CLUI in Houston: Attack of the Pod People

What is it with these Landscape folks and their capsules? Last spring, L.A.’s sly Center for Land Use Interpretation began its residency in Houston by hauling an old trailer, dubbed the organization’s “field station,” to an old junkyard on the banks of the Houston Ship Channel. And now, a year later — the oil-industry spying mission almost complete — CLUI guru Matthew Coolidge and his henchpeople are capping their Houston romp with another demonstration of the delights of enclosed living.

That’s a Brucker Survival Capsule, painted bright red and decorated with a typically deadpan CLUI inscription, being installed outside the University of Houston’s Blaffer Art Gallery, where CLUI’s exhibit on the landscape practices of the Texas oil industry opens — tonight. If planting an offshore-oil-rig emergency escape vehicle on the front lawn of a university art gallery strikes you as slightly absurd, you’re only beginning to appreciate CLUI’s rare and dry sense of landscape humor.


The survival capsule, designed to hang on the side of an oil rig and wait patiently for an emergency, will hold up to 28 workers, sheltering them from hazards on the high seas for several days, including up to an hour in an oil slick fire. Snorkels draw in air. And yes, it was originally designed in 1968.

How long before something like this gets transformed into Houston housing? Aurora Picture Show founder Andrea Grover, in her former life as a Microsoft employee, wrote about a capsule lovenest redo for the long-defunct Houston Sidewalk website:

Fans of agent 007 might recognize the Brucker Capsule from the final scene of “The Spy Who Loved Me,” when James Bond and his handsome companion await sea rescue in a modified Brucker capsule that’s lined with white leather and furnished with champagne and mood music. So much for rations and sea sores. That same lifeboat was later sold and incorporated into an episode of “The Six Million Dollar Man.”

Photos: Rachel Hooper (top 2) and Trudi Smith (bottom 2)

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