Downtown Bestiary

Generic Architecture and Abstract Beauty in Downtown Houston

This series of images constitutes a provocation: can the idiosyncratic features of a city, its urban personality, be condensed into an architecture project? After all, the most fruitful theories emanated since the 1960s in the field of architecture have followed that pattern: Venturi used Las Vegas, just like Koolhaas used New York to put forward an architectural proposition based on the character of a city.

A similar idea is condensed and accelerated here. Downtown Houston is made by the unruly collision of generic boxes clad with normative facades. In few places as here are parking garages more difficult to tell apart from office towers, department stores from police stations. It can be said that Houston is made of a homogeneous substance matter which is then transfigured through an unlikely configuration, in a combination of generic architecture and urban state of exception. Could such process of form-making at the scale of the city become self-conscious and be applied in the scale of architecture ? What do all those big blank boxes dream of becoming once all the workers have left to the suburbs and downtown is empty for the night?

© Jesús Vassallo, 2020