Saturday, January 05, 2008

Biking the Streets--East Hunter's Creek Village

(NOTE: Hello to visitors from Swamplot and Houston Architecture Info Forum!)

Today I finished off Hunter's Creek (after a long hiatus). That's it for the Villages south of I-10; there are two north of the freeway that I still need to explore.

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This is where I rode today. Buffalo Bayou veers north here and eventually comes quite close to I-10, so Hunter's Creek narrows a bit from north to south.

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Katy Freeway (I-10 west of downtown) is undergoing massive widening (so that all those developers out past Katy will have a big road for their new homeowners to fill). Here, at Wirt Rd., is some of the construction. It is, needless to say, a royal pain in the ass.

One thing interesting about Hunter's Creek Village and Houston is the instant you leave Hunter's Creek going east (and enter Houston), there are apartments. I suspect Hunter's Creek is zoned to exclude them, but they are bunched right along the boundary of the Village (despite the fact that the area along Memorial between Hunter's Creek and the Loop is some of the richest real estate in the city--I guess it still makes sense to have apartments there).

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Also right outside Hunter's Creek, on Memorial, is Duchesne Academy of the Sacred Heart, which, when I was a lad, was famed for turning out the preppiest girls in Houston.

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We don't get much autumn color in Houston, and it tends to come at the wrong time. These three trees on Fall River (a well-named street, eh?) were some of the brightest I have seen since October. I miss autumn in New England sometimes.

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This ivy-covered modern house on Longwoods has its own rolling meadow. You see a few of these near the Bayou, where Houston has topography, such as it is. (This house was actually part of a multi-building compound--or campus--or whatever. Zillow prices it at $3.92 million.)

UPDATE: According to poster BenH on the Houston Architecture Info Forum, this house is probably the Thrash Mansion, designed by Preston Bolton.

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Another amazing property with rolling meadows is this Bayou-backed estate on Shasta. The lot is mind-bendingly huge, and Zillow prices the whole thing at $2.87 million. But what struck me as I rode my bike up was the sight of this vulture. . .
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. . . eating this armadillo . . .
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. . . right in front of the house. I imply no metaphor, but feel free to infer one if you wish.

Timberwilde (and Kuhlman just north of Timberwilde, on the other side of Memorial) are two of the most attractive streets in Hunter's Creek because all the houses have these huge, open front yards.
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As a matter of principal, I prefer houses closer to the street, so there is a little more engagement with the neighborhood. Plus, if you have a big backyard, you can sunbathe naked--which is not advised in your front yard. But since these houses have these big yards, they should use them better. Almost all of them have scattered pine trees and grass, with maybe a few shrubs here and there. With all this space, they could do all kinds of cool things in their front yard that would be exciting yet tasteful.

Therefore, residents of Timberwilde and Kuhlman, I issue a challenge to you. Put monumental sculptures in your front yards. Big beautiful abstract metal sculptures. I know you all have been getting gigantic bonuses, what with oil at $100 a bbl. Spend it on some big bold art! Like this:
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(Egremont II by Herbert Ferber at the Norton Simon Museum)

Or this one:
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(Forum by Anthony Caro)

Or this one:
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(not sure what the title is, but it's by Richard Serra)

This last one was actually commissioned by a homeowner in Atherton, CA. Come on, you Timberwildes and Kuhlmans--you can commission a Richard Serra for your lawn too! You have the space, and I know some of you have the money.

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This house, near the end of Timberwilde, is one of the few with lots of plants in the front yard. But what really makes it unique is the enormous grey pyramid on its otherwise flat roof.

UPDATE: BenH(see above) also identifies this house as the Greer house designed by Richard S. Colley.

One of my favorite houses is at the end of Hunter's Trail, right where Soldier's Creek empties into the Bayou. It's a moderne house--moderne being kind of a subset of art deco, typified by lots of curves. Think Miami. Unfortunately, this house is mostly hidden behind a green curtain, so it was impossible to get a shot of the whole thing. Here's what it looks like from 100 miles straight up.


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Here is another view of the Hunter's Trail moderne:
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And another, from the other end of the "C":
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You can't see the transparent middle part, or the way it is cantilevered out over the creek. It's one cool house. I'd love to see the inside and the back.

UPDATE: More from BenH. He has a lot to say about this house: "Willowisp and I have been there and know the owner. It's Dr. Davey Lieb's house, and he's a member of Houston Mod and has been to several of the events. We're supposed to shoot it at some point. Dr. Lieb designed it himself in 1972. He says it's supposed to be like a flower. It has fifteen rooms in the two wings. This house is also mentioned in the guide, but not pictured. Stephen Fox described it as being influenced by Bruce Goff. And it's not moderne, it's organic or Wrightian." If you click through the link I've provided, you'll see a better aerial view than the one here.

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Right around the corner on North Ripple Creek is this interesting oddity. The photo doesn't do justice to the bright green roof and yellow trim, which look great together. What's weird about the roof is that it seems to consist solely of various-sized square-based pyramids. The bases vary in size, but the angles are all the same. I counted seven of these pyramids, but there may be more in back.

Now let's go back north of Memorial. I found another pedestrian cut-through on Oak Valley, which is unique in that it actually has an official sign letting you know it is a cut-through.
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Kuhlman (mentioned earlier) has one house with a sculpture. Here is the house:
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And here, alas, is the sculpture:
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Now I have nothing against the sculpture as a work of art. It's fine. But its placement is terrible. This sculpture is about one-and-a-half-persons tall, but it looks puny scrunched up against that little wall. You can't walk around it. It looks like the owners are embarrassed by it. They have a large yard--put it out there!

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This beautiful rustic house is at the very end of Kuhlman, and backs into Hunter's Creek (the actual creek, which is quite large here). I love the unpainted wood exterior, the wrap-around porch and balcony, the rocking chairs and porch swing (a bit hard to see), and the complete lack of front yard. It just looks so damn homey and inviting.

One last house, this one on Hickory Hollow, just south of I-10. Here's a case where someone bought a car to go with their house.
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I wish the sun had been shining a bit so the colors popped better, but take my word for it that this metallic blue Thunderbird is really the perfect for a pink modern house.

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