This session, sponsored by the Architecture Section, offered a bit of local Texas flavor. Moderator Margaret Culbertson, of the University of Houston, brought together a group of speakers almost as diverse as the regions of Texas. They represented regionalism across the spectrums of time, brought together a group of speakers almost as diverse as the regions of Texas. They represented regionalism across the spectrums of time, geography, economy and building use. Basic aspects of regional architecture, such as climatic conditions, available building materials, and historical stylistic influences were addressed.
The first speaker was Stephen Fox, author of Houston architectural guide (Texas Monthly Press, 1990) and co-author of Galveston architecture guidebook (Rice University Press, c1996). He provided an overview of regionalism in Texas architecture by first addressing the history of regionalism starting with "vernacular" building culture in mid-19th century Great Britain and the Arts and Crafts movement with William Morris. He proceeded into the early 20th century and American culture with Lewis Mumford's advocacy of a progressive regionalism from the 1920s to the '40s (with the influence of the British sociologist and planner, Patrick Geddes). In an effort to show that regionalism showed no bounds in genre, Fox also gave examples of "local color" in American literature, showing the indigenous, yet exotic non-anglo perspectives. Fox stated that this "local color" movement was a precursor to Texas regionalism. In 1886 San Antonio indigenous, yet exotic non-anglo perspectives. Fox stated that this "local color" movement was a precursor to Texas regionalism. In 1886 San Antonio the First National Bank building by the New York architect Cyrus L. W. Eidlitz was decorated in an Islamic style. This was a time of non-Texan architects exporting exotic styles, such as those found in Spanish Mission style railway passenger stations, with a building's modern requirements. Texas regionalism developed still, with "outsider" architects inventing a new type of architecture by integrating a style with local construction methods, building materials, and climatic necessities. Examples given were Ralph Adams Cram's neo-Byzantine style Rice Institute in Houston; Cass Gilbert's Italian-Mediterranean style library at the University of Texas at Austin; and Shepley, Rutan & Coolidge's Jeffersonian classicism at Southern Methodist University. Exoticism translated in the Lower Rio Grande Valley to Spanish Mediterranean style for the Anglos, yet Mexican-American elite in Brownsville tended toward more modern residences, and in Laredo, preferred Mexican architects to design homes in the French style. Local cultures became the focus in "regional formalism" in the 1920s. Fox gave examples of John F. Staub in Houston working in the Spanish Creole style, considered by his client Ima Hogg as Latin Colonial. Dallas architect examples of John F. Staub in Houston working in the Spanish Creole style, considered by his client Ima Hogg as Latin Colonial. Dallas architect David Williams, considered the father of Regionalism in Texas architecture, studied and photographed brick and stone 19th century vernacular buildings, and incorporated their influences into his work. Richard S. Colley of Corpus Christi referred to Missions in his designs and Frank E. Torres of Brownsville worked from 19th century Mexican Creole border brick style. Both worked with local building materials and labor and incorporated locally crafted furniture and art. Fox brought us into the 1930s with O'Neil Ford and what is considered "regional functionalism," with the incorporation of modernism into regional architecture. Using local labor, craftsmen and materials, Ford and Arch B. Swank Jr. designed the Little Chapel in the Woods of 1939 based on Swedish modernism. Regionalism in the 1950s served as a medium for the work of modern architects such as Caudill, Rowlett Scott & Associates, and John G. York. Fox closed by remarking that Texas regional architecture has, "embraced stylistic expression that is invented as well as found, conservative as well as vanguard, local and exotic."
The second speaker, Ellen Beasley, co-author of Galveston architecture guidebook and author of The alleys and back buildings of Galveston (Rice University Press, c1996), spoke about a type of regionalism in Galveston. Comparing her interests to that of Stephen Fox's "high end," Beasley claimed the "other end"- or more so, that which makes up what was once the strong fiber and structure of the working man's neighborhood developed in the late 1800s. Indicative of Galveston are its alleys and corner structures. The alley system originally was made up of service buildings and alley houses, often serving as rental units. Beasley spoke of orientations towards the alley or alley walls, and typical floor plans, such as the shotgun, the cottage with the inset porch, and the amalgamated plan of 2 or 3 buildings moved together. The corners of Galveston are full of remnants of corner stores/saloons. Beasley described these buildings as bulky and flush with the sidewalk, often with a corner entrance and a canopy wrap or awning, the second floor serving as the residence of the immigrant family owners, and a minimal yard. These corner establishments served both as the neighborhood and family parlor and social outlet.
Dwayne Jones, of the Texas Historical Commission, spoke on regional influences on Texas' commercial roadside architecture. Jones started with a historical background of the roadside, describing the Good Roads movement, the advent of road guides, and automobile highways. The first area he addressed was accommodation for the traveler. From auto camping to cottages and courts, regionalism could be found in building materials, such as stucco; the reflection of historical influences in programmatic architecture and motifs, such as the Alamo and western styles; and even in the business' name, like "Mission Courts" and "Alamo Plaza". Other examples of regionalism found in roadside architecture include the Highland Park Village shopping plaza, and various Pig Stand drive-in restaurants. Building materials were also recognized in the petrified wood auto dealerships and motels. Lastly, Jones addressed landscaping as a regional element of these sites with examples of the Reily Hotel in Austin and the Royal Palms in McAllen Texas featuring an elaborate rock garden.
The final speaker, Ted Flato, of Lake/Flato Architects of San Antonio, spoke from the point of view of a contemporary architect incorporating regionalism in his designs. Flato was influenced by regionalism early in his career while working at Ford Powell and Carson. Lake/Flato's designs embrace the site, borrow from forms and building materials surrounding it, and work from what's appropriate to its region and climate. Flato described projects from many different regions of Texas. An example is their rural work, with basic, industrial and agricultural architecture. Designs in harsh climates included the use of wide breezeways, oakmonts, water holding tanks, corrugated metal roofs hipped with ventilated exhausts, and the use of earth blocks with an emphasis in horizontal design. Lake/Flato's work can be found in their new book, Lake/Flato (Rockport Publishers, c1996).
Architectural Drawings Collection
The University of Texas at Austin