PaperCity Magazine

September 2019- Houston

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 111 of 183

106 property in the East End, "always felt like Ben's old house," says de las Cuevas. "This is very much our nest. It's the start of our lives together." Both have an intuitive respect for their new residence's working-class, mostly Hispanic neighborhood. Two years ago, they found the ideal piece of vacant dirt, an empty asphalt lot, tucked down a side street, off the main thoroughfare of North Main Street, an area first platted in 1912 by Herman Eberhardt Detering, whose sons would later go on to start the Detering Company in 1926. Where broken-down cars once resided, a crisp little building fronts the street — Koush's architectural storefront — while to the left, the carport, clad in beveled-pine siding milled in East Texas, mirrors the surrounding domiciles of the quiet street, that's a mere eight minutes from downtown. "It's like you're in a little country town," says de la Cuevas. Adds Koush, "It's a little like a shotgun house, a little like a bungalow." Koush is also a preservationist, a voting member of the Houston Archaeological and Historical Commission, and the author of four books (with a fifth in the works) about the city's school of mid-century architecture, written for the nonprofit Houston Mod. He speaks of this dwelling's footprint, which is one of the hallmarks of his practice: "The house is about 1,500 square feet, and my studio is 500 square feet, so it's about 2,000 total. The lot is 6,500 square feet, about an eighth of an acre. We like the neighborhood; most of the people have lived here for about 40 years. We wanted to keep the houses in line with that. Our three streets have minimum lot-size restrictions, so that means you can't subdivide the lots — you can't build six townhouses." Koush references his neighbors' activist stance through property law and working within city government. "They saw what was happening and banded together," he says. A Menilian Moment + Texas Farmhouse Guests enter the clean, white space, set to one side of the prop- erty, to allow an ample garden. The men have done more than a cursory dive into horticulture and landscape architecture, and both can rattle off an impressive list of plants, which now bloom and/or offer verdant cover for the dual garden areas around which the house is built. These green spaces, which are quickly filling in as the house marks its first anniversary, serve as visual punctuation points and a pair of outdoor rooms, recalling one of Koush's inspirations for the home: the courtyards at the Renzo Piano-designed Menil Collection. In terms of architecture, Koush also cites another influence: former Rice architecture professor Clovis Heimsath, whom he'd met several times after Heimsath decamped to Fayetteville in the 1970s when he became disillusioned with Houston. Koush resided in a building designed by the elder architect — "this really great condo from the '60s. Right behind Soundwaves. It had two rows of gabled townhouses facing a communal courtyard. I lived there six years; 615 Kipling." But it was also a book that shaped this particular house. Koush pulls out a well-worn volume from his office library and says, "I have a copy of Clovis' Pioneer Texas Buildings, and that was direct inspiration for this house. I flipped through that a lot. It's local vernacular architecture. Clovis used to live right around the corner on Emerson, in the Waldo Mansion in Westmoreland, which he restored in the 1960s. He signed it 'Keep on truckin.' He made the drawings." (Architect Louis Khan wrote the foreword for this influential volume.) Koush's success in channeling the building traditions of the Near Northside, adding in elements of outdoor rooms observed at the Menil, and forging a home that's not out of place, but of place, for himself and de las Cuevas, speaks to the often under-appreciated charms of the city's built environment. "Once you scratch the surface, Houston has a real, interesting cultural history that my former teacher at Rice, my mentor Stephen Fox, is very into," Koush says. "The architecture and how it relates to people and social classes – rich people and poor people – and how that's apparent in the physical way the city is laid out. Many times, people think of Houston as being generic, but it's got a lot of interesting undercurrents. And if you pay attention to them, it can make it seem a more

Articles in this issue

Archives of this issue

view archives of PaperCity Magazine - September 2019- Houston