Analysis in Houston and design for a community in Houston
Benitez Herrera, Leopoldo
Master of Architecture
The introduction is an explanation of my idea of architecture and my method of approach. It is a synthesis of many reflections on architecture--the city, the architect and especially my own personal approach to design. My ideas are further developed by a series of notes which follow. In the introduction i consciously set forth my method of architectural creation. It is not complete. In fact i compare my reflections to the ideas which a patient may let fall during psychoanalytic treatment. Professor Anderson Todd generously encouraged me to speak and helped me in the writing of these reflections. The second part presents a study of Houston in which many essential aspects of the city are analyzed: the car, the plain, the freeway, the bayou, the slums. Included with the observations are some sketches which illustrate and clarify what is verbally expressed. The object of my study was to obtain a knowledge of Houston which would allow me to execute an architectural project, a project resolving some of the deficient aspects of urban life and enhancing some of the positive aspects. The process was a slow one. My study was made by going all over the city, looking closely at it talking with the people who live there, and living myself with some of these people. Throughout my stay i took notes and made drawings so that i might better understand the problems of the city and take a position on them. Since i was a student newly arrived from another country, my point of view was as that of one culture in contrast with another culture, and as that of one architect in relation to other architects. This situation could not be changed, and i did not try to hide it. It was more important to have a desire to understand and a sincerity of expression than it was to determine an absolute truth. The analysis of Houston was made by strictly applying the method described in the introduction. The main conclusions are: 1. Houston, as other cities in the united states, is a city of the car. The grid is not a structure designed for the car. But with the freeways and the bayou the driver may dominate the city instead of being dominated by the city. But at the same time the car itself brings a way of living, stating and limiting the social exchange. The Houston man lives in a solitary and indifferent mood. Technology helps this existing indifference. A social approach is obtained through work, but it is not enough to provide an urban community and then a national one. Only the freeways show within their space a living urban community inhabiting a common space. 2. Architecture is created without considering geography, the passing seasons, or the outside space. Therefore architecture does not help man become conscious of the urban space (the plain and the sky). Exceptions are the museum of fine arts and again the freeways. Architecture is developed from the outside to the inside and not from the inside to the outside. Still the purpose of architecture is to please man in an esthetic way and not to help him perceive the world in which he moves, the world to which he belongs. The third part, "decisions for a project," is the connection between the study of Houston and the execution of my own project. Here are stated the objectives of the project. They originated from all that had been seen in the city. The last part, "the project," is the plan for a community of 9,000 which would exist in the chimney rock and Westheimer area. To elaborate on the program, demographic facts of the tract corresponding to 9I-E have been considered and processed by a computer to obtain square footage for the community facilities.