Burned Building Next to Agora on Westheimer Returns — As a Backpack

Do you miss the old Galerie Mado Chalvet building at 1706 Westheimer? And, um . . . another question: Do you need a backpack? Designer Julia Gabriel has just the thing for you, then: Your very own handmade 1706 Westheimer Rd. backpack, modeled after photos she took of the hulking duplex-turned-antique-store after it burned last July. It’s since been torn down — along with the neighboring structures on the corner of Dunlavy and Westheimer — for a new development. The HSPVA grad watched the building’s demolition from across the street at Domy Books, but she’d already decided to memorialize the building as a backpack. Yeah, she does that sort of thing: “My backpacks are what I imagine these abandoned buildings were like in their prime: fresh and new with a dash of color,” she writes. “They include a stitched map that shows the buildings original location so it can always find its way home.”


Also in the designer’s building-fabric portfolio: A pillow embroidered with the elevation of her mom’s townhouse, and a few dress designs inspired by abandoned Houston buildings.

Photos: Julia Gabriel

13 Comment

  • How charming! Really awesome and inspired!

  • Great to see somebody with that kind of hands-on, well crafted appreciation for Houston’s forgotten heritage! I hope she’s able to preserve the memories of lots more of these vanishing treasures from this town’s past. Those backpacks on her site are beautiful reminders of what once was Houston…

  • So, are her backpacks of buildings in Richmond VA or here in Houston?

  • @PYEWACKET2: Clearly both. The text on her site obviously hasn’t been updated.

  • Some of the backpacks on my website are modeled after abandoned buildings in Richmond, VA from when I was in school there. I moved back to Houston in February and have already found lots of inspiring abandoned architecture. I will be in a group show on July 6-8 at Winter Street Studios with a new piece I’m working on of a building in downtown. I’d love to see you there!

  • Julia started the backpacks in Richmond while studying art at Virginia Commonwealth University. She graduated in December and is back in Houston doing backpacks here. She may add a few San Francisco buildings to her line up in the near future as she prepares for a show there in May.

  • Apparently the inept and defiante Montrose Management Dist. still won’t disolve in spite of the fact that the opposition got more than the necessary 75% of the businesses owners to sign the petition. Now they(MMD) are in court defending themselves. They are presently skimming in excess of 25,000 dollars a week from the business owners , I guess that’s why they won’t go away quietly .

  • Houston is a wonderful city that is coming back to life with new civic projects like The Buffalo Bayou Park upgrades. We as Houstonians should support these projects and encourage neighborhoods to demolish buildings that are beyond repair. The city needs to be held accountable for not inspecting these buildings and taking action. We should also be asking why the city does not require a certificate of occupancy anymore, when the building standards still require a city inspector to sign off on all projects. The myth of we have no zoning laws is a weak arguement because nothing can be built without the approval of the city and neighborhood deed restrictions….. The owners of these monster townhomes built in cottage sections of the city should be afraid, because the deed restrictions were violated to build these monuments to excess…. The style works great in areas like the East End where commercial buildings once stood, but the ones built in other areas stand out as selfish development or over use of land which adds to traffic problems…..

  • Charles needs to do some reading about deed restrictions and the fact that many (most?, all?) of them have provisions that: 1.) allow them to expire after a period of time or; 2.) allow property owners to opt out them after a period of time.

    Don’t you think there’s enough townhouse haters out there that someone would have filed a lawsuit to stop them years ago if deed restrictions were being violated? Do you think construction lenders do ZERO due diligence before forking over millions of dollars to developers to build these homes?

    Yes, Houston is a wonderful city, but it’s not coming back to life at all. Houston never died. Always alive and well. Just evolving and improving and attracting new residents every single day. Say what you want about the old days. RIGHT NOW is the best of times for Houston and things are only going to get better going forward. We are already 20+ years into the redevelopment cycle of Houston’s core. The only thing that can stop it now is $30 oil.

  • As for the back pack… Awesome.

  • #10 Bernard:

    Deed restrictions can be renewed prior to expiration. It does take a majority of owners’ signatures, but it can be done.

  • Awesome backpack – love the detail she put into it!