This collection of essays examines the life and legacy of Houston architect Howard Barnstone, whose modernist designs and pioneering writings reshaped perceptions of the architecture of Texas.
Complex, controversial, and prolific, Howard Barnstone was a central figure in the world of twentieth-century modern architecture. Recognized as Houston’s foremost modern architect in the 1950s, Barnstone came to prominence for his designs with partner Preston M. Bolton, which transposed the rigorous and austere architectural practices of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe to the hot, steamy coastal plain of Texas. Barnstone was a man of contradictions—charming and witty but also self-centered, caustic, and abusive—who shaped new settings that were imbued, at once, with spatial calm and emotional intensity.
Making Houston Modern explores the provocative architect’s life and work, not only through the lens of his architectural practice but also by delving into his personal life, class identity, and connections to the artists, critics, collectors, and museum directors who forged Houston’s distinctive culture in the postwar era. Edited by three renowned voices in the architecture world, this volume situates Barnstone within the contexts of American architecture, modernism, and Jewish culture to unravel the legacy of a charismatic personality whose imaginative work as an architect, author, teacher, and civic commentator helped redefine architecture in Texas.
- Foreword. Call Me Howard, Please! (Carlos Jiménez )
- Introduction. Why Howard Barnstone Why? (Stephen Fox and Michelangelo Sabatino )
- 1. Howard Barnstone’s Architecture
- Chapter 1. Barnstone’s Practice (Stephen Fox )
- Chapter 2. Translating Mies: Barnstone and Houston Modernism (Michelangelo Sabatino )
- Chapter 3. To Be Modern in Texas: Lone Star Avant-Garde (Kathryn E. Holliday )
- 2. Howard Barnstone’s Clients
- Chapter 4. A Constructive Connection: Barnstone and the Menils (Barrie Scardino Bradley )
- Chapter 5. An Architectural Family Portrait (Robert Barnstone and Deborah Ascher Barnstone )
- Chapter 6. Barnstone’s Jewish Houston (Joshua J. Furman )
- 3. Howard Barnstone’s Life
- Chapter 7. A Short Biography (Barrie Scardino Bradley and Stephen Fox )
- Chapter 8. Barnstone and the University of Houston (Bruce C. Webb )
- Chapter 9. The Worst Thing That Can Happen: Gertrude and Howard (Olive Hershey )
- Conclusion. Magical Modernism (Barrie Scardino Bradley, Stephen Fox, and Michelangelo Sabatino )
- Afterword. Looking toward the Future (Theodore H. M. Prudon )
- 1. Interview with Eugene Aubry
- 2. Interview with Anne Schlumberger Brown
- 3. Architectural Awards
- Catalogue Raisonné
- Selected Bibliography
“Making Houston Modern is the revelatory biography of a talented architect and the unique but often misunderstood city he helped transform. Readers everywhere will be transfixed by Howard Barnstone’s wide-ranging successes as a meticulous modernist auteur but also the difficulties he faced in seeking to resolve the multiple tensions within and around him--insider and outsider; Jewish and Christian; liberal and elitist; bisexual and devoted family man; sophisticated intellectual and irreverent madcap. Barnstone suffered from manic depression yet designed some of Houston’s most peaceful and contemplative settings. With great insight and subtlety, this book deftly weaves together the saga of an exceptional person with that of a profession, a metropolis, and an era.”
Gwendolyn Wright, Columbia University, author of USA: Modern Architectures in History
"How wonderful to have a book on Howard Barnstone. The authors of the essays in this volume vividly bring to life the work and world of this important architect, who did so much to shape the culture of architecture in mid-twentieth-century Houston. Whether in discussions of Barnstone’s distinctive responses to the main currents of modernism, analysis of his complicated place in Texas architecture, or accounts of his relationships with patrons, colleagues, and institutions, the texts collected here demonstrate Barnstone’s important place in an expanding history of modern architecture. Documentation of the architect’s close connections with John and Dominique de Menil, John Staub, and Gertrude Levy Barnstone, among others, illuminate the personal, professional, and institutional networks in which Barnstone moved and that formed a significant part of the cultural infrastructure of the city where he worked. This is a marvelous addition to the growing scholarship on Houston and on modern architecture in Texas."
Kathryn O'Rourke, Trinity University, editor of O'Neil Ford on Architecture