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Volkswagen Porsche of Corpus Christi (Bird Pontiac Automobiles)
The car sales complex was part of a cluster of showrooms known as “Autotown” that was modeled after one in Santa Barbara, California. While not as large as the Williams dealership ( CC20), this facility was also built by the Braselton Construction firm. Amazingly, it features twenty-eight inverted pyramidal hyperbolic paraboloids arranged in various configurations. Creating both open-air pavilions and indoor service bays, the paraboloids stand in contrast to the flat-roofed, transparent, seemingly floating, Mies-inspired showroom. Next door, at the corner of Autotown and Staples streets, the former Jack Creveling Dodge Dealership (1966), also by Turner, employed hyperbolic paraboloid forms. Reflecting modernist certainty, the dealerships illustrate a time when the September 1963 issue of Texas Architect predicted that “shape itself may literally eliminate other structural components.” The brief experimental interlude, ended by contractor/client perception of difficulty and impracticality of the concrete forms, “could have changed the face of architecture, if we had continued with it,” as noted by Turner, capturing the excitement of the time in a May 2007 telephone interview with the author. Wilkerson himself, persistently but unsuccessfully, continued to promote thin shell concrete as the most efficient method of construction well into the 1980s, long after its heyday.
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