Heights Living, Victorian style.

Craftsman Bungalow.  1926.  The Heights.
The last several posts have been about travel and architecture in cities outside of the US.  This time I have decided to bring it home, and what a better way than to write about my neighborhood:  The Heights.

The group of neighborhoods (Woodland Heights, Norhill, Houston Heights, Sunset Heights, et al.) just northwest of Downtown Houston collectively known as the Heights, was originally founded in 1891 as "Houston Heights".  It served as a streetcar suburb of Houston and it was annexed to the City in 1919.

The neighborhood sits on higher ground than the rest of the city (thus the name), and a bayou separates it from the rest of Houston, this gives it a clear  definition and provides several points of entrance into the neighborhood.  Moreover, the communities still retain much of their original turn of the 20th century character, thanks in part to the efforts of caring neighbors and Historic designations such as the Norhill Historic District. (http://www.proctorplaza.com/

For most Houstonians The Heights is a beloved, sought after, and well known place.  It is alive at different times of the year with festivals that attract artists, musicians, and visitors from all over the city and other parts of the State.  It is home to unique neighbor-owned boutiques and antique shops, exciting dining, wonderful parks, and most attractively, it is home to the famous "Heights Craftsman Bungalow". (See pictured above a typical Craftsman Bungalow).  If one lives in The Heights, chances are (pretty big chances) that one lives in one version of the bungalow.  One could say that the Bungalow is the face of the Heights.

Which is why I am always happy to see some architectural variety:

David Barker House.  Houston Heights.  This house was home to the Mayor of Houston Heights.  Built in 1910.
Victorian houses are rare in the city of Houston (due to indiscriminate demolition...).  Houston Heights, being the oldest part of The Heights boasts the highest quantity and quality of Victoriana.  The next several examples are all neighbors on the same street, all in the National and Texas Register of Historic Places.  Houston Heights is home to so many buildings in the Registers that this post would be endless would I to post them all, so I am just posting my favorite.

Queen Anne Cottage.  Houston Heights.
The owner of this house told me that if I had visited one week earlier to take this picture I would have captured his white roses in full bloom.  People in The Heights take great pride in their gardens, usually planting native plants that will survive in the harsh heat.  Another feature common to Victorian and craftsman houses alike is the porch, where the neighbors will usually hang a porch swing.

Small Victorian.  Houston Heights.
All the streets in The Heights are lined with centenary oak trees that shade and cool the houses, and also make for interesting shadows across the façades.

Small Painted Lady.  Houston Heights.

The Milroy-Muller House during the March azalea bloom.  Houston Heights.  National Register of Historic Places. 
Image by Ed Uthman.
The Horse Stop at the Milroy-Muller House

The Pumpkin House.  This is a traditional "Painted Lady" Victorian House, but it has some really Robust details, particularly in the porch that wraps around the corner of the house.  I'd like to think of it as "Robust Ginger Bread".

The Pumpkin House.  Front Door.

The Pumpkin House.  The wrought iron fence is a historic reproduction, in which the owners took pains to hide some modern amenities:  Notice the doorbell button revealed only in the glare of the western afternoon light.

The Truxillo Home.  Built in 1892 in the Queen Anne/Stick Style.  It sits across the street from the Pumpkin house and it is in the National Register of Historic Places due to its "Architectural Significance, and because I live here"; as its owner jokinly put it.  But he wasn't joking about its beauty, the house is truly rare.  The owner of the Truxillo Home takes great pride in his garden which he has appropriately designed in a romantic manner.  The afternoon this picture was taken I found him diligently prunning and watering his plants, guarding them from the already setting heat.

Here lives a romantic English garden translated to the Texan landscape.  The Truxillo Home.  Houston.  Heights.

The Truxillo Home.  Houston Victoriana.

When you come to Houston make sure to cross the bayou into The Heights, enjoy our shops, our food, our parks, and our beautiful buildings.  If you live in Houston do visit us often, and if you are already my neighbor, isn't this place the coolest in town?

Afternoon shade.  Woodland Heights.

All images by NPL unless noted otherwise.



The Museum of Fine Arts Houston, along with the Musée du Louvre in Paris, has organized an exhibit titled Antiquity Revived.  Nearly 150 artworks including paintings, sculptures, furniture and drawings, inspired by Classical Greece and Rome are currently on display at the Audrey Jones Beck Building in Houston.

Among the above mentioned drawings I found this:

The Dining Room at Kedleston Hall, by Robert Adam, Architect. (1728-1792).  Image by NTPL/Nadia Mackenzie.

The drawing in question was the design for the Dining Room at Kedleston Hall in Derbyshire, quintessential Adam:

The Dining Room at Kedleston Hall, Derbyshire.  Robert Adam, Architect.  Image by NTPL/Nadia Mckenzie.

