Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Houston - Who Knew?

Some of you won't believe me when I say this, so brace yourselves: Houston, Texas, may very well be where it's at. Believe me, I was blown away by this, too. But it's true, there's really something really good going on here. Some say it may be the next Austin, or even better.

Truthfully, I like Houston as it is now, a progressively budding culture generally unknown by the masses (or at least the majority of the US). Nonetheless, I thought I would attempt to shed a little light on the city. Houston gets a bad rap, generally known for its heat, humidity, republicans and oil. But there's more. I've only barely scratched the surface of the city, but here are just a few of my favorite discoveries so far:

The Rothko Chapel
Though the website is in dire need of a redesign, the space itself is breathtaking and intensely spiritual. The depth and movement in the paintings, combined with the simple minimalism of the architecture and brilliant natural lighting, create the perfect space to be alone with your thoughts.

Domy Bookstore
I stepped foot in Domy for the first time today, and added pretty much every book I saw to my mental wishlist. I should really never shop here without a friend who is strong enough to hold me back. They specialize in contemporary design and art books, graphic novels, periodicals, video, etc. They are very progressive, and I was especially excited to see quite a few editioned books among the machine-bound.

Anvil Bar & Refuge
Another site redesign waiting to happen, the concoctions here are top notch. The menu features prohibition-era cocktails, all made from scratch with homemade infusions and fresh fruits and herbs, and served artfully in vintage glasses. The space itself is an old Firestone tire shop, embellished with reclaimed materials and salvaged artifacts. This is one bar where the drinks are definitely worth the slightly higher prices.

AIGA Houston
Yes, Houston is mainly oil and gas. But who says that calls for bad design? I am happy to report that there is a very healthy and active design community here, and plenty of AIGA events to look forward to. Just last week, Armin Vit drove in from Austin to speak about his new book, Graphic Design Referenced (which you should definitely own). I am also finding more and more design firms with inspiring work, including Savage Design, Axiom, ph Design Shop, BrandExtract, Herring Design, Rigsby-Hull, and Origin Design. More on these another time.

And yes, there's an app for that:

SwebApps Button Demo: AIGA Houston from Magaly Chocano on Vimeo.

As the job search is still under way, I'm not sure whether I will be staying in Houston for long, but I definitely like what I see. After spending 13 years in Sugar Land, not loving the suburban way of life, it's great to finally be discovering H-town in all of its glory. I must say, I am impressed. I can't believe what has been right under my nose all along! Who knew?


Russell said...

Ahhh... that photo of the Houston store is SUPER old. From... the day we opened. Regardless, thanks for the nice words...

Miss Pepping said...

Oh, haha, I hope it's okay! I'm sure it brings back fond memories, eh? I love your store!

Dani said...

This summer I discovered Houston to be a favorite place of mine in Texas & it took me completely by surprise. Other than the Rothko chapel, I haven't been to the other places you've mentioned, but I am definitely taking note of them for my next trip.

John Luu said...

Thank you for the mention. I'm glad you're having luck finding some kindred spirits. Look forward to seeing you at future events and Domy.

Pagan said...

Welcome. :) You're right. Houston has a lot to offer.

// wacdesignstudio // said...

Hello Miss Pepping! I found your blog post through my facebook news feed... (the link was posted by Aiga Houston) Anyways... I have been to all the places you mentioned. I also recently moved to this gorgeous city (from the Northeast)and since day one I love Houston. To be honest with you and everybody else, I do not argue anymore with people that complain about its imperfections because we really do not need negative people in our community... so I ignore them. But yes, Houston has everything you need... you just have to "look for it" and every time you find "it"... whoa! it is the most amazing thing because it was not in your face. Welcome to Houston!

Gus said...

Inspiring post. I just tweeted this. :-) - @GTello

groovehouse said...

I'm here cuz Gus tweeted it!

Thanks for your kind words about our fair city, but I must say that Houston is not the next Austin.

Austin is Austin and Houston is Houston and it's better!

Also, across the street from the Rothko Chapel is The Menil Collection which is one of the greatest free museums in all of Texas, the U.S. and dare I say, the world! Home to over 16,000 works of art and one of the greatest Surrealist collections ever assembled. All, free to the public because the Menil's wanted it that way!

Savage Brands said...

Thanks for the plug. Our own Robin Tooms has just been named to the national board of AIGA. She's been involved in the local Houston chapter for years.

I love the Menil right around the corner from the Rothko chapel. Great highlights.

We just discovered the Hill Country after living 10 years in Houston, so it's never too late to enjoy hidden (or not so hidden) gems.