Ted Flato: "Build Smart, Build Simple"

Categories: Architecture

Lake/Flato Architects
From Lake/Flato Houses: Embracing the Landscape
Pick up a copy of Lake/Flato Houses: Embracing the Landscape, a 300-page photography book showing some of the architectural design group's spectacular environmentally friendly home designs, and it's easy to sigh and say, "Well, if I had a million dollars, I could have a beautiful house like that, too." That's missing the point, says Ted Flato, in town on Thursday to sign copies of the University of Texas Press release.

"The book is about encouraging people, everyone from architects to clients, to do architecture that...is building smartly, building simply and creating outdoor spaces that allow you to appreciate the outdoors and use less energy. A lot of the houses in the book are expensive, yes, but they're not good because they're expensive. The reality is that sometimes people have all the money in the world and they do absolutely horrible things. Lots of the elements that we use on these houses can apply to other, more modest houses."

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Places in and Around Houston That Feel Like You've Stepped Back in Time

Photo by Eric Mueller
A car would help to visit these places, but it doesn't have to be a DeLorean.
Sometimes the pace of modern life can get to anyone, and we long for a simpler time. Unless you have a time-traveling DeLorean, your only option for really reaching back in time is to find places that keep elements of the past alive.

Fortunately for us would-be time bandits (okay, if you can travel back in time, I don't condone stealing anything), there are a few places in and around Houston that will give us a taste of a bygone era without the need for an expensive time-traveling 1980s sports car to get there. Places like...

1. Yale Street Grill & Gifts, 2100 Yale

This Heights diner is one of the oldest left in Houston, occupying a space in what originally was the Yale Pharmacy. The diner area is exactly what one would expect from an old-fashioned malt shop, and the food and drinks are excellent diner fare. The area that used to be the pharmacy is now an antiques mall, so there's cool stuff to browse through if that's your thing. I'll be there for an old-fashioned burger and milkshake. The atmosphere is pleasantly anachronistic, and worth the lines that form on weekends.

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Checking Up on the Crumbling Mansions of Riverside Terrace

Categories: Architecture

Photos by Angelica Leicht

Remember the crumbling old mansions in Riverside Terrace? Well, good luck finding them. It seems that the folks in the area, which was once brimming with dilapidated old mansions, have been shining things up.

There's always been something just a bit more special about that old neighborhood known as Riverside Terrace. The area, situated right off Texas 288 and bound by Almeda, North MacGregor, Scott, and Wheeler, was originally developed by Jewish families in the 1930s after they were kept out of swanky River Oaks.

Influential residents like the Finger, McGregor, and Weingarten families settled into the area, and built it up with massive, stately homes that were equivalent to what was found in River Oaks. The area's close proximity to everything in the city and the beautiful lush greenery, along with the prominence of those huge estates, launched Riverside Terrace into the same affluent category as its anti-Semitic partner.

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The 5 Most Sinister Mansions in the Houston Area

Photo by Carl Guderian via flickr

So it turns out that people may not want to live in a murder mansion. Go figure.

And if you're Seabrook resident Nir Golan, you don't want to live in a mansion that's been built on and/or near the site of a murder mansion either. Even if you're unsure as to the actual location of the original house.

You see, Nir Golan leased a waterfront house off of Todville Road in Seabrook recently, but he was apparently unaware that his rental steal with scenic views also came with a sinister history, and according to Golan, ghosts.

Golan claims those ghosts and creepy apparitions are because his rental house, and the entire subdivision, are built right on the plot of land where the Todville Murder Mansion -- or the List Mansion, in less dramatic terms -- used to sit.

The List Mansion on Todville Road was a sprawling, multistory home overlooking the Galveston Bay. Built by multimillionaire and known sex offender Bill List, who did a prison stint in 1959 for molesting teenage boys, the home came complete with an indoor swimming pool, a glass wall overlooking the bay, and a catwalk that connected the two wings.

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See How Sandcastles Get Built In These Vines From The AIA Sandcastle Competition

Photo & Vines by Francisco Montes.
There's something fascinating about sandcastle art, and I've narrowed down why to two reasons. The first is that it's something that, unlike most art, most of us have a frame of reference for. While we may never have painted in watercolors or drawn anything more than a doodle, most of us have been to the beach and played in the sand.

The second is that we're aware that sandcastle art is temporary. Most works of art are built to last for years, perhaps even forever if things go well. When we look at a really cool piece done in sand we know that it's only temporary, and there's beauty in the ephemeral.

Or it could just be that sandcastles are simply awesome.

LAst Saturday engineers, designers, architects and more hit the beach for the 27th Annual AIA (American Institute of Architects) Houston Sandcastle Competition. Check out these Vine videos to see how they put their creations together.

