Personal tools
log in | join | help

2005 Houston Mod Lecture with Alan Hess

by Michael Brichford last modified Jul 20, 2005 09:30 PM
Editorial Rating: 1 2 3 4 5
Average Rating: 1 2 3 4 5 ( 0 votes)



2005 Houston Mod Lecture with Alan Hess

Posted by Michael Brichford at June 28. 2005

Hope y'all can join us on August 19th for the Alan Hess lecture. This will also provide one last glimpse into the soon to be demolished HISD building and a very rare glimpse into Howard Barnstone's iconin Gordon House...


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

Re: 2005 Houston Mod Lecture with Alan Hess

Posted by Susan McElroy at July 19. 2005

Wow. You can't imagine how much value I've gotten out of this post. I grew up in Houston, AKA Space City in the late 50's-60's. From cruising around on your site I saw a couple of old friends...for instance, the classy modernist house that was built just 5 doors down from my childhood home is for sale (the one on Oaks Drive) which by cooincidence I saw two weeks ago as I and my sister had to visit the area on business related to my parents' estate. I want to know which department store is being referred to as getting a historical designation as I don't remember the name, but I'm pretty sure it's just across the way from my old high school. I saw on some Houston Mods forums that my old part of town (Pasadena and surrounds) is often referred to as the East Side and that some of those classic moderns aways back across I-45 are going for a song as the neighborhood is run down. I have GOT TO get back and check this out. So yes, I'm going to make that lecture by hook or by crook if I can still get tickets. It appears that the new growth in the last 30 or 40 years skipped over East Houston, Pasadena, Deer Park, etc., and blossomed out towards NASA (which, BTW, was originally in Pasadena, but Houston snatched it away)and closer to Galveston Bay. A huge swath of the area is now depressed but I didn't feel particularly threatened or uneasy. Mods, start your engines!:cool:

Re: 2005 Houston Mod Lecture with Alan Hess

Posted by Susan McElroy at July 20. 2005

Here's a link to some Houston architecture buffs; Modernism is there but it's not exclusive to the group:

Powered by Ploneboard




Website migration, maintenance and customization provided by Grafware.