pontoon base, the boat is named TexHex, due to its Texas origins and the hexagonal shape that recurs in its form and concept, referencing such things as Fullerian polygons, coastal fortifications, and petrochemical molecules. The boat connects to a modular polygonal raft structure that can be moved and reconfigured, like a small floating island, and a transition between ship and shore.

TexHex will be used as a live-aboard structure, to develop and refine self-contained and energy efficient living systems, including solar power and water treatment technologies. It will also be possible to use the platform to produce and display audio/visual programs related to research about the environment (such as the Buffalo Bayou, where the vessel is currently based). An integrated folding screen and projection system enables recorded and live video content to be viewed while the boat is stationary or in motion.

In 2008, while the CLUI was in residence with the Mitchell Center for the Arts at the University of Houston, the CLUI and Simparch started on the design of the boat. Simparch is a build-design group that works in the margins between art and architecture. For the past ten years, Simparch has been operating a sustainable living research facility supporting the CLUI Residence Program at a former bombing range on the salt flats of Utah. The TexHex project brings some of these notions and capabilities to an industrial aquatic environment.

The CLUI Houston exhibit area is now open to visitors during the day.