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100 Creatives 2013: Barry Moore, Architect

Barry Moore, architect
What He Does
Barry Moore in a Houston-raised architect who has been working for 47 years in the city. He's currently employed by Gensler, one of the largest architecture firms in the country. The company, founded in San Francisco, opened its first branch office in Houston 40 years ago.

Much of Moore's work has serendipitously been focused on institutions of learning. He's done extensive work with the High School for Performing and Visual Arts. He was also the lead architect on the restoration and preservation of the Julia Ideson Library, completed in late 2011. One of his specialities is historic preservation.

Architecture, he says, involves "intense communication with our clients to create new environments. (Architects) really like for buildings to look as nice as they can and maintain easily. You take pride in your projects when they look great."

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Free for All: Barkitecture Houston 2012, 6th Annual Montrose Crawl, Day of the Dead and Michael Feinstein

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Photo by Robynn Sanders
For most of us, doghouses are pretty simple things. But the folks behind Barkitecture Houston aren't like most of us. Things kick off on Friday with a Yappy Hour (yes, you can bring your leashed dog) and continue on Saturday. Since 2009, professional builders, architects and design teams have constructed one-of-a-kind shelters to be auctioned off for charity. Last year FKP Architects, known for their award-winning hospitals, took home the Best in Show with an elegant Japanese-style, dark-wood, sheltered porch that featured its own bathing pool. That's what the judges liked, though the kids favored Robynn Sanders's more conventional hutch design emblazoned with lighthearted pro-dog wooden signs such as "Every Dog Has Its Day" and "Pick of the Litter." All the proceeds from the auction go to Pup Squad, a rescue organization that works to save very young puppies from the hazards of standard shelter environments.

You can see the doghouse displays during Yappy Hour 5 to 9 p.m. on Friday and again during the silent auction noon to 5 p.m. Saturday. Houston Pavilions, 1301 Main. For information, visit the event's website.

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Get Ready for Barkitecture, Pup Squad's Biggest Doghouse Fund-raiser Yet

Categories: Architecture

BLiP Workshop.JPG
Doghouse by BLiP Workshop, one of this year's entries.
Pup Squad Animal Rescue's biggest fund-raiser is bigger than ever.

This year, during the two-day canine lovefest that is Barkitecture Houston, there will be more doghouses than ever to ogle, take pictures of your dog in and potentially buy, as the auction will include more than 20 submissions ranging from a rescue helicopter to a house that folds up like a taco.

The fund-raiser, which calls on local artists, designers and architects to create stylish yet functional doghouses, is in its fourth year running and is the animal rescue shelter's biggest fund-raising effort. Last year, all of the doghouses up for grabs sold, bringing in $18,000 for the animal rescue in the process. This year, Pup Squad hopes to top that to help continue to do its advocacy work.

"Houston is definitely a dog town, but there's also a huge problem of overpopulation," said Julie Landry, co-founder of Pup Squad. "It's just a matter of getting the message out, to spay and neuter your pets."

See photos from last year's event.

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Free for All: Jane Alexander, Raul Gonzalez, Asia Society, Lou Berney and Baby Jesus

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African Adventure detail
Two art exhibits open on Friday, the much-anticipated "Jane Alexander: Surveys (from the Cape of Good Hope)" at the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, and "Raul Gonzalez: Farewell Show" at the Jack Meier Gallery.

In her work, Johannesburg-born Alexander creates sculptures, installations and photomontages. She often constructs intriguing hybrid human/animal figures and places them in unexpected settings. African Adventure, for example, includes several strange creatures. There's one with a bird's head (complete with long, curved beak) and long legs, with human genitals and body (sans arms), walking along a patch of dirt strewn with toy trucks and sickles. In Frontier with Ghost, we see a pale creature with a deer-like head and a human neck and torso standing amid rows of chain-link fence topped with barbed wire.

There's an opening reception for "Jane Alexander" 7 to 9 p.m. on Friday at the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, 5216 Montrose. Regular gallery hours are 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Thursdays, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturdays, and noon to 6 p.m. Sundays. The exhibit runs through November 4. For information, visit the museum's website or call 713-284-8250.

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Four-Leaf Towers: 30 Years of Contemporary Architecture

Categories: Architecture

Photos by Molly Dunn
The Four-Leaf Towers symbolize modern architecture in Houston.
The Four-Leaf Towers opened 30 years ago in Uptown Houston and are as marvelous today as they were when they were established. These towers with contemporary designs were extremely different from the other condos in Houston when they were built, developer Giorgio Borlenghi says.

"I remember when we met with Cesar Pelli (the architect) for the first time, we told him, 'we want you to help us design buildings that when people will drive by them 30 years from now, they'll think they're brand new,'" says Borlenghi.

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