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Was wasting time on Google Earth the other day when I noticed on Francis St. what appeared to be an interesting row of rooftops in Third Ward.  Went to streetview and had one of those beautiful, exhilarating moments I sometimes have when I discover something that's been built in Houston I had no idea about, and that gives me hope that new development can sometimes get it right.




I have generally not been a fan of what is considered innovative residential architecture in this town, especially as regards townhomes.  Whether it's the tin houses in 4th ward or the ultra-minimalist houses that some big-name architect did in the Heights and all the local highbrow press swooned over, I frankly think most of it is ugly, and springs out of some postmodern desire to attack conventional ideas of beauty (mission accomplished).  Not so these.



(I like the plain white ones even better)


The simple wooden materials awaken a feeling of Texas history in me, reminding me of vintage homes in my favorite rural towns, like Round Top or Montgomery. The minimalist detailing bears no trace of ostentatious European design elements, but nor is it so minimalist as to give a stark or inhospitable feeling. Rather the open, almost modernist (think of the Univ. of St. Thomas campus) framing of the porch seems to embrace the outdoors while inhaling deep drafts of fresh air for the inside. And the fact that they are duplexes suggests a communal, urban living style.


It reminds me a little of the old Rhinelander Row in New York:




As I was reading the article on Project Row in the Chronicle today I put two and two together - this is actually a spinoff of that project, an affordable housing venture called Row House CDC. They are designed with the collaboration of Rice architecture students, showing that something at least is coming out of there besides the culture-cleansing postmodern stuff.  Here's hoping that we see a lot more of these going up in the Third Ward.


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