Comment of the Day: Keep Houston Oblivious

COMMENT OF THE DAY: KEEP HOUSTON OBLIVIOUS “In a real way, Houston is way more weird than Austin. Austin has a younger, more counter-culture population but all that has become mainstream anyway. Houston, on the other hand, is weird as in strange or unique in its ability to freely and quickly remake itself based on economics, not by committee. But instead of Houstonians embracing this uniqueness, we groan how we should be like Boston, NY, etc. and moan about not preserving buildings (I am in this group), this one going up in an inappropriate spot etc., that one not being architecturally congruent. But it’s like we’re living in a huge sand painting with things we see getting constructed and others destroyed constantly, which is the beauty, reality and terror of existence, the wabi-sabi beauty of impermanence. Austin is a peace symbol, Houston is actual war.” [Dana-X, commenting on Comment of the Day: Why Montrose Ain’t the Worst Place for a Bar from Austin] Illustration: Lulu

19 Comment

  • This sounds like Tory Gattis. There’s nothing wrong with emulating the things we like best about other cities. Every city that anyone thinks of as “great” got there in part by slavishly imitating the best aspects of previous “great” cities – just look at how many American cities have place names borrowed from London, etc. (and then in London you have a cathedral inspired by St. Peter’s in Rome, tree-lined avenues inspired by Paris, etc.). The silly thing is to be so prideful that you won’t take any lessons from elsewhere, and celebrate as “unique” what is in reality shortsighted thinking and developer rapaciousness.

  • Mike – I don’t think anyone’s denying that. Of course we’re going to allow ourselves to be inspired by other cities, and them by us.
    But what really makes Houston weird, in my view, is all of the unexpectedly awesome places off in the hinterland. Places like Eclectic Menagerie Park, at the corner of West Bellfort and SH 288 – a sculpture garden full of towering metal installation pieces, all done by local artists. It’s all the more awesome because it’s owned by, of all groups, an industrial pipe company whose headquarters is next door.
    I’m not sure you’d ever have something like that near Austin – the hills are too precious to waste on a pipe company and besides, art belongs in downtown Austin; not in the suburbs. In New York you might have it, but it would be much more hoity-toity – probably owned by a university and not a pipe fitting company, and they’d make a lot of noise about hiring a black-cape architect to design a visitors center…..

  • Whatever. The pipe company’s been there a long time and probably doesn’t really have to make a lot of money off that sliver of land. Houston in 1980 and Austin in 1980 were both REALLY weird. Why aren’t they now? Simple answer: Land values and gentrification in the city’s core.

  • Of course Houston is constantly changing. If it were not for demolition and construction there wouldn’t be anything to do outside in this city at all.

  • ZAW–While I think Austin has entirely too high an opinion of itself, I can assure that there are eccentric, little-known, out-or-the way landmarks in Austin and vicinity that are pretty cool, just as there are in Houston.

  • Austin chooses to create an identity for itself by proclaiming their weirdness, other than that, Austin is really an empty shell. Houston is an ecclectic urban metropolis with an infinite number of things, sights, happenings, culture, etc… Houston certainly has it faults as does any city but the excellent far out weighs any negatives. I am a born/raised Houstonian; however, I lived in Austin during college and for several years afterwards, until I could not take Austin’s self-proclaimed weirdness and flat out shallowness any longer. I am always surprised in talking with fellow Houstonians and shorter term residents, how few of the many things available to us that people are completely unaware of or choose to not frequent.

    Embrace Houston for all that it is.

  • It’s ironic that Austin has no Art Museum to speak of (The Blanton (Houston Rich) is UT’s museum –Austin is always blathering on about it being artsy, but the AMA is a joke–it’s a horrid collection –Austin’s Rich are stingy –Dell being the worst–if it’s not a Jewish cause he has no interest –Houston’s wealthy have always richly supported the Arts–look no farther than the late Great Mrs Menil–Houston is really a great city–Austin in a mid size pretentious burg, with a way too high opinion of itself and is say they as a UT grad–in do respect: Austin, get over yourself

  • Austin has hills. We have humidity and mosquitos. The reality is that is the single biggest pro/con. All this other stuff is just noise. Montrose is a weird/cool/interesting texas neighborhood and Houston has lots of those places……..and they are very Austinesque.

  • Austin is an over-hyped, podunk, backwater of a town.

    But they do have Barton Springs…

  • dara, there is absolutely nothing in Austin that comes close to Montrose.

  • dara – good point, but we also have the sea. I don’t care if it’s murky, it’s the sea.

  • Austin is a small(er) city. Houston is a big city. Its minor leagues versus major leagues, pure and simple. (The current incarnation of the Houston Astros notwithstanding.)

    Austin doesn’t have mosquitoes and humidity? Right… maybe compared to Houston but I’d still take a million places over spending August in either one. And the rest of the year is great in both.

    Also, gulf coast + oaks > hills in my book. Hills are nice I guess but nothing wrong with a coastal plain. It means you are near the coast after all.

  • Austin is a city for people who love themselves. Houston has always been a city for people who love Houston.

  • Couldn’t have said it any better Dana-X

  • Dana-X, well put.

    And to some of you, why rip on Austin? It’s a great city, as is Houston. Both are happily very different.

  • I don’t think anyone is bashing Austin, we’re simple saying, get over yourself, you’re not San Deigo, and even SD doesn’t spend all it’s time saying how unique it is and bashing Los Angeles–everyone I know in Austin bashes Houston–I’m like why do you care you don’t live there–it really reeks of insecurity and jealousy, I rarely here anyone in Houston even speaking of Austin much less bashing it

  • The economic drivers in Houston are much more comparable to Shanghai, Dubai, or Hong Kong than for instance Boston, Paris, or Rome. The result is a strongly partial towards highest value use of land rather than anything sentimental. I don’t think anyone reminisces for the days of rice paddies in Shanghai (which wasn’t that long ago) to forgo construction of a block of skyscrapers. All of the first three world cities (maybe not Hong Kong as much) mentioned above are unrecognizable from what they were 40 years ago. The latter three all look more or less the same in most ways. Houston is just following the course of the former. I am excited to be a part of it and whatever it will result in.

  • I didn’t like Austin as much as I expected to. I heard great things and then, after going, I was unimpressed. I prefer Houston and all of its offerings, plus we’re closer to the beach.

  • I live up here in Austin and hate it more and more every day. Weirdness is not something worth bragging about. As for the hills: just piles of bone-dry dirt. I can’t get back to Houston fast enough.