A New Respite for High Plains Drifters
Detail and Color Add Finesse to TxDOT Travel
Fast-paced schedules mean contractors
must remain ambitious and stay on target in order to receive
bonus incentives and avoid penalties on two major Houston-area
TxDOT projects with combined contracts totaling more than
The Texas Department of Transportation's newest Travel Information
Center on Interstate 40 in Amarillo offers motorists and weary
travelers an air-conditioned break and the opportunity or
learn about the Lone Star State's attractions.
While crossing the high plains, visitors should be mindful
of the signs along the highway or they may miss the beautiful
brick structure that blends in with the surrounding panoramic
Opened in 2003 and serving more than 120,000 visitors in
its first year, the 10,000-sq.-ft. building serves as a gateway
to West Texas. The center, which replaced a 34-year-old structure,
is located near historic Route 66 and Palo Duro Canyon and
offers travel information such as maps and tourist brochures.
There also are exhibits and picnic and rest areas.
Designed as a sculptural interpretation of the surrounding
geology and ecology, the structure features seven different
brick colors that carefully match the region's geological
A creek was created to provide drainage from the high corner
of the site downward into an excavated "borrow"
pit created years ago during IH-40's construction. The creek
was planted with cottonwoods and other native plants, while
surrounding vegetation was left intact.
The building seems to rise from the creek as though it were
an extension of the canyon. Exposed structural steel and weathered
wood are reminiscent of the Old West.
But it is the masonry and strict attention to detail and
color that sets this project apart. The general contractor
was Plains Builders of Amarillo, with masonry work by Broadus
Masonry of Amarillo. In order to match the subtle colors of
the surrounding landscape, the design team collected dirt
samples from nearby and also used photos of selected canyon
The result is a stunning mix of colors typical of the American
Southwest. Of the seven different modular brick colors, six
were supplied by Acme Brick's Denton plant, and the seventh
was an Endicott product.
Designed by Richter Architects of Corpus Christi, the facility
was awarded a 2003 Brick in Architecture Award, a biennial
award sponsored by the Brick Industry Association and Architectural
"Richter's design [on the Brooks County project] displayed
a high degree of creativity and innovation with a keen attention
to detail," said Doris Howdeshell, TxDOT's travel division
director. "Their history with the department and expertise
in the design of rest areas made them a natural selection
to design the Amarillo center."
TxDOT and Richter are teaming up on other projects, again
with the design goal of incorporating the natural beauty of
the Texas landscape.
"Though quite different from the Amarillo project, we
have two projects under construction, a travel information
center renovation in Gainesville and a control tower/administration
building for the Galveston-Bolivar ferry," said Elizabeth
Chu Richter, head of the design team at Richter Architects.