9 Comment

  • Attempts of historic preservation in Houston include outry over demolition of trashy old (but not too old) buildings and blindly opposing whatever gets built in the same spot.

    History can be written now, and I would much rather have a masterpiece (and I am not saying that is one is) high rise than preserving an old structure that was never a stunner.

  • Welcome to Houston

  • What is the historic significance of the crumbling, underutilized, overpriced parking lot currently occupying this space?

  • So, we get all touchy when people point out that Houston is ugly, but also get bent out of shape at the idea of trying to preserve some architectural consistency in the few areas where an effort has been made to preserve the historic architecture.

    Also, it is interesting that the part of Downtown Houston that is finally seeing some good development of restaurants and bars is the part that is a historic district while other ventures like the Bayou Place and Pavillions/Green Street flounder around and limp along.

  • This gripe has more to do with my experiences with the Vieux-Carre Commission than Houston’s Historic Commission. I guess many of us are unfamiliar with the concept of juxtaposition. Seriously, does anybody get confused when they see the Bank of America tower and think they are in Holland ca. 1590? Should all skyscrapers be forced to look that way too now? That’s what your arguing for if you like the way the commission is handling their job.


    Architectural consistency is achieved by not letting anymore contributing historic structures be razed from here on out i.e. preservation. The city’s past itself has already provided a great deal of potential infill and a fair amount of historic bldgs at present. The new infill should highlight or contrast the historic, not try to blend in with it and therefore confuse the masses as to what’s historic and what’s not. Unless you want people to be stupid about architecture… like NOLA err :cough: Vegas :cough:
    Which I’m guessing is the reason why many clients want their bldgs to just look historic. In a perfect world , the commission would have an architectural obligation to force these footloose actors to build in a manner that enhances the value of the historic architecture and not just the value of their proposed project at the expense of the historic bldgs. The commission should operate more like copyright protection, instead they are actively pushing for architectural infringement. Historic buildings are not some aesthetic flagpole you can raise and therefore all buildings around it will appreciate. Sometimes it’s the differences that matter most, at least that’s the architectural lesson I’ve gathered from living in Houston.

  • I understand the point about creative juxtaposition. Sometimes a modern building looks good among historic buildings.

    But, it’s also true that some new buildings could seriously jar with the existing historical stock. A 50 story glass building, for instance, would have a damaging effect on the French Quarter of New Orleans – this is probably why you found the Vieux Carre Commission so annoying. As for this Hines building, I think it contributes to the neighborhood much more than if you had something like Houston House or even Sky House there.

    LRS… I guess every old building is “trashy” to you. And I guess Houston has so many old buildings and so little available space that these darned preservation laws are really holding back new development.

  • @Infinite: The main reason historic properties get mowed down is because they become an island of architecture and lose their significance once they are surrounded by an odd assortment of new construction from later eras. Being confused between what is original and what is new construction is just a sign of a job well done by the architect and the historic commission. You never hear anyone complain that they are putting in a spot on replica in a historic district. But, people show up with torches and pitchforks when someone wants to do something that sticks out like a sore thumb. The differences that matter are the differences between what is in the district and what is out of it. Not what is within the district itself.

  • Mike…

    I never said that every old building is trashy.

    To put it into perspective, if you have a run down 1960’s era Corvette, it makes sense to invest in order to restore that rare gem into something that many can admire versus switching it out for a new car, regardless of what it is.

    Now if you have a Chevette, even though you’ve had great moments in it, and it’s awesome on gas, if someone were to offer you any new car for sale in the States, it makes a lot of sense to take the new car, even if it is a bottom of the line Kia, because even if you were to restore that Chevette, there would be little value in it, and it would really be a waste of money.

    If that Chevette were to be taken away from its owner and replaced with a Lamborghini, I am pretty sure that any owner would be ok with that.

    What I am trying to say is that there may be a couple of gems left here in Houston that are worth preserving, but there are also a ton of buildings from times of unremarkable architecture, which at times still get tears when demolition is approved.

  • I want to see what a jarring contrast between truly historic and cutting-edge new would be like in Houston. I don’t think it could be much worse than what would usually be done.