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Preservation In Houston by David C. Bucek, FAIA

40 Texas Architect

5/6 2013


hile it’s known for reinventing itself every few years by tearing buildings down, Houston is actually a city that embraces both old and new. With its 20 protected historic districts — ranging from the mid-19th-century Old Sixth Ward to Glenbrook Valley, the most expansive locally designated mid-20th-century historic district in the country — America’s largest city without zoning is no longer a place where everything is always being demolished. Despite a myriad of freeway exchanges and other ubiquitous reminders of the car culture that most ascribe to Houston, the Bayou City retains many elements of its architectural past. Gulf Coast cottages and Queen Anne- and shotgun-style homes dot the tree-lined streets and link the city to the architectural heritage of the Old South. These traditional homes often utilized multiple porches — including sleeping porches — to maximize shade and breezes. During the City Beautiful Movement of the late 1800s and early 1900s, Houston benefited from smart planning, which established many of its most coveted neighborhoods and parks. Essential to this growth was the preference for evergreen Live Oaks, which became the most

predominant street trees in the city and now provide year-round shade. After World War II, Houston experienced another building boom, and this widespread growth was defined by modern architecture that embraced Miesian and Wrightian influences, including structures actually designed by Mies and Wright: two additions to the Museum of Fine Arts Houston (MFAH) and the Thaxton-Gaw House. Many of these modern buildings continued earlier sustainable traditions by utilizing building orientation and passive solar shading to beat the Texas heat. of Houston’s historical architecture is as diverse as the city’s population. To maximize awareness of the value of these buildings, nonprofit groups like Preservation Houston, the Heritage Society of Houston, Houston Mod, and Preservation Texas help to educate the community about the conservation of traditional and mid-century buildings. And increasingly, there are efforts to understand buildings that are important examples of the architecture of the recent past, which is defined by the Secretary of the Interior Standards as buildings that are less than 50 years old. Additionally, the municipal preservation ordiToday, the eclectic mix

Texas Architect May/June 2013: Preservation