Asia Society Texas Center Groundbreaking
Report: Ruchi M
The rain could not dampen the spirits as more than 300 people gathered for the groundbreaking ceremony of the Asia Society Texas Center on Thursday May 15, 2008.
Strategically located in Houston’s Museum District the Asia Society Texas Center’s new headquarter is 38,000 square feet and is designed by internationally noted architect Yoshio Taniguchi.
“Asia Society Texas Center will provide an exciting new venue for cultural activities and allow us to do what we do best-build bridges of understanding between Asia and Texas. We expect it to become one of Houston’s prime cultural landmarks,” says Martha Blackwelder, executive director for Asia Society Texas Center.
The groundbreaking ceremony began at 10am when Museum District residents, general public and several diplomats from Asian countries gathered to sample Asia’s rich cultural and culinary offerings and they also took a sneak peak at the architect’s plan.
Vishaka Desai, the global president of Asia Society who flew all the way from New York said that it was a very auspicious occasion. “In the Asian/Indian culture a little bit of water is considered a good omen,” she added. “It is a very special event for Asia Society Global when we open the new Asia Society Texas Center. This will be the first physical facility outside of New York and Hong Kong and what it means is that Houston will be the jewel in the crown.”
Active community leader Sam Kannapan who has been living in the Houston area since 1968 felt that the center will help the community to bring the highlights of the Asian culture to Americans.
Participating in the ceremonies were dignitaries like Mayor of Houston Bill White, Chairman of the Board Charles Foster, Yoshio Taniguchi, Houston philanthropist and social butterfly Joanne Herring whose character was played by Julia Roberts in the 2007 release ‘Charlie Wilson’s War’. But 7 feet 6 inches tall basket ball celeb Yao Ming stole the show as media and public went crazy to grab that picture perfect moment with him. “Asia Society Texas Center looks like a great opportunity to showcase and share Asian cultures,” says Yao. “Yao is not just a basket ball player he is the ambassador of China,” says Charles Foster.
“I think this is an amazing work. As I truly believe that Asians have taught Americans to love and give, and this Asia Society Texas Center will be a means to build bridges,” said Joanne.
Vimal Parik, structural engineer with the Asia House project said that it was a great project “at the same time the most complicated one,” he smirked. “But I am very proud to be a part of the mission.”
Always in cheerful spirits Martha was thrilled with the turn out inspite of the rains and the event according to her felt like a new era. “It will serve as the permanent new home of the Asia Society Texas Center. An elegant, two story structure will feature wide foyers and public spaces, a theatre, an art gallery, a rich diversity of Asia, an inexhaustible opportunity for programs and events,” she added.
“In Houston we know how incredible Asia is, the Asian American community makes Houston such a great place and the Asia Society Texas Center is a way to show our ties with them,” commented Charles.
The goal was conceived by the international nonprofit’s founder John D. Rockefeller in 1956, and that was to prepare the United States and more than 30 countries in Asia-through arts, culture, business, education and policy for a shared future.
This is a mission the 1979 established Asia Society Center envisioned that they will be able to fulfill in 2010. “Of the $50 million, $33 million has already been raised,” informed Blackwelder.
Mayor White said that he was there to express his gratitude to a very great community for those who did the ground work and made financial contributions. “This is a landmark day in the history of our city,” says Bill White. “It is the expansion of the Museum district.”