Alan Y. Taniguchi, born in Stockton CA, was quiet, relaxed, and affable. Taniguchi reassured. Because of his Japanese ancestry, Taniguchi had suffered the internment of his parents in a U.S. government concentration camp in Crystal City TX while he fought in the war.
When the war ended, Taniguchi’s father, Isamu Taniguchi, a Japanese immigrant, and his relatives, the Tanamachis, elected not to return to California but to relocate to the small river settlements of Los Indios and Bluetown, south of Harlingen, to farm. Alan Taniguchi went to architecture school at the University of California, Berkeley, and worked for the Bay Area architect Jack Hillmer and Anshen & Allen before deciding to join his family in south Texas in 1952.
Taniguchi’s buildings, like his personality, were relaxed and less polemical. In 1961 Taniguchi entered a partnership with Charles B. Croft, who had come to Harlingen to run John York’s office. Taniguchi & Croft gained swift recognition for their experimentation with thin shell, hyperbolic paraboloid concrete construction, producing buildings that were much more formally assertive than Taniguchi’s earlier work. Taniguchi attracted the attention of architectural educators.
Alan Taniguchi’s now-demolished Flato Memorial Livestock Pavilion in Kingsville (1959), on which he collaborated with planner S. B. Zisman and landscape architect Stewart King, was his first experiment with thin-shell concrete construction. Taniguchi and Croft were inspired by the Spanish-Mexican engineer Félix Candela, who attained international recognition in the 1950s for his boldly shaped, thin-shell concrete structures.
Candela was engineering consultant to O’Neil Ford and Richard S. Colley for the design of their Crossroads Restaurant in Arlington TX (1957) and their Texas Instruments Semiconductor Building in Dallas (1958), on both of which Zisman and King also collaborated. O’Neil Ford, Alan Taniguchi, and Max Burkhart collaborated on the design of Pharr-San Juan-Alamo High School (1960) in the Valley town of Pharr.
Although Taniguchi and Croft did not work directly with Candela, they worked with other design professionals who had, suggesting how the assertive but economical hyperbolic paraboloid shapes, justifiable because they were outgrowths of the process and materials of construction, came to figure in Valley architecture. After Taniguchi departed for Austin, Croft continued to experiment with concrete construction, as can be seen at San Felipe Neri Catholic Mission in Harlingen and office buildings for the Cameron County Water Irrigation District in Harlingen and La Feria.
In 1961 Taniguchi was recruited to teach at the University of Texas at Austin. Taniguchi stayed at UT, becoming professor, then dean of architecture. Conflict with the UT administration caused Taniguchi to leave UT in 1972 to become director of the school of architecture at Rice University, where he remained until his retirement from teaching in 1979. In Austin, Taniguchi had been a partner in the well-regarded firm of Taniguchi Shefelman Vackar Minter. After retiring from Rice, Taniguchi returned to Austin to practice with his son, Evan, who still maintains the Taniguchi office.
House of Mo-Rose Packing Shed – 1961, Taniguchi & Croft
This extraordinary structure, today the maintenance barn for Rancho Viejo, a golf course community midway between San Benito and Brownsville, was built as a citrus sales and packing shed by J. L. Brett & Company’s House of Mo-Rose. Brett’s concept was to construct a building of striking appearance adjacent to both the Missouri Pacific rail line and Expressway 77-83 in which he could sell Ruby Red grapefruit grown on his 200-acre Hightower Ranch to both drive-up and mail-order customers. The building had to function as a grapefruit processing, packaging, and shipping plant but also as a retail sales operation. Its high profile architecture was intended to facilitate industrial processes—and to attract curious motorists on the Expressway.
Taniguchi & Croft planned the structure with parallel rows of five concrete columns that enclose the perimeter of the rectangular building. Sprouting from the head of each column is an inverted hyperbolic-paraboloid thin-shell concrete “umbrella” that is both supporting structure and roof deck. Four parallel rows of skylights bridge over gaps between the ten umbrellas; a continuous skylight runs along the middle of the building’s long dimension. The interior consisted of a one-story well open beneath the skylit vaults, with a pair of upper-level mezzanines linked by a bridge. The walls are tilt-up concrete panels with an exposed pebble finish.
Charles Croft was quoted in the San Benito News at the time of the building’s completion describing the color coordination of interior finishes. Even the machinery used for the delivery, washing, sizing, grading, packing, and shipping the grapefruit was painted. The sales and office area was air-conditioned and finished with Brazilian rosewood; otherwise, the building was an economical shed, built for $6.30 per square foot.