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Review: 'Elsewhere, Texas' at the Dallas Center for Architecture

by Jerome Weeks 29 Jul 2010 7:58 AM

“Elsewhere, Texas” is a small show, mostly just color photos of 23 projects around the state from the past decade. But in his review, Jerome Weeks says ‘small’ is part of the point. These are not big-ego, big-ticket projects. But they point to what may be our future.


Cube House (Dallas), Russell Buchanan, architect

The Dallas Center for Architecture has opened an exhibition called “Elsewhere, Texas.” It’s a small show, mostly just color photos of 23 projects around the state. But in his review, KERA’s Jerome Weeks says ‘small’ is part of the point.

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There are no Winspear Opera Houses on view here, no vast Victory Park developments. The exhibition “Elsewhere, Texas” was created last year by the Houston Center for Architecture for the annual convention of the Texas Society of Architects. It’s a way of shining a light on more modest, out-of-the-way projects.

Some have deservedly won awards and attention, but the grandest buildings on display here are branch libraries and YMCA centers (like Fort Worth’s Ryan Family Center in the photo outfront). These are not exactly the big-ego, big-ticket items that grab the public eye. Some are commercial outlets — like Plano’s Legacy Bookstore — but mostly, they’re homes designed in recent years by Texas-based firms outside Houston. The exhibition demonstrates what’s been plain for more than a decade now: Some of the state’s leading architects have developed a loose, indigenous Texas style based on the tradition of the ranch house. Corrugated metal roofs, long, shaded porches, boxy shapes with clean, simple lines: These striking elements appear again and again.

We’re not talking about cowboy nostalgia or sticking on a few bits of Southwest decor. Some projects – like architect Ron Wommack’s house in Dallas (right) or the Cube House that’s part of the Urban Reserve (top) – are as sleek and contemporary as an iPad. But in our climate, no-nonsense materials like bare stone and design features like sunscreens have a long history of hard-earned practicality. They’re low-maintenance and can be energy efficient. For a very compact cottage on Lake Buchanan (below), architect Mell Lawrence added solar panels and a rainwater collector – to create what’s known as a “net zero building.” It generates as much energy as it consumes.

At the Dallas Center for Architecture, the photos on display are often marked by the colors of raw limestone and rusted steel siding. These evoke Texas’ past, but they may well be our future, too.

A reception for the “Elsewhere, Texas” exhibition will be held Aug. 11.