11/21/13 1:00pm

Katy Contemporary Arts Museum, 805 Ave. B at First St., Katy, Texas

Where is the new Katy Contemporary Arts Museum? “In the heart of Katy’s Museum District,” boasts the brand-new institution’s website. That appears to be shorthand for “right across from the Katy Railroad Park and Tourist Center“; the Katy Heritage Museum and Park and “G.I. Joe” Museum are a half-mile northeast. The white concrete-and-brick building at 805 Ave. B, at the corner of First St., was originally built in 1953 for the Katy Lumber Company. The museum chose the structure for its easy access to I-10, among other features. Like its more sophisticated metal-clad sorta-namesake in Houston, admission is free; but art blogger Robert Boyd notes there are plans to expand the 5,000-sq.-ft. facility to house an actual permanent collection:


Trains, Guns, and Art
11/04/13 11:30am

The new Menil Drawing Institute building, being designed by LA architects Johnston Marklee (winners of last year’s competition), will sit on land currently occupied by the Menil’s Richmont Square apartment building. The arts institution doesn’t have plans to tear down the entire apartment complex, however: Drawings submitted to the planning commission as part of a variance application show only the northernmost bank — at the back of the site — wiped clean.


10/28/13 10:00am

ALEXAN PICKS UP MIDTOWN APARTMENTS IN FIRE SALE How, uh . . . successful was the 9-year-long, $9 million fundraising effort for the new Houston Fire Museum exhibit hall planned for the vacant lot on Hadley St. in Midtown, between Main and Travis? Reporters Nancy Sarnoff and Allan Turner explain it this way: “No money will be returned to donors, [Museum board member and treasurer Bill Edge] said, because none was collected.” Plans to turn the 1.44-acre grass-covered site next to the rail line into a fire-themed public park also flamed out. Instead, the museum is giving up and selling off the land — to Trammell Crow Residential, which plans to construct the 7-story, 215-unit Alexan Midtown apartments on the site, beginning in January. [Houston Chronicle ($)] Photo: Ethan Grossman

10/10/13 10:35am

Architecture firm Stern and Bucek has come up with this rendering of the Menil Collection’s new cafe, part of the free museum’s long-planned expansion of its Montrose campus. The design for the cafe — which is yet to be named but will be run by Greg Martin (of Cafés Annie and Express and Taco Milagro) — appears to adapt and elaborate upon the gray bungalow at 1512 Sul Ross St., on the other side of that path from the Menil Bookstore; this is the same site, says a press release from the Menil Collection, that architect Renzo Piano originally had in mind for a similar amenity. So there’s that. Whatever it’ll be called, the cafe, it appears, will split the difference between the museum’s main entrance and the parking lot off W. Alabama.


08/29/13 12:00pm

Hold the phone! Rumored to be a goner, the 1957 Telephone Museum on the corner 18th and Ashland, which was sold about a year ago, will soon be cleaned up and converted into 24 luxury lofts, says Donna Sonne Wright of homebuilders Rohe & Wright. And Wright also tells Swamplot that 21 cottages will be built here too, replacing the fenced-in surface parking lot off 17th. Unfortunately, no renderings of the project are yet available. Rohe & Wright is the same firm responsible for the Saint Honoré gated community under construction off San Felipe.

Photo: Allyn West

07/23/13 10:00am

GALVESTON HISTORICAL FOUNDATION CLOSES ON BISHOP’S PALACE With the Moody Foundation’s $1.5 million donation as a nice starter, the Galveston Historical Foundation was able to raise the rest of the $3 million it needed to buy the 1892 Bishop’s Palace from the Catholic archdiocese and keep it open as a museum. Designed by Nicholas Clayton for Col. Walter Gresham, the 17,420-sq.-ft. Victorian mansion at the corner of 14th and Broadway had housed clergy since 1921 before the foundation opened it up for tours. The Houston Chronicle reports that the archdiocese plans to use the windfall to renovate the St. Mary’s Basilica, also in in Galveston, while the foundation “plans to restore the roof, the front of the building and do repainting [and] other general repairs” to the Palace. [Houston Chronicle ($); previously on Swamplot] Photo: Galveston Historical Foundation

06/17/13 12:00pm

SPACE CENTER HOUSTON’S NEWEST ACQUISITION The Galileo 7 — shown here in a Star Trek episode as piloted by Dr. Mr. Spock on a doomed exploratory voyage to Taurus — is going to be added to the permanent collection at Space Center Houston in Clear Lake. A stand-in, maybe, for the real retired NASA orbiter that the center didn’t get a few years ago, this teevee spacecraft will be kept separate from “actual flown vehicles,” spokesperson Jack Moore tells Hair Balls. But that doesn’t mean it won’t have its own special effect:Houstonians and other visitors will be able to see the Galileo at Space Center Houston’s Zero-G Diner, where, Moore says, the area’s overall theme is developing more of a science fiction atmosphere.” [Hair Balls; previously on Swamplot] Image: Memory Alpha

06/14/13 10:00am

The Menil Collection has picked a landscape architecture firm, and the museum says that the long-awaited master-planned reshaping of its 30-acre Montrose spread will get going this September. The firm belongs to Michael Van Valkenburgh, who’s done some tinkering previously at Harvard Yard and Pennsylvania Avenue. Apparently, the first item of business he’ll tackle here is the parking lot off W. Alabama: “[It] really needs attention,” Menil director Josef Helfenstein tells the Houston Chronicle. “It’s the first thing you see.”


