TV Interview with Larry Payne_ Pierce Skypark and The Future of Houston

TV Interview with Larry Payne_ Pierce Skypark and The Future of Houston

Since you asked...

Marcus Martinez grew up in San Antonio, Texas. He attended the University of Houston as an undergraduate receiving his BArch from the Gerald D Hines College of Architecture. He went on to earn his Master of Science in Architecture Studies (SMArchS) in Architecture and Urbanism from M.I.T. as a fellowship recipient. The program at MIT supported his historically conscious lens with an emphasis on urban form, process and cultural meaning. The program structure had room to bridge interest across any department on campus which is how Marcus found himself immersed in the MIT Media Lab’s Changing Places group (Now City Science). There, along-side Kent Larson and Ryan Chin investigated a technologically-enabled projective city, based on human behavior, market conditions and contextual specifics. At the MIT Media Lab, his urbanist, business strategist, met with his mechanical sensibilities.  

Following his undergraduate degree, Marcus worked under one of his most major architectural influences- architect Benedetta Tagliabue of EMBT in Barcelona, Spain. There, in a storm of competitions learned the processes and nuances of pattern, assembly and programed surfaces that long established the practice of Enric Mirralles- working on an unprecedented 10 kilometers of connected plazas and streets in Andorra.

At MIT, he developed his thesis on evolvable infrastructure under Michael Dennis and Alexander D’Hooghe- the director of the MIT Center for Advanced Urbanism and author of ‘The Liberal Monument’.  D’Hooghe was a special mentor, and Marcus worked closely with him over his thesis and developed a disciplined lens which transformed his position on practice and especially his characterization as an educator.  

After graduation, Marcus continued his affiliation with the M.I.T. Media Lab for an additional semester, joined the faculty of the Boston Architectural College in an adjunct position and established himself in full time practice—at Elkus Manfredi(EM) in Boston. At EM, he worked on many urban core architectural projects under David Manfredi including city wide planning projects, organized a smart cities conference and renovation of Josep Lluis Sert’s Peabody Terrace on the Harvard Campus.  

The early 2000’s Marcus was not only on Houston’s Discovery Green park- a collaboration with landscape architects Hargreaves Associates; he concurrently was collaborator with the award winning research practice HOUMINN with Blair Satterfield. At this same time he co-founded his own practice Associates UltraBarrio (formerly Alloybuild) with fellow MIT Alum Amna Ansari- winning their first major competition 2007 which fully funded their wedding one year later. Their practice continued to gain awards and publication in Fast Company magazine, and their research on mobility is part of the resource curriculum and Reprogramming Mobility at the NYU Rudin Center for Transportation. .

Since returning to Houston in 2014, Marcus commanded his big picture thinking for the transformation of one of the largest cities in the US and developed the Pierce Skypark- the transformation of a to-be abandoned elevated expressway that runs through downtown Houston into an urban park. His focus however was not on the green space rather on the park as a mechanism of urban development and an economic engine- in 2017 proven to be a 1.2 billion dollar economic benefit. Marcus established himself as a speaker to inspire youth in design since 2011, and has continues use this tool to speak about the Skypark from the neighborhood meetings to AIA and ASLA conferences. His positive reputation as an educator has aided in him being prompted to be a motivational speaker on creativity and design by the Houston AIAS.

Marcus continues his pattern of professional practice and teaching.  At the University of Houston College of Architecture and Design he espouses what he sees as his most powerful design tool- privileging the ‘how’ over the ‘what’ - a view that diminishes design as a field of criticism and toward a field of synthesis and disciplinary plurality. This hardwired obsession on process and perspective is responsible for not only his success as a practitioner, educator, and visionary- but has also served to place him in the middle of unexpected design challenges from consulting with a medical device startup to developing a collapsible chassis on a semi autonomous vehicle.