Your Ultimate Summer Road Trip Guide to Texas Architecture

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From Houston to Marfa and Austin to Waco, this guide highlights some must-see places across the Lonestar State!

Galveston, Texas

During the late 1800s Victorian architecture took over Galveston. Beautiful Victorian mansions are lined up on the street with colorful facades, wrap around porches and architecture styles everywhere.  Recently, Galveston has gone through a Victorian restoration to help their incredibly rich history shine through in these mansions. One of these grand mansions that is a must see is the The Bishop’s Palace, built in 1892, located in the East End. This mansion is Victorian but more specifically a Chateausque style home. It is made with a combination of materials, cast iron and has a complex roof system as well. The gorgeous estate has basement to attic tours monthly and daily self-guided tours.

Another gorgeous mansion to visit in Galveston is thirty-one room, Romanesque-style, Moody Mansion that was completed in 1895. English architect, William H. Tyndall, designed the home for Narcisssa Willis. Tyndall used numerous style elements from different cultures and periods which is what makes the exterior appearance stand out above all other mansions.  There are five balconies, four floors including a basement, and many technology advances incorporated into the mansion during its time being built. The interiors of the home were designed by a New York firm, Pottier and Stymus that were famous for working with clients such as Thomas Edison and William Rockefeller. After Willis’ death, the mansion was bought by William L. Moody, Jr who acquired the house for his family. Since then, the house was passed down among family members until it was restored and opened in 1991 as a museum.

Along with the rich history of Galveston, The Grand Opera House of 1894 is a filled with wonderful historic architecture and is one of the few remaining theaters of its era in Texas. It managed to survive the storm of 1900, numerous other hurricanes and years of neglect. Henry Greenwall helped raise money for his vision of a Romanesque Revival style Opera House in Galveston with the help of architect Frank Cox. The outside of the building is made of red stone, brick and terra cotta while the interior has marble tiles on the floors and wainscoting on the walls. Restoration efforts were made between 1974 and 1990 so The Grand can continue to inspire people and help them fall in love with the arts.

 

Houston, Texas

After enjoying the rich historic architecture of Galveston, make your way to two post-modernism skyscrapers in Houston. The number of amazing architecture features in Houston is large, with the unique Pennzoil Place skyscrapers composed with brown glass and aluminum at the top of the list. They are identical trapezoidal towers that are Gothic inspired with triple-gabled rooflines. These are most unique because depending on what perspective a person views the skyscrapers, it can create a completely different appearance. Architect, Philip Johnson, came up with the design which was significant at the time for breaking the modernist glass box. Pennzoil Place was completed in 1975 and named “Building of the Year”.

The Heights Theater in downtown Houston in the Heights neighborhood is a well known landmark. Originally built in 1929 with a Mission-style stucco facade, the exterior was updated in 1935 into the Art Moderne style that it still currently has today. Unfortunately, after a fire in 1969 devastated the interior of the building and roof it was left abandoned and unusable.  However, during the late 1980s renovations took place to restore the historic theater and currently, the new owners have updated the entire theater to create a performance venue. This beautiful theater has gone through a lot to be preserved and restored into the grand performance hall it is now and is a must see on this list.

Huntsville, Texas

A Tribute to Courage monument, or more commonly known as the statue of Sam Houston, is located in Huntsville, Texas just outside of Houston. The statue was sculpted by David Adickes and is 67 feet tall and built in 1994. It is a great place to stop by on the side of Interstate 45 and take a picture!

Paris, Texas

During 1993, the Texas’s Eiffel Tower was constructed the same year as the Eiffel Tower in Paris, Tennessee. In the natural competitive spirit of Texas, a cowboy hat was added on the top of the tower in 1998 to cause the height of the tower to be taller than that of Tennessee. The tower stands at around 65 feet tall with a 3 1/2 foot tall red Stetson cowboy hat. This is the perfect and fun stop on a roadtrip across Texas!

Dallas, Texas

Next on the list is The Perot Museum of Nature and Science in Dallas. It was designed by Pritzker Architecture, Price Laureate Thom Mayne. The building features a 54-foot, continuous-flow escalator contained in a 150-foot, glass-enclosed, tube-like structure that dramatically extends outside the building. The bottom of the cube is filled with windows to help create the appearance of the building floating at night. The roof of the building is home to drought-tolerant plants, collects rain water and has skylights that bring in natural sunlight to the rooms below. The outside of the building has textured concrete panels that gives the building a different effect depending how the sunlight hits it. The creative design techniques used to create this Dallas icon is definitely one to see!

One modern marvel concert hall that is a must see is The Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center located in the Arts District of Dallas. It was opened in September 1989 and ranked one of the world’s greatest orchestra halls. This hall was designed by architect I.M. Pei, acoustician Russell Johnson’s Artec Consultants, Inc and structural engineer Leslie E. Robertson Associates. The exterior of the building is circular and constructed of glass and metal supports to contrast with the solid geometric lines of the actual hall.

Fort Worth, Texas

Fort Worth, Texas right outside of Dallas is filled with architectural gems that are all walking distance from each other. One of these gems is The Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth designed by the Japanese architect Tadao Ando.  Massive planar walls of architectural concrete help show off The Modern’s structure and forty-foot-high transparent walls of glass framed in metal surround surround the building. The need to use diffused and reflected natural light within the gallery spaces was a major influence for the building’s design.

