Improbable Metropolis: Houston's Architectural and Urban History



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 that 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.

Product Details

University of Texas Press
Publish Date
June 16, 2020
8.8 X 1.2 X 11.3 inches | 4.32 pounds

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About the Author

Barrie Scardino Bradley has been writing and lecturing about Houston history and Texas architecture for more than thirty-five years. She has served as the editor of Cite: The Architecture and Design Review of Houston; a research associate in the Rice University School of Architecture; the executive director of the Houston Chapter of the American Institute of Architects; and the architectural archivist of the Houston Metropolitan Research Center of the Houston Public Library. She is the author of Fair Winds: The History of Kirby Corporation and Houston's Hermann Park: A Century of Community; a coauthor of Houston's Forgotten Heritage: Landscape, Houses, Interiors, 1824-1914 and Clayton's Galveston: The Architecture of N. J. Clayton and His Contemporaries; and a coeditor of Ephemeral City: Cite Looks at Houston and Making Houston Modern: The Life and Architecture of Howard Barnstone.