I was chatting with some other local designers today about a new, collaborative project we are working on (more info on that coming soon), and one of the questions that came up as were talking was how we would describe Houston in terms of design?
Clever things were said, but none of us were able to better articulate what we were thinking as well as Ada Louise Huxtable, a native New Yorker and architectural critic, managed to some time ago:
"One might say of Houston that one never gets there. It feels as if one is always on the way, always arriving, always looking for the place where everything comes together."
Houston is such a juxtaposition; it famously doesn't have zoning, so you'll see interesting establishments right next door to each other. It's Southern, but also Southwestern. It can appear refined until you go to a crawfish boil. It's a big supporter of the arts, yet art education is lacking. It has a lot of money, yet there are people living in the inner city without plumbing.
One of us said today that design in Houston is a lot like the city itself; it's so big, wide, and sprawling that you have to search for it. On the surface it might be hot, ugly, industrial, and corporate, but there are these amazing pockets that are all the better due to their not being so obvious. I've also heard people lament about how so many of Houston's historic buildings have been torn down to make way for the new. It's always been evolving, innovating, trying to figure out what exactly it's about. And, while that can be a little uncomfortable - living in a place that has such a vague identity - it can also be exciting. Anything is possible.