Directly opposite of The Modern is the Kimbell Art Museum designed by Louis I. Kahn and opened in 1972. This building was designed with the concept of light as the theme which was created through natural light entering through skylights and the three courtyards. The main facade of the building consists of three 100-foot bays, each fronted by an open, barrel-vaulted portico where the central entrance is marked by it’s glazing and recession from the rest of the facade.  This building being modern throughout however has grand arches and vaults reminiscent of Roman architecture which Kahn acknowledged as a source of his inspiration.

When visiting the Kimbell Art Museum, make sure to stop by the architectural marvel, Piano Pavilion‘s expansion just 65 yards away. Piano’s low-slung, colonnaded pavilion with overhanging eaves play homage to Kahn’s museum with the height, emphasis on natural light, and use of concrete as a primary material. The pavilion has two sections that are connected by a glass passageway with the building positioned to focus on the west facade of the Kahn building which he acknowledged as the main entrance.

Amarillo, Texas

Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo, Texas is a public art installation sculpture created in 1974. It was created by Chip Lord, Hudson Marquez and Doug Michels who called their art group Ant Farm. This sculpture consist of Cadillac automobiles half buried, nose down, in the dirt. Throughout the years, the cars have been painted or filled with graffiti and the original artists of this piece have since encouraged it. Despite standing alone in an empty field along Route 66, these Cadillac’s have become a major tourist destination!

Waco, Texas

Waco, Texas is full of beautiful, historic architecture. Whether it is the Romanesque architectural style in the Artesian Manufacturing and Bottling Company Building or the Greek Revival architecture styles in homes throughout the town. For the Artesian Manufacturing and Bottling Company Building, it was completed in 1906 and Dr Pepper was bottled there all the way into the 1960s. It is in the historic turn of the century manufacturing district and went through restoration during the 1990s to turn it into a Dr Pepper Museum. Besides enjoying a great museum, the architecture of the building is superb and a great reason to add it to the road trip list.

 

Austin, Texas

The State Capital in downtown Austin is another iconic building with beautiful architecture to visit. It was completed in 1888 and designed by architect Elija E. Myers. The building was designed in the Renaissance Revival style or otherwise known as Neo-Renaissance. The dome at the top of the building was built with structural steel and metal sheathing, even though the exterior appears to be made of stone. Each individual column has intricate designs made with plaster. The historic, gorgeous architect style and the rich history the capital has within its walls is a great reason to check it out!

The Driskill Hotel in Austin is a Romanesque-style building completed in 1886 and is the oldest operating hotel in Austin, Texas. The Driskill was built by Col. Jesse Driskill. This hotel has four stories and occupies almost half a block with three arched entryways. The building’s structure is made of limestone and brick while the interior had an open design to help airflow and keep the building cool. Throughout the years as the hotel was passed from owner to owner there were several renovations, additions and changes however, one of the grandest hotel in history still shines through.

San Antonio, Texas

The Mission San Antonio de Valero, or better known as The Alamo, has had many different forms throughout the years after it was built in 1718. The mission was created with the New World Spanish architecture style with stone, mud and wooden structures. During the original construction, the walls of the building were never completed however, throughout the years walls, roofs and windows were slowly added on. This iconic building is filled with impressive historic architecture at every turn and is in the perfect location next to the Riverwalk for any road trip!

Another great location to visit in San Antonio is the Main Plaza that dates back to the early 1700s. This plaza has large sidewalks, landscaping and grand fountains as well as being home to the San Fernando Cathedral. This Cathedral is the oldest cathedral sanctuary in the nation and was originally built during 1738 and 1750. After the cathedral had fallen into disrepair, architect Francois P. Giraud, enlarged and restored the cathedral with the influence of Gothic style beginning in 1868. During 1920, the striking stained glass windows were added.

A fun stop to add while in San Antonio is to visit the World’s Largest Cowboy Boots! These pair of boots stand tall at 35 feet and 3 inches. It is recognized by Guinness World Records and is located near the North Star Mall welcoming customers. With how big the boots are they were able to hold a country radio station which broadcasted live from inside them during the rodeo!

Marfa, Texas

Austin may be known for their artsy vibe in Texas but Marfa, a small town out west, is full of hip styles with the influence of Donald Judd, a minimalist artist from the 70s and 80s. Modern and minimalist styles overtake homes throughout the town along with many homes that have been converted from previous event venues, dance halls and more.  Since Judd’s influence on the town, other artists such as Michael Phelan have moved to Marfa. Phelan lives in a former Texaco service station and has adopted Judd’s style into it. Marfa’s unique style and vibe with a small-town charm is a definite must see in Texas and a perfect ending to the road trip.

One example of this style is shown through  The Chinati Foundation, a contemporary art museum, founded by Donald Judd. It is located on 340 acres of land and is intended to preserve and present permanent large-scale installations to the public by a limited number of artists. Each artist’s work is installed in seperate buildings throughout the museum’s grounds. Each piece is unique and is influenced from different styles.

Another must see in Marfa, Texas is a fully stocked Prada store in the middle of the west desert that’s never open for business. This sculpture was built of biodegradable adobe-like substance that is able to slowly melt back into Earth in 2005. Berlin-based artistic team Elmgreen and Dragset, worked closely with Miuccia Prada, who handpicked all of the merchandise for the store’s interior.

 

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