Michael G. Imber: Ranches, Villas, and Houses
Building a Modern Houston
Buildings of Texas, Volume One
Elizabeth Meredith Dowling
Gerald Moorhead, FAIA
Rizzoli International Publications (2013)
Arcadia Publishing (2011)
University of Virginia Press (2013)
Michael G. Imber’s designs marry classical and historical references with rural building traditions that are entirely modern in their execution. “Michael G. Imber: Ranches, Villas, and Houses” provides a masterful collection of the architect’s residential projects and sprawling ranches. Based in San Antonio, Imber is principal of Michael G. Imber, Architects and was the founding president of the Institute of Classical Architecture & Classical America Texas Chapter. The book explores his creative process and his belief that family traditions are the essence of a home. The monograph depicts Imber’s focus on the dialogue between architecture and the natural environment, and his beautiful watercolor studies of landscapes and historic buildings are extremely effective in their large-format presentation. In her introduction, author Elizabeth Meredith Dowling traces the development of the architect’s design sensibilities from his earliest childhood influences — including traversing western landscapes with his father and discovering the possibilities of watercolor with his aunt – through the establishment of his own practice. This history, along with an essay by the architect about the role of cultural memory in his practice, provides a rich background and context for the study of his work.
“Building Modern Houston” provides an annotated jaunt through the modern movement as it evolved in the optimistic boom, bust and boom-again metropolis of Houston. The book feels less like a history lecture and more like an enjoyable conversation with a friend describing their long-past trip to place – and a time – you wish you had been. Mod’s tour begins with the nascent modernism of pre-World War II Art Deco and Art Moderne. The early post-war work that follows shows a strong influence of the modern masters. As her journey reaches mid-century, Mod reveals a Houston modern movement growing in confidence. Nearly half of the book is dedicated to the work of the 1960s, a booming era for Houston when oil and gas wealth fueled the economic engine, and the NASA space program invigorated the city with a forward-looking optimism. Mod projects an authoritative and informative voice without any pretense or agenda other than to imbue the reader with an appreciation of Houston’s Modern legacy. That Mod so clearly possesses such appreciation is both evident and contagious. Through seven chapters, Mod reveals hidden gems, lost masterpieces, iconic monuments, unassuming yet refined residences, and bold high-rises.
Geared for those with architectural wanderlust, “Buildings of Texas” offers insights into the diversity of architecture throughout the state, and the promise that the travel to the metropolises and hinterlands will be worth it. The book, part of “Buildings of the United States,” a 58-volume series being produced by the Society of Architectural Historians, is divided into regions based on their geography, settlement patterns, and architectural heritage. This volume is written by Gerald Moorhead, FAIA, in collaboration with a crew of local and regional experts and features Central Texas, South Central Texas, South Texas, and the Gulf Coast. Organized in a linear fashion as driving tours, a narrative of Texas’ cultural, economic, and architectural history unfolds as the pages turn. Regional introductions and maps provide the big picture, while sidebars present insight into socioeconomic and cultural influences on growth and development — ranging from the expansion of the ranching industry to the development of dance halls. Skyscrapers, strip malls, and stadiums represent the booms of the 20th century while interesting houses illustrate more recent construction. Driving the Lone Star state with “Buildings of Texas” will be an experience of discovery with many unexpected surprises.
Monica Cavazos Mendez
Al York, AIA
18 Texas Architect
PHOTOS BY ELIZABETH HACKLER