Upon seeing this, I had what can only be described as a "Surreal Moment".  Here it was, in all its pencil and watercolor glory, signed in beautiful cursive: Robert Adam, Architect.  Those of you who know me well can attest that Mr. Adam is one of my heroes.  Seeing one of his drawings this close and personal is my version of a celebrity encounter.  I was almost giddy, I had to stifle a giggle.  I quickly turned around to the person next to me, but stopped, remembering that I had attended the exhibit by myself.  There was no one to tell, no one that would "get it".  I had to content myself until much later, when I finally discussed the matter with my friend the Ph. D at Architecture/Cosmopolis, who definitely "gets it".

Throughout my formative years in Architecture I have had many "Surreal Moments", and unlike this last encounter and fortunately for me, I have been able to share them with some very special people who  absolutely "get it".

Here are some of my favorite:

The Grand Canal in Winter.  Chateau du Versailles, France.

The South Parterre in winter.  Chateau du Versailles, France.

I was 9 when I realized I wanted to be an architect.  My parents had gone to Paris and brought me several books about the art and architecture of the city.  One book in particular caught my attention, it was a guide to the Palace of Versailles.  I fantasized so much about visiting the place that when I actually did (11 years later), it felt like I had already been there.  At that moment my life in Architecture had come full circle.

Ah, Rome...Where do I begin?  
Seeing the Pantheon for the first time.  We were jet-lagged but didn't care, all we wanted was to find the Pantheon.  We ran down the street and saw the round shadow reflected on the facade of Santa Maria Sopra Minerva, we knew we had arrived.  I hugged one of the columns, yes I hugged it, as though it was a person.

Finally finding the Tempietto, then years later taking my (future) husband to see it.

Admiring Rome from the Gianicolo...

Then there are the moments that are not just surreal, they are Mythical...When I was child my father used to put me to sleep by telling me stories, only the stories where not fairy tales, but passages of ancient history and Greek and Roman myths:

The Gate of the Lions.  Ancient Citadel of Agamemnon.  Mycenae, Greece.
All of these "Surreal Moments" are not just happy memories, but a catalog of inspiration that informs my work one way or another, sometimes making appearances in the least likely of places - see the boulders and corbels in the fireplaces below:

Residence in Colorado.  Nadia Palacios Lauterbach for Curtis and Windham Architects, Inc.
Image courtesy of Curtis and Windham Architects, Inc.

Residence in Colorado.  Nadia Palacios Lauterbach for Curtis and Windham Architects, Inc.
Image courtesy of Curtis and Windham Architects, Inc.

A touch of The Iliad in the Wild West I suppose.

Have you had a "Surreal Moment" that you'd like to share?  Do you also "get it"?

All images by NPL unless noted otherwise.


Mariachi, Caballo, y Tequila!

A popular adage says that to say Jalisco is to say "mariachi, horses (charro horseman), and tequila", because this state of Mexico is the birthplace and home of all three traditions.  Jalisco is also home to "its bride" Guadalajara, capital city and the crowning jewel of the state.  After a visit to Guadalajara, I would like to modify the old adage to the following:  Jalisco es Mariachi, Caballo, Tequila y Arte!

Catedral Basílica de la Asunción.  Work on the Cathedral spanned 3 centuries, and it is evident in the different styles amalgamated on its facades, ranging from the Mudejar, to the Baroque, to the Neoclassical.

Teatro Degollado.  The theatre, inaugurated in 1866, is Neoclassical in style, and has survived the course of time with few changes to its original character.

Palacio de Justicia.  The Justice Hall was built as part of the Convent of Santa María de Gracia in 1588.

Biblioteca Iberoamericana Octavio Paz, Universidad de Guadalajara.  This building first functioned as church for the Jesuit College of Santo Tomás de Aquino, founded in 1591.  In 1792, after the Jesuit order was expelled from Spain and its Colonies, the church became the seat for the Royal University of Guadalajara. 

The way the Library sits in the square today reminds me of Saint Paul's Church in Covent Garden.  There is something very European and very urban about this place.  This is not a building that one observes at the end of an endless boulevard or a great open plaza; this is a building (and a square) that one discovers after walking through a series of narrow streets.  It is one of the more intimate public spaces in Guadalajara, and though it is not quiet, there is a certain calm that emanates from the order of the space and the architecture.  Please note the pavement on the Plaza: Dark grey basaltic stone field (which is used throughout the Historic Center), and light grey granite borders, not dissimilar to the pavement at Piazza San Marco in Venice.  Needless to say that this was one of my favorite places in the whole city.

Interior of the Biblioteca Iberoamericana Octavio Paz.

Guadalajara's Historic Center, much like her Cathedral, is a mixture of different architectural styles:

The Neo-Mudejar.  Apartments and shops.

The Beaux Arts.  Wrought iron bandstand at the Plaza the Armas, brought from France in 1910.

The Gothic.  Templo Expiatorio del Santísimo Sacramento, began in 1897.

The Sublime.  Entrance Hall of the Teatro Degollado.

Indeed, the rarest pearl in all of Jalisco is Guadalajara!

All images by NPL unless otherwise noted.


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