Monday, July 20, 2009

Contemporary Houses

A couple of weeks ago, we went to gallery row on Colquitt to walk to all the gallery openings which happen every six or eight weeks. There is a small six or nine block area bounded by Richmond, Kirby, West Alabama and Ferndale. In my mind this is a contained residential area. Officially I think it crosses West Alabama but West Alabama is now a busy through-fare. The houses in the area were built in the 1950's....low ranch style houses. In the 1950's this area was the suburbs now it is inside the loop and considered quite urban. About 12 years ago one or two small contemporary houses popped up on Lake and Colquitt Streets. The Gallery row building was once quite avant garde when it was built.

The older ranch houses are being replaced with new houses which is what happens in Houston's unzoned environment. Even if the neighborhood is protected by deed restrictions they seldom keep the smaller, older houses from being replaced by another single family house in desirable inner city neighborhoods. Some of the new houses are pseudo plantations or rock fortresses but the streets of Virginia and Ferndale are sporting an interesting variety of new contemporary houses. I think these contemporary houses blend in better and look less pretentious, less McMansion, although they are probably as large as the other new construction.

Another thing I like about them is the way the landscaping is designed to compliment the house.

I'm also seeing new contemporary houses going up across from Rice University. I wonder if they are getting grief from the neighbors. About nine years ago Cameron Armstrong, an architect, designed a contemporary house and it was a few blocks away from Rice University but the neighbors didn't like the house. It was a two story house like the houses on either side of it. I liked it. Armstrong told me that increasingly architects were finding that neighborhoods were not happy when a single-family home was replaced with a contemporary house but were okay with the use of a stylized version of an older style.

I really am interested in residential architecture, both old and new, and while we are here, I plan to canvas several neighborhoods to see what is happening. Of course, I'll be going back to Eastwood. Then I want to drive around and photograph some houses that look interesting to me.....just in case we decide to build on our lot in Eastwood.

8 comments:

Chrissy y Keith said...

My High School Spanish Teacher went to Rice University when it was an all girls school. I loved listening to her pronouce spanish with her heavy Texan drawl.

Billie said...

chrissy, I don't think Rice was ever and all girls school. But wherever she went in Texas she could probably combine her Texas drawl with spanish.

DanaJ said...

Right behind the Highland Village restaurant, Smith & Wollensky, sits a new Modern residence designed and built by MC2 architects. Nice use of site.
We did the exterior ironwork.
They get alot of press....very inventive, and Houston bred.
It does seem like that particular area has little resistance to a modern look where other areas might protest. Could it be the nearby gallery influence?
How about a stark Phillip Johnson in Idylwood? Ha! Read my bungalow post if you have a minute.

Billie said...

Dana,
MC2 built a couple of houses in the Old Sixth Ward. One of them was a metal sided house. Really a wonderful house but a lot of people in the hood gave the home owners grief and continue to do so 5 or 6 years later. I'll drive by the house in Highland Village.

Jan said...

Billie, this is great. I love the photos and descriptions. How interesting. I have never been to Houston and it looks so different than I imagined!

pitchertaker said...

Jan: when you think about what Houston looks like, first off, think heat and humidity -- view everything through a haze. And part of the scene in Houston is the constant hum of AC units. Beyond that, like Billie, I find some of the styles of buildings interesting. I live for many years in Austin, and those close-in neighborhoods were treasured there as well.

Jonna said...

I keep coming back to look at that house in the 3rd picture. That huge deck in front, right by the street is strangely inviting and gives the house a really welcoming feel. I like it a lot. It's a modern version of an old time front porch I guess. I think it is the scale that attracts me though. Interesting.

Billie said...

Jonna, I like the landscaping on the third house a lot. It feels more welcoming. The landscaping on the first two images is very sculptural but to me static. When we built a contemporary house in Houston I used winding paths around the house and an abundance of plants. Lots of them could be changed out with the seasons. I liked the mix of the sharp lines of the house vs the soft lines of the landscaping. I would love to study some more about architecture.