June 27, 2003
Notes from Charles Linn, FAIA, Managing
Photography © Charles
Whenever Texans take on anything, they do it in a big, big
way. The Houston AIAs sandcastle competition is no exception.
It has been taking place annually on the beach in Galveston
since 1986. Thats when the economy had gone even farther
south than the Gulf Coast, and members needed a morale booster
in a bad way.
Now the chapter uses the event as a way to reach out to the
local community, and as a fundraiser. It attracts tens of
thousands of people. The temporary work shanties stretched
along the Gulf for almost three-quarters of a mile as 83 teams
competed for the coveted Golden Bucket, and Silver and Bronze
Architect teams often partner with contractors, who provide
the heavy equipment needed to sculpt the gritty objets dart.
No front-loaders are allowed, but the tools of the trade may
include water large pumps, heavy plywood forms, and gasoline-powered
soil compactors. Sand is loaded into the forms, watered down,
and compressed into large blocks and cylinders.
Then, competitors race to mold these basic shapes into elaborate
forms. The secret to great sandcastle building is in the sand.
Theres a small amount of clay in the sand here. Add
just the right amount of water and voila! The particles cling
to each other together so tightly the sand even gains some
tensile strength. Thats the property you need if youre
going to create shapes that need to cantileverthe nose
on a face, for example. Then, contestants race around their
statues wetting them with garden sprayers, hoping to stave
off collapse at least until the judges arrive for inspection.
Houston architects seem predisposed toward sculpting shapes
inspired by atrocious puns. One featured a monster-sized chicken
perched on a nest, entitled, Hatch me if you can.
Get it? Others featured replicas of characters like Homer
Simpson; and still others, well-known architectural monuments,
like the Parthenon. There were even a few traditional sandcastles.
This years Golden Bucket was awarded to EE Reed Construction
and Spencer Partnership Architecture for their work, Pre-Cast-L.
Lions, Tigers and Sand, Oh My, won a Silver Shovel
for David Suplee Architectural Illustrators, and Ray Hollington
Architects picked up the Bronze Shovel for Full Bleed.