In this Hear Our Houston audio tour and contribution to Unexpected City, writers Diana and Steven Wolfe stroll from their first Houston residence, a house in the Heights at 920 Ridge where they lived together thirteen years ago. Turning left onto Julian Street, they pass under the oaks and crepe myrtles to Bayland Street, where “if you look down to your right the streets just become this whole cathedral of overhanging oaks that are like protective Heights spirits, and they make it feel beautifully warm and welcoming.”
Listen by clicking on the link below:
Oaks and Crepe Myrtles in the Heights (mp3, 12 MB) by Steven and Diana Wolfe
Cover image cropped from Monu issue #14.
Houston has always had a tricky relationship with historic preservation. Unlike numerous other global cities, Houston often allows its older structures to grow over with weeds or be demolished, eventually making way for new development. Traditional preservationism would imply that this approach is morally wrong: not to preserve architectural history is to lose it forever.
Yet both the new issue of MONU: Magazine on Urbanism and a recent show called Cronocaos, curated by Rem Koolhaas at the New Museum in New York, question our common approach to preservation. Should old buildings be preserved in a pristine state forever, or should they be allowed to remain an active part of a city, even if they continue to deteriorate from use? Has historic preservation done more damage to cities than good, by airbrushing and sanitizing them for tourists and the wealthy, while making them less accessible and useful to citizens? The image portrayed by Koolhaas is of preservationists cleaning facades, scrubbing interiors, and then putting up metaphorical velvet ropes that prevent users from getting too close to the architecture—”please do not touch. Even clean hands can harm the art….etc.” Even the term preservation implies an object sealed off from the effects of time, petrified, as it were.
In this Hear Our Houston audio tour and contribution to Unexpected City, writers Kelly Moore and Addie Tsai take a walk from an apartment to the labyrinth at St. Thomas, with a stop at the reflecting pool by the Rothko Chapel. Moore, who uses a wheelchair, contributed the cover story to the current issue of Cite (84, Spring 2011), available at bookstores now. Listen by clicking on the link below:
A Walk With Wheels (mp3, 5.3 MB) by Kelly Moore and Addie Tsai
Microcosm, photos by Stephanie Toppin
In this Hear Our Houston audio tour and contribution to Unexpected City, Visual Artist Stephanie Toppin echoes Bob Stein, the dean of the School of Social Sciences of Rice University: “Hillcroft is disorganized but not necessarily unorganized development. It is what Houston is all about. When you go from one end of Hillcroft to the other end, you cross every ethnic and racial group in our city. As a result, I want to say it is a microcosm.”
In Toppin’s words: “This one mile stretch of Hillcroft provides everything you need but wins you over through your stomach. Your destination is Bayland Park, always bustling with a game of soccer, families relaxing after a long day, and children unphased by the summer sun. I grew up here for my elementary school life and my mother always chanted that perhaps we would not have money for some things but we would never, ever go hungry. There was always food, ‘our food,’ as well as the education of sampling tastes from many different cultures. ” Listen by clicking on the link below:
Microcosm: A Stroll Down Hillcroft (mp3, 13.9 MB) by Stephanie Toppin
Boulevard Oaks, photos by Lara Appleby
In this Hear Our Houston audio tour and contribution to Unexpected City, avid dancer and banjo player Lara Appleby leads a 10-minute one-way walk along North Boulevard. In her doctoral studies at the University of Houston, Appleby probes the exceptionally small workers made by new ant colonies. In her stroll through Boulevard Oaks, she describes details of design and nature, and hypothesizes about the lives of local inhabitants. Follow a brick path on an esplanade lined with trees and surrounded by majestic lawns and homes. Look up to see the unruly live oak branches sheltering you from the sun, and listen in to gain a gentleness towards yourself.
Oak Therapy: A Stroll Through Boulevard Oaks (mp3, 9.6 MB)
by Lara Appleby