Comment of the Day: The Right Kind of Home for Houston

COMMENT OF THE DAY: THE RIGHT KIND OF HOME FOR HOUSTON “Question: What should Houston vernacular be? By that I mean, what type of residential architecture design is most logical with respect to our climate, region and lifestyle? The home designs as represented by the Toll Brothers are typical of the amalgam homes that proliferate throughout Houston. The two designs represented in this piece are pure kitsch – regardless of how well made they may be or the ‘amenities’ lavished upon the interiors. The Hill Country and Austin both possess vernacular employing indigenous materials – split face limestone – and a mixture of elements capturing key elements from Spanish Missions, turn-of-the-century farm houses and modernism. While this in itself is an amalgam the end results are more pleasing and ‘honest’ than the stucco containers for humans that dot Houston’s landscape.” [JAH, commenting on Getting Houston Right: The Toll Brothers Come to Town]

7 Comment

  • Maybe we should just make our floors and walls out of the clay in our soil then thatch the roof will prairie grass!

    That would keep local materials in use.

    Please, the hill country has some natural resources that are more favorable to cladding the outside of the home and using for finishes. It’s why they can develop a style that fits the natural environment.

    Outside of the my silly opening comment, log cabins would be the next logical choice of natural material local material to that could be used.

  • We do have a local vernacular–the Houston Row House. It’s just that no one has figured out how to upsize this basic design into a McMansion.

  • Pier and beam, wood frame with wood exterior. Just about any house in the 6th ward. The Row Houses most definitly and most houses being torn down in Montrose and the Heights.

  • The Houston venacular rests on a pier and beam foundation, has hardiplank siding and protected southern & western exposures. In the past we had dog-run breezways and attic fans, and we’ll probably get back to that sooner or later.

  • There’s also no reason why brick shouldn’t be considered to be part of the Houston vernacular architecture. As kjb points out, we have a heavy clay soil which was used to fire bricks right back to the birth of the city. Maybe wood was more commonly used for cost reasons but brick was also common in larger homes and commercial structures right back to the Victorian period.

  • It’s true that the Hill Country and Austin both have more natural resources amenable to a building vernacular than Houston does.

    However, here along the Gulf Coast in Houston, we have no shortage of oil services companies and related equipment. I propose that the Houston vernacular (in spirit if not literally) is an off-shore oil drilling rig reclaimed and converted for residential use and its assorted pilings set in concrete on site. It should be big enough to satisfy the cravings of the numerous McMansion enthusiasts in Houston and the elevated dwelling on pilings would reflect a deference to the local climate, prone as it is to Hurricanes and frequent flooding!

  • I think the reason Houston doesn’t have an identifiable vernacular is because we never bothered to preserve any of the traditions we had nor have we really tried to create something new. Our attitude toward land development has prevented us from fostering a distinct architectural identity; Instead, the lack of one has been the defining characteristic. Our city is relatively young and grew so rapidly that I don’t think we had time to give it much thought, but that is not to say we couldn’t in the future have an architecture of our own. I think dog-run breezeways and row houses are excellent places to start looking for our architectural heritage. As well as looking at places like Galveston and New Orleans which might give us a little insight into how people lived in this climate before air conditioning.