Thursday, June 30, 2005

Alan Hess coming to speak to Houston Mod

Many of you know that I am a cofounder and board member with Houston Mod, an organization dedicated to preserving modern architecture in Housotn. Well, Houston Mod just announced their third annual lecture to the press. If you care about preserving Memorial Bend, be sure to make it out to the lecture. You'll get a chance to see the HISD Administration Building one last time before it is demolished and, if you're a member and buy tickets, you can visit the iconic Gordon House by Howard Barnstone.

Here is the official press release...


Website Offers Group Information, News and Calendar of Events

HOUSTON, TX – June 28, 2004 – Houston Mod, an organization dedicated to promoting knowledge, appreciation and preservation of modern architecture and design in Houston, will host its third annual lecture on Friday, August 19th at 6:00 PM at the auditorium of the Houston Independent School District Central Administration Building at 3830 Richmond Avenue. Author, lecturer and practicing architect Alan Hess will be speaking on the importance of preserving modern architecture in Houston and across the country. His latest books are The Ranch House and Googie Redux: Ultramodern Roadside Architecture and he is currently writing books on The Houses of Frank Lloyd Wright, The Houses of Oscar Niemeyer, and Organic Architecture: The Other Modernism. Following the lecture, a members-only reception will be held at 8:00 PM at the Gordon House of 1955 at 2307 Blue Bonnet, designed by Bolton & Barnstone.

Hess will discuss mid-century modern architecture and the role it plays today by taking a look back at the 20th century, assessing its architecture and then discussing how a city like Houston benefits from an effort to preserve pieces of yesterday's city. Understanding Houston’s wealth of mid-century modern architecture and the role it plays today will serve a central theme to the discussion. “As one of America's great twentieth century cities, Houston's historic architectural landmarks are more recent than those in Boston or Williamsburg,” notes Hess. “But Houston's mid-century modern style captures a great era in the city's growth in the same way Boston's Colonial buildings symbolize another great era. Houston's Modern architecture matches the best in the nation. Cities that destroy their past suffer from mass amnesia; the only antidote is respecting and protecting the past.”

The 2004 lecture was given by architect Leo Marmol of Marmol Radziner and Associates. The lecture was held at the Brown Auditorium of the Museum of Fine Arts Houston and attracted over 400 people. Lea Bass, Houston Mod Board Member, explains how the success of the first two Houston Mod lectures serves as proof of a rising interest in mid-century modern architecture. “The full house at each of Houston Mod’s past two lectures and the interest in our architectural tours and exhibits have taught us that Houstonians are truly enthusiastic about preserving our wealth of mid-century architecture,” explains Bass. “Prominent speakers like Alan Hess help focus our growing efforts on the preservation of an architectural style that is often overlooked in our city.”

Hess has served as the architecture critic for the San Jose Mercury News since 1986. As an architect, he served as design consultant for the Petersen Automotive Museum of the Natural History' Museum of Los Angeles County, and was a principal contributor to its interpretive exhibits. He has been active in the preservation of roadside and post-War architecture, qualifying the nation's oldest McDonald's drive-in (Downey, CA 1953), an early suburban department store (Bullock's Pasadena, 1947), the 1956 Hotel Valley Ho Motor Inn in Scottsdale, AZ, and the Stuart Pharmaceutical Factory (Edward Durrell Stone, 1958) for the National Register of Historic Places. He received a 1997 Honor Award from the National Trust for Historic Preservation for his efforts to preserve the McDonald's, and a 1999 President's Award from the California Preservation Foundation.

Hess' other books also document and interpret often neglected mid-century, popular and West Coast architecture. His writings have appeared in the Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, Architecture, Architectural Digest, Architectural Record, Interiors, Progressive Architecture, Stadt Bauwelt, Arts + Architecture, Fine Homebuilding and other journals. He has also appeared on the CBS Sunday Morning News with Charles Kuralt, CNN, Good Morning America, BBC-TV's Late Show, NPR's Morning Edition, California Public Radio's California Reports, and other broadcast media.

The Houston Independent School District Central Administration Building, site of the lecture, is Houston’s best extant example of the New Brutalism. The building is notable not only for its award-winning architectural design, which employed a dramatic multi-level sky lit atrium, but also for its stylish interiors which made liberal use of the iconic Eames Aluminum Series furniture. Completed in 1969 by Neuhaus & Taylor, the landmark building and its large property will be replaced with an apartment development and lifestyle center. The pending demolishment secured the building its place on Houston Mod’s 2004 “Top Ten Endangered Moderns” list. Houstonians attending the lecture will receive one of the last glimpses of a building that represents an era from the mid 1960s to the mid 1970s when public institutions in Houston commonly commissioned challenging works of architecture to embody their progressive ideals.