06/11/13 10:00am

UNLOADING GALVESTON’S BISHOP’S PALACE The Galveston-Houston Archdiocese has put up for sale the 1892 Bishop’s Palace, a.k.a. Gresham’s Castle, at 14th and Broadway. The price? $3 million. But the archdiocese isn’t going to let just anyone buy the 17,420-sq.-ft. Victorian clergy digs-turned-museum — at least not for a while: “The Galveston Historical Foundation has an exclusive right until the end of this month to raise . . . the money or the archdiocese can open the sale to all comers,” reports the Houston Chronicle. Foundation director W. Dwayne Jones tells the Chronicle that they’ve already raised $2.3 million. And why the sale? “Jones said the archdiocese has been looking to get out of the museum business for a while. ‘They are in the business of saving souls.'” [Houston Chronicle] Photo: Galveston Historical Foundation

05/20/13 3:10pm

“There’s a lot that’s recently been cleared immediately behind the Asia Society,” reports a reader. You know the one, at the corner of Oakdale and Caroline St.? The one whose owners refused to sell, forcing Asia Society architect Yoshio Taniguchi to design around it? Where there was that 1930s vine-covered home being used as a doctor’s office that was supposed to be sold and renovated into a restaurant, but never was?

Well, in February, 5219 Caroline appeared in the Daily Demolition Report. And this photo taken from the median shows what the site looks like now. The reader continues:

All of the neighbors have questioned who owns the property and what is to happen to it. According to HCAD it appeared to be owned by Balcor, the company behind the rather unpopular Parc Binz. . . . We’re wondering if the Asia Society is trying to buy the land . . . [T]he neighbors who live in the town homes across from Asia Society have complained that the social events held on site tend to be quite loud, quite late. Overall, the neighborhood couldn’t be happier to have this organization in its bounds. And, if they were to own that land, if only they’d open a little gourmet coffee shop. That would please hundreds of people. . . . I’ve heard from Asia Society . . . that they’re trying to purchase the land. I think there is something more going on there — but no one is talking at this point.

Photo: Allyn West

04/26/13 10:00am

How do you move a historic cottage from one location to another? Well, carefully: This video uploaded this week from the Heritage Society chronicles the easy-does-it, steady-as-she-goes relocation of a Fourth Ward cottage from its perch in Sam Houston Park. The Heritage Society says that the house, originally located on Robin St. in Freedman’s Town, dates to at least 1866. It’s been in the collection since 2002, temporarily sited on Dallas St., while the society awaited the funds to move it to its permanent home beside to the Jack Yates House in that architectural promenade on the park grounds along McKinney St.


01/14/13 10:00am

BREAKING UP WITH THE ART GUYS Will the newest installation at the Menil Collection be a hole in the ground? The Art Guys were told last week that the museum intends to remove the live oak they “married” in 2009 in “The Art Guys Marry a Plant,” a public ceremony at the Lillie and Hugh Roy Cullen Sculpture Garden at the MFA,H. The museum acquired the tree in 2011 and held another public ceremony when it was planted in Menil Park on Branard St.; the little site (shown at right) backs up to the bamboo grove walling off the park from the Rothko Chapel and Barnett Newman’s “Broken Obelisk.” [Houston Press] Photo: Robert Boyd

12/20/12 3:50pm

Seen any images floating around of the new building Houston’s Museum of Fine Arts is planning for the northwest corner of the Bissonnet and South Main, next to the Cullen Sculpture Garden? Well then, this watercolor-and-charcoal “concept sketch” for the building by architect Steven Holl from a year and a month ago may interest you. It’s going up for auction tomorrow — as part of a fundraiser for the nonprofit Architecture for Humanity. Holl was selected from a group of 3 finalists this past February, beating out LA design firm Morphosis and Oslo’s Snøhetta for the MFAH commission of a new structure to house 20th- and 21st-century art.


10/04/12 3:23pm

The regional tourism building planned for the northern of the 2 blocks between Minute Maid Park and the GRB will be called the Nau Center for Texas Cultural Heritage, Mayor Parker announced today. It’ll be named after beer distributor and $8-million-donor John Nau; fundraisers hope waving the rendering pictured above will help drum up an additional $32 million to get the thing built. ($15 million more is coming from Houston First, the “government corporation” that runs the city’s convention center, the Hilton Americas Hotel, and several city performance venues.)

The design leaves room for 2 houses dating from 1904 and 1905 and moved to the site last year, the only surviving structures from the neighborhood on nearby blocks named Quality Hill that by the 1930s had vanished — along with its storied reputation for integrity and elevation. The rendering also shows (at far right) the saved-from-scrap 1919 Southern Pacific 982 steam engine parked on the curb across from the East End Light Rail Line along Capitol St. Between the houses and the locomotive will sit the Nau Center’s signature dome entrance, held aloft, the rendering from Bailey Architects shows, by a ring of dainty columns resting at sidewalk level and a circular wall of glass.


08/22/12 4:35pm

“Better see the Telephone Museum while you can,” a tipster tells Swamplot. “Word is it’s sold.” But our tipster doesn’t know who the buyer of the Heights’ AT&T building is. The 3-story, 77,456-sq.-ft. structure at 1714 Ashland St.— it’s got a basement too — was put up for sale earlier this year for $3.1 million. It comes with 113 parking spaces on the 1.65 acre-lot, plus 55 spaces on a half-acre spot across the street. The museum is on the building’s second floor; the structure was built in 1957.

Update: The museum will be out of there by December 1st, Charlotte Aguilar reports.