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Improbable Metropolis

Improbable Metropolis
Houston's Architectural and Urban History

Beautifully illustrated, Improbable Metropolis is one of the few books to use architecture and urban planning to explain the growth of a major world city, and the only one of its kind on Houston or any other city in Texas.

Series: Roger Fullington Endowment in Architecture

June 2020
Not yet published

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This book will be available in June 2020.
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536 pages | 8.5 x 11 | 175 color and 97 b&w photos, 47 color and 30 b&w illus. |

Just over 180 years ago, the city of Houston was nothing more than an alligator-infested swamp along the Buffalo Bayou that spread onto a flat, endless plain. Today, it is a sprawling, architecturally and culturally diverse metropolis. How did one transform into the other in such a short period?

Improbable Metropolis uses the built environment as a guide to explore the remarkable evolution Houston has undergone from 1836 to the present. Houston’s architecture, an indicator of its culture and prosperity, has been inconsistent, often predictable, sometimes bizarre, and occasionally extraordinary. Industries from cotton, lumber, sugar, and rail and water transportation, to petroleum, healthcare, biomedical research, and aerospace have each in turn brought profit and attention to Houston. Each created an associated building boom, expanding the city’s architectural sophistication, its footprint, and its cultural breadth. Providing a template for architectural investigations of other American cities, Improbable Metropolis is an important addition to the literature on Texas history.

  • Preface
  • Introduction
  • Chapter 1. Bayou City, 1830–1865
  • Chapter 2. Magnolia City, 1866–1899
  • Chapter 3. Progressive Houston, 1900–1919
  • Chapter 4. Energy Capital of the World, 1920–1939
  • Chapter 5. Golden Buckle of the Sunbelt, 1940–1959
  • Chapter 6. Space City, 1960–1979
  • Chapter 7. H-Town, 1980–1999
  • Chapter 8. Petro Metro, 2000–2017
  • Epilogue
  • Notes
  • Bibliography
  • Index

Barrie Scardino Bradley
Beaumont, Texas