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2005 Houston Mod Lecture with Alan Hess

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Joined: Mar 27 2003

Those of you who might be in the area may be interested in our 2005 lecture...


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HOUSTON, TX – June 28, 2004 – Houston Mod, an organization dedicated to promoting knowledge, appreciation and preservation of modern architecture and design in Houston, will host its third annual lecture on Friday, August 19th at 6:00 PM at the auditorium of the Houston Independent School District Central Administration Building at 3830 Richmond Avenue. Author, lecturer and practicing architect Alan Hess will be speaking on the importance of preserving modern architecture in Houston and across the country. His latest books are The Ranch House and Googie Redux: Ultramodern Roadside Architecture and he is currently writing books on The Houses of Frank Lloyd Wright, The Houses of Oscar Niemeyer, and Organic Architecture: The Other Modernism. Following the lecture, a members-only reception will be held at 8:00 PM at the Gordon House of 1955 at 2307 Blue Bonnet, designed by Bolton & Barnstone.

Hess will discuss mid-century modern architecture and the role it plays today by taking a look back at the 20th century, assessing its architecture and then discussing how a city like Houston benefits from an effort to preserve pieces of yesterday's city. Understanding Houston’s wealth of mid-century modern architecture and the role it plays today will serve a central theme to the discussion. “As one of America's great twentieth century cities, Houston's historic architectural landmarks are more recent than those in Boston or Williamsburg,” notes Hess. “But Houston's mid-century modern style captures a great era in the city's growth in the same way Boston's Colonial buildings symbolize another great era. Houston's Modern architecture matches the best in the nation. Cities that destroy their past suffer from mass amnesia; the only antidote is respecting and protecting the past.”

The 2004 lecture was given by architect Leo Marmol of Marmol Radziner and Associates. The lecture was held at the Brown Auditorium of the Museum of Fine Arts Houston and attracted over 400 people. Lea Bass, Houston Mod Board Member, explains how the success of the first two Houston Mod lectures serves as proof of a rising interest in mid-century modern architecture. “The full house at each of Houston Mod’s past two lectures and the interest in our architectural tours and exhibits have taught us that Houstonians are truly enthusiastic about preserving our wealth of mid-century architecture,” explains Bass. “Prominent speakers like Alan Hess help focus our growing efforts on the preservation of an architectural style that is often overlooked in our city.”

Hess has served as the architecture critic for the San Jose Mercury News since 1986. As an architect, he served as design consultant for the Petersen Automotive Museum of the Natural History' Museum of Los Angeles County, and was a principal contributor to its interpretive exhibits. He has been active in the preservation of roadside and post-War architecture, qualifying the nation's oldest McDonald's drive-in (Downey, CA 1953), an early suburban department store (Bullock's Pasadena, 1947), the 1956 Hotel Valley Ho Motor Inn in Scottsdale, AZ, and the Stuart Pharmaceutical Factory (Edward Durrell Stone, 1958) for the National Register of Historic Places. He received a 1997 Honor Award from the National Trust for Historic Preservation for his efforts to preserve the McDonald's, and a 1999 President's Award from the California Preservation Foundation.

Hess' other books also document and interpret often neglected mid-century, popular and West Coast architecture. His writings have appeared in the Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, Architecture, Architectural Digest, Architectural Record, Interiors, Progressive Architecture, Stadt Bauwelt, Arts + Architecture, Fine Homebuilding and other journals. He has also appeared on the CBS Sunday Morning News with Charles Kuralt, CNN, Good Morning America, BBC-TV's Late Show, NPR's Morning Edition, California Public Radio's California Reports, and other broadcast media.

The Houston Independent School District Central Administration Building, site of the lecture, is Houston’s best extant example of the New Brutalism. The building is notable not only for its award-winning architectural design, which employed a dramatic multi-level sky lit atrium, but also for its stylish interiors which made liberal use of the iconic Eames Aluminum Series furniture. Completed in 1969 by Neuhaus & Taylor, the landmark building and its large property will be replaced with an apartment development and lifestyle center. The pending demolishment secured the building its place on Houston Mod’s 2004 “Top Ten Endangered Moderns” list. Houstonians attending the lecture will receive one of the last glimpses of a building that represents an era from the mid 1960s to the mid 1970s when public institutions in Houston commonly commissioned challenging works of architecture to embody their progressive ideals.

The Gerald Gordon House, site of the post-lecture reception, was the most widely recognized modernist house in Houston of the 1950s. It was perhaps the most perfect example of high style Miesian architecture in Houston with its Knoll interiors selected by Florence Knoll herself and landscaping by Thomas Church of San Francisco. Architectural Record lauded it as being “very much in the ‘grand manner,’ translated into a completely modern idiom.” James Toland of the Los Angeles Times saw it as “an example of Houston’s awakening architectural attitude.” Houston Press journalists Beverly Maurice and Ann Valentine visited the house in July 1956, and wrote “As soon as we arrived at the Gerald Gordon home, the spell of grandeur that it casts fell over us like a cool shadow.” Its current owners, Blanten Filak and Diane Tanking, carefully remodeled the Gordon House between 2001 and 2003.

Sponsors and donors who have come together to graciously support Houston Mod’s third annual lecture include Baker Communications, Bury + Partners, Hotel ICON, Jim Manning Catered Affairs, Lighting Associates, Inc., McCoy, Inc. , Morris Architects and Tito’s Handmade Vodka.

Tickets for the August 19th lecture are $10.00 to the public and $5.00 for Houston Mod members. A limited amount of tickets for the Gordon House reception are available to Houston Mod members for $30.00. Both can be purchased via Houston Mod from Additional information on Houston Mod and the lecture can be found at

About Houston Mod

Formed in 2003 by architects, designers and concerned Houstonians, Houston Mod is a non-profit membership organization dedicated to promoting knowledge and appreciation of modern architecture and design in Houston and Texas. Named by The Houston Press as the Best Preservation Group of 2003, Houston Mod’s programs include exchange of information, classes, lectures, study tours and preservation advocacy. For more information on Houston Mod, interested individuals may visit or can contact Houston Mod at