I think you could make a pretty good case that it’s the most significant American building of the second half of the 20th century. The Astrodome’s debut was really the high point—and therefore the beginning of the end—of a very American, very confident, and ultimately very naive idea about how buildings ought to treat nature. Both the Astrodome and the original LACMA suggested that we could pretend the natural world was merely a nuisance—that we could create hermetically sealed buildings that would keep nature at arm’s length. Now, facing increasingly dire predictions of sea-level rise and other environmental threats, we’ve given up on that idea almost entirely: especially after Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Sandy, the symbolism of architecture’s relationship to nature is one of anxiety, uncertainty, and even catastrophe. Architectural imagery that used to belong squarely to the world of science fiction—the cover of J. G. Ballard’s 1962 novel The Drowned World, say—is now a staple of news coverage of our own cities. And the Astrodome itself is now empty and unused, in danger of being demolished to extend the parking lot of the much newer Reliant Stadium, where the Houston Texans play.
Q & A with Christopher Hawthorne | Unframed The LACMA Blog
Jet Lowe, Lamella Dome Framing Detail. Note Catwalk at 12 O’Clock and Suspended Pentagonal Light Right Gondola. Also Note Compression Ring at Crown of Dome—Houston Astrodome, 8400 Kirby Drive, Houston, Harris County, Texas, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, HAER TX-108-15