A man fishes on the Houston Ship Channel at the site of the San Jacinto monument. Photograph by Hester & Hardaway.

The Unexpected City Challenge

Houston has its share of famous buildings like Mies van der Rohe’s addition to The Musuem of Fine Arts, Houston and Renzo Piano’s Menil Collection. While places like these garner global acclaim, it is often Houston’s unexpected places—from the warehouses surrounding downtown to old-school barbershops to open fields, and the many places in between—that give Houston its spark. Other times, the unexpected allure of Houston exists in a personal experience of a well-known place—like the sensation of wondrous disorientation as you walk into the slanted-glass entrance of Philip Johnson’s Pennzoil Place. Houstonians are often walking libraries of beloved places that may go unseen by other passersby.

It is these places and their accompanying experiences that the Rice Design Alliance wants to know about. This month, we are launching a campaign entitled “Unexpected City” that is asking Houstonians, or anyone who wants to participate, to submit their favorite location in the city. Submissions will be published here on Offcite. In addition to submissions, Katie Plocheck and others will also be visiting many of the locations and documenting the time spent there on Offcite.org. Our expectation is that we can have an exhibition of places at the end of the year, and one day, a publication.

RDA hopes that unexpected places will span the city, scattered across its wards and suburbs, and the innumerable neighborhoods within the city. By submitting a place, individuals will help portray Houston as a hub of hidden delights. As a reader, you will ideally not only find places to eat, hike, and dance, they will come to understand the question of “Why Houston?” by considering the built and natural environments.

Criteria for submissions is that the site be partially or completely open to the public. The focus of “Unexpected City” is primarily places or locations that are not already widely published, represented, or commercial. These can be places off the beaten path, or places on the beaten path where the contributor may have had a unique experience. Rice Design Alliance reserves the right to not publish or share submissions.

Please send submissions to Katie.Plocheck@rice.edu and if you’d like, let us know why this place stands out to you via written word, video, art, or any other way you would like to communicate your perception or opinion about the place. Please visit Offcite.org to view submissions!

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16 Comments

  1. 1

    [...] presents the first submission to the Unexpected City challenge, made by bicyclist Peter Wang. Click here to learn about making your own [...]


  2. 2

    Hanks Ice Cream Parlor 9291 Main Street 77025
    This place reminds me of the great restaurants that used to line Main Street. When you go, you’ll get a very friendly welcome and the best ice cream you’ve ever tasted!


  3. 3

    [...] presents the next submission to the Unexpected City challenge, made by Cite editor Raj Mankad. Click here to learn about making your own [...]


  4. 4

    [...] presents the third submission to the Unexpected City challenge, made by John Bryant. Click here to learn about making your own [...]


  5. 5

    My favorite place to take out of town guests to is the Beer Can House at 222 Malone. It is a great example of dedication and whimsy by the creator John Milkovisch that he started in 1968. Walking up to the house you can see the extensive number of beer cans that were used to cover the house. If the wind is blowing you can hear the tinkling of the wind chimes that were created with the tops of the beer cans. As you stroll down the driveway there are quirky objects like marbles placed in the concrete that add to this folk art icon of Houston. The Orange Show now maintains the house and on Saturday and Sunday for $2 you can see the inside. Which remains virtually untouched, the original kitchen and quirkey linoleum bring you into the mind of this artist as well as a video documenting the history and media appearances by the couple that lived in the house. I really love it and hope you will take a moment to at least drive by and if you have time check out the inside as well. Cheers!


  6. 6

    [...] presents the fourth submission to the Unexpected City challenge, made by Theresa Keefe. Click here to learn about making your own [...]


  7. 7

    A little-known oasis in downtown is the recently-completed Outdoor Reading Room at the corner of Smith and Lamar, part of the Julia Ideson Building which houses the City’s Houston Metropolitan Research Center. Graceful palm trees complement the Spanish Plateresque architecture framing the courtyard. Seated on a chair next to a historic bubbling wishing well, visitors are slightly elevated above adjacent public sidewalks, allowing peaceful reading or contemplation in the midst of a busy downtown landscape.


  8. 8

    [...] presents the fifth submission to the Unexpected City challenge, made by Bart Truxillo. Click here to learn about making your own [...]


  9. 9

    [...] presents the sixth submission by a commenter to the original Unexpected City challenge post. Click here to learn about making your own [...]


  10. 10

    [...] Heger, Assistant Director for Planning & Facilities for the Houston Public Library system. Click here to learn about making your own [...]


  11. 11

    [...] presents the eighth submission to the Unexpected City challenge, made by Mary Gloriod. Click here to learn about making your own [...]


  12. 12

    [...] presents the ninth submission to the Unexpected City challenge, made by Maria Oran. Click here to learn about making your own [...]


  13. 13

    [...] presents the tenth submission to the Unexpected City challenge, made by Camilo Parra. Click here to learn about making your own [...]


  14. 14

    [...] presents the eleventh submission to the Unexpected City challenge, made by Aaron Carpenter. Click here to learn about making your own [...]


  15. 15

    [...] this Hear Our Houston audio tour and contribution to Unexpected City, documentary filmmaker Heather Korb acquaints us with some of the Heights’ charm. This one [...]


  16. 16

    [...] this Hear Our Houston audio tour and contribution to Unexpected City, Raj Mankad, the editor of Cite and OffCite, takes us on a tour of the triangle-shaped area bounded [...]


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