Those who read Catherine Gavin’s Of Note piece in the November-December 2015 issue of Texas Architect will know that I’m new to this job and that I have just returned home to Texas after spending 18 years in New York City, where I went to college and began my career as an architectural journalist and editor.
My Uncle Jug says that you can take the boy out of Texas, but you can’t take Texas out of the boy. I found that to be true, more or less. The longer I was away, the more of a Texan I became. My accent, which I initially tried to cloak, deepened and solidified. I started to wear cowboy boots, a bit of wardrobe I hadn’t sported since pre-school days, when my mother put me in them for family photos. And when people commented that after all my time in the city I was a real New Yorker, I took to correcting them.
“No, I’m a Texan,” I’d say. “I’ll never be a New Yorker.”
Now that I’m back, I find that my time away did prepare me with an outsider’s eyes to view what, somehow, never stopped being my “natural habitat.” The pages of TA are full of beautiful buildings, but on your average drive through (sub)urban Texas — or on the busy freeways that connect our cities — it can be hard to remember that such structures exist in this landscape. They’re either hidden away in private enclaves or isolated in the midst of hundreds of thousands of acres of, well, less-than-charming development.
I tend to sympathize with Ruskin in his assessment of architecture as “that art which so disposes and adorns the edifices raised by man for whatsoever uses, that the sight of them contributes to his mental health, power, and pleasure.” On the other hand, I can hear Uncle Jug saying, “When I walk into a place, if the walls are straight, it’s a good building.”
Establishing good architecture, in the end, is not just a matter of design, but one of consciousness. This publication is dedicated to raising that consciousness, among architects and their allied professionals, and in the public at large.
Beginning with this issue, I will be making adjustments to sharpen TA’s editorial presentation, bolster its critical voice, and, I hope, broaden its appeal to readers outside of the profession. To make this an interactive process, I am reinstating the magazine’s Letters section. I hereby invite you to send comments, questions, or quibbles about the articles we run, or the state of the Texas built environment in general, to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. All thoughtful submissions will be considered for publication.