Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Some good news...

It's no secret that McMansions are slowly creeping into the neighborhood. Several one-story ranch-style houses have recently been razed and replaced with grossly out-of-proportion and out-of-place McMansions. Fortunately, not all news is bad news. In fact, several houses are in the process of being restored or appear to be saved.

330 Electra - Could it be that this house has finally been rescued from it's status as a rental. The new owner apparently is the owner of an art gallery and is looking forward to filling the house with 1950s furniture. While this is no guarantee that the house will be fixed up, it certainly sounds like they are the right kind of person to rescue the only example of this Floyd design in Houston.

12923 Memorial - This house was recently purchased by an architect who plans on renovating and restoring the home. The owner has the original plans which should aid in the process. Apparently, much of the house is in original condition and includes an exotic mural that was painted by the original owners. I'll post a photograph of the mural soon.

12923 Hansel - Termite and mold got a hold of Floyd's award-winning house but the new owners, an architect and his wife, are gradually restoring this home.

423 Isolde - After years as a rental property, this house was purchased by a couple that loves modern architecture and mid-century design. Chalk this house up as another success story!

Thursday, October 19, 2006

New Construction in the Bend

One of my frustrations with developers who come into Memorial Bend is their disregard for the character of our unique neighborhood. Build from 1955-1959, Memorial Bend has an eclectic architectural mix of predominantly one-story ranch and mid-century modern houses. Most homes are low, rambling and well-proportioned to each other. Mature trees and lushness define the look of the neighborhood with enough elbow room for neighbors to "breathe".

Yet, here comes another developer ready to plop down a house that will look utterly out of place in Memorial Bend that, given the description, will probably require scraping of trees and zero lot line construction. Get ready for a white elephant to pop up on Gretel:

Elegant new construction by Metropolitan Custom Homes in Memorial Bend. Brick & Stucco exterior w/grand 2-story foyer,French doors leading into a cathedral ceiling study& formal dining with butlers pantry & wet bar. Chef's kitchen w/granite,curved island & ss appliances. Wonderful great room w/fireplace,built-ins & French doors leading to the veranda. Master down w/granite bath. Media/bedroom#5 + gameroom up. Hardwood & Travertine floors down,mud rm w/built-in lockers&computer alcove & 3/4 bedrm up.

Say goodbye to this...

...and hello to this?

or this?

...or who knows what!?

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Gretel "mystery" house for sale

You might have seen me post this little tidbit on the Memorial Bend web page before.

Well, this house has always intrigued me. There were a couple of pictures a while back posted on an HAR listing but it looks like a new listing shows much more.

Really, little is known about it... I don't know who designed it and the position on the lot really makes you wonder what's hiding behind the plain facade. The closed in carport seems to be a rather unsightly addition but it looks easily fixed. Anyway, wonder no more...

HAR listing

Hopefully someone will restore this great house before some developer razes it and replaces it with a zero lot line 5,000 sq. ft. Mediterranecolonialtudorgeorgian monstrosity. It needs some work but has a ton of potential. You have to dig the freestanding fireplace. Also, if I remember correctly, the roof may be butterfly shaped.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Wow... so slow to update

Yes... I know... it's been a long time since I've updated the page and there is so much news to share - houses that have been restored, preservation battles, houses for sale and more great publicity for the Bend.

Let's take it one bite at a time... so, for today, here is some exciting news:

12923 Memorial is for Sale

Little was known about this house until it recently turned up on HAR.com. The house is similar to other mid-century homes with similar designs... private from the front but the insides are usually light and very open.

A shot of the house taken last year:

Anyway, by looking at the HAR listing, you can see some great shots of the interior. The house was apparently designed by a David Crocket and it appears to be in rather original condition. At $249,900, let's hope a mid-century lover picks it up before a builder does.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Memorial Bend House featured in Atomic Ranch

The house of Cathie and Rick Johnson is currently featured in the Winter 2005 issue of Atomic Ranch magazine. The article is a product of Atomic Ranch's visit to Houston in May of 2005 and truly showcases the effort they have put in restoring and preserving a great William Floyd design. If you haven't picked up a copy of the article, here are scans (large images) of the eight page spread:

Page 1

Page 2

Page 3

Page 4

Page 5

Page 6

Page 7

Page 8

This is a fantastic article and, once again, great publicity for Memorial Bend... something that we won't continue receiving if our houses are replaced with McMansions.

Sunday, July 31, 2005

Updates on The Bend

The past few months have provided Memorial Bend with a great deal of publicity, from mentions in local newspapers to visits from national magazines. If you live in the neighborhood, check out this month's newsletter to find out where Memorial Bend has been mentioned.

Not mentioned in the newsletter was an interview that took place on Friday, July 29th on National Public Radio and KPFT Houston. Karen Lantz, president of well-known preservation group
Houston Mod was interviewed by Gertrude Barnstone, widow of architect Howard Barnstone. Karen focused primarily on the efforts of Houston Mod and the challenges the organization faces in Houston. When asked about specific areas with concentrations of great modern architecture, Karen went into detail on Memorial Bend and the Memorial Bend Architecture web page. Very exciting!

On a less-than-exciting note, two houses in the Bend will soon be demolished and replaced with McMansions. A "French tudor" house in the 4,000 - 5,000 sq. ft. range will be built on the east side of Memorial Bend. The other will replace a William N. Floyd-designed home on the 12900 block of Figaro... a well-maintainted and cohesive block on which 9 out of the 10 houses were designed by Floyd. The new house is believed to be similar in size to the one being built on the east side. Surely, both will "blend in" with the surrounding neighborhood... (!) While assurances are being made that the houses will be lived in by the current owners and builders, speculation is that both are indeed spec houses.

For those looking for a modern houses, I've heard rumors that a fantastic Floyd-designed home will soon be coming on the market. From what I've heard, the house will list somewhere are the $240,000 range and is a great modern house with some very cool original features. More to come...

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 www.HoustonMod.org 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 sally@houstonmod.org. Additional information on Houston Mod and the lecture can be found at www.houstonmod.org.

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 www.houstonmod.org or can contact Houston Mod at info@houstonmod.org.