The Gerald Gordon House, site of the post-lecture reception, was the most widely recognized modernist house in Houston of the 1950s. It was perhaps the most perfect example of high style Miesian architecture in Houston with its Knoll interiors selected by Florence Knoll herself and landscaping by Thomas Church of San Francisco. Architectural Record lauded it as being “very much in the ‘grand manner,’ translated into a completely modern idiom.” James Toland of the Los Angeles Times saw it as “an example of Houston’s awakening architectural attitude.” Houston Press journalists Beverly Maurice and Ann Valentine visited the house in July 1956, and wrote “As soon as we arrived at the Gerald Gordon home, the spell of grandeur that it casts fell over us like a cool shadow.” Its current owners, Blanten Filak and Diane Tanking, carefully remodeled the Gordon House between 2001 and 2003.

Sponsors and donors who have come together to graciously support Houston Mod’s third annual lecture include Baker Communications, Bury + Partners, Hotel ICON, Jim Manning Catered Affairs, Lighting Associates, Inc., McCoy, Inc. , Morris Architects and Tito’s Handmade Vodka.

Tickets for the August 19th lecture are $10.00 to the public and $5.00 for Houston Mod members. A limited amount of tickets for the Gordon House reception are available to Houston Mod members for $30.00. Both can be purchased via Houston Mod from Additional information on Houston Mod and the lecture can be found at

About Houston Mod

Formed in 2003 by architects, designers and concerned Houstonians, Houston Mod is a non-profit membership organization dedicated to promoting knowledge and appreciation of modern architecture and design in Houston and Texas. Named by The Houston Press as the Best Preservation Group of 2003, Houston Mod’s programs include exchange of information, classes, lectures, study tours and preservation advocacy. For more information on Houston Mod, interested individuals may visit or can contact Houston Mod at

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Houston Business Journal Article

Two entries ago, I mentioned that Memorial Bend was featured in a Houston Business Journal article. Well, thanks to "subdude", a poster on the Houston Architecture Forum, we now have a copy of the article. You can view the article online at the Memorial Bend Architecture page.

I'll update you in a couple of weeks as it looks like Memorial Bend will be mentioned in an upcoming article in Zest magazine. Our community continues to get good press thanks to the quality of houses and history of our neighborhood. The houses that make up our neighborhood are one of the key reasons why we stand out... do your part in helping preserve the integrity of Memorial Bend.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Atomic Ranch Magazine visits The Bend

Good news for Memorial Bend... this past May, Atomic Ranch Magazine visited Memorial Bend to photograph three houses for an upcoming issue. Three houses in Memorial Bend, all three designed by William Floyd, were photographed for a feature article on Houston. Two other houses, one in Ayrshire and the other in the East End, were also photographed.

If you're not familiar with the magazine, bills itself as "a quarterly devoted to 1940's - 1970's ranch houses and modernist tract homes. They're cooler than you think..."

The Sacramento News & Review sings the praises of Atomic Ranch, stating,

Atomic Ranch, a quarterly publication and accompanying Web site, is the perfect resource for the renovation, retro décor and relaxed lifestyle associated with the forward-thinking ranch homes of the late 1940s and 1950s. It reads like a middle-class Architectural Digest crossed with a retro-centric Sunset. Articles focus on homeowners’ stylish houses, along with features about mid-century accessories such as electronics, cars and fashion.

A Memorial Bend house appeared in Atomic Ranch's "Home Page" section in the summer of 2004...

If you have a house you'd like to submit to their "Home Page" section, visit the Atomic Ranch webpage. Also, be sure to subscribe so you can be one of the first ones on the block to see Memorial Bend in print.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Memorial Bend in the Houston Business Journal

I just spotted this posted on the Houston Architecture forum...

It won't be posted online, but the current (May 27) print edition of Houston Business Journal has a history of the Memorial Bend subdivision in the "Houston Heritage" column. There is some discussion of the architects William Floyd, Lars Bang, etc.

Does anyone have a copy of this article? If so, please let me know... I would love to post a copy online.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

The Early Years of Memorial Bend

I receive at least an e-mail a month from someone who grew up in the Bend and has some interesting stories or memories to share of the neighborhood. Listed below is part of an e-mail from a Houstonian who grew up in Memorial Bend when the neighborhood was still being developed..

My friends and I were "horse crazy" and we used to ride our horses up and down Memorial Drive. . . Our pasture was on Memorial Drive (across the street from Gaywood). . . Dairy Ashford was a gravel road.

I used to meet my best friend (via bicycle) at what we called then the "bird pond" (Memorial Drive and West Belt). She lived west of West Belt on Memorial Drive. . . and that was 1/2 way for both of us.

My brother and I have many wonderful memories in the Memorial Bend area. I took life saving classes at the Memorial Bend pool and we were both on swim teams. . .

I was in the first graduating class from Memorial High School. My brother went to Bendwood. We both went to Spring Branch Junior High.

I can remember my mother going to the A&P on Long Point to buy groceries. . .

Yes, I remember the adults getting upset about something commercial going in on Katy Road at West Belt. . . The Texaco station. . .

My first charge account was at Interurban Pharmacy. . . Fudgesicles were 5 cents.

Should you have any stories to share, please feel free to share them and I'll be glad to post them anonymously.