Houston 2017...I

Houston, Texas is a place I’ve always wanted to visit. But because of Hurricane Harvey’s devastation to downtown and surrounding neighborhoods, I didn’t think I would make it there so soon. Boy, was I wrong!

I arrived in Houston on a hot Friday morning. And when I say hot, I mean hot! I’m not really an air conditioner person, but mine was going full blast. It was too early to check into my hotel, so I drove around to do some shooting. My first stop was to NRG Stadium, home of the Houston Texans football team. While there, I noticed the old Houston Astrodome was still standing next door, but there was an event going on on that side and I couldn’t make my way over to it. But I’ll catch it next time. In keeping with the sports theme, I drove over to Toyota Center, home of the Houston Rockets basketball team. While walking around the arena, I checked out the basketball jersey monument honoring former Rockets player Hakeem Olajuwon outside the main entrance. After spending a little time there, I made my way over to Minute Maid Park, home of the 2017 World Champion Houston Astros baseball team. I spent a lot of time there mingling with other Astros fans and out-of-towners who stopped by the ballpark to celebrate and take photos of the park! Across the street from Minute Maid Park is the Arthur B. Cohn House. The Cohn House was built in 1905 by Arthur B. Cohn, who helped co-found the Rice Institute after his boss William Marsh Rice died in 1900. The house was preserved from the neighborhood of Quality Hill, Houston’s first elite neighborhood. Walking around in the area, I was able to get great shots of the evolution of downtown Houston. After seeing news footage of downtown under water, the clean-up was very impressive. I saw no remaining effects of Hurricane Harvey throughout my adventures downtown.

After finally checking into the Aloft Houston Downtown Hotel, I put my bags in my room, came back out and walked around…passing the massive JP Morgan Chase Tower designed by I.M. Pei. Out front was a cool sculpture called “Personage and Birds” by Joan Miró. While waiting to cross the street, a Houston Metro Streetcar stops in the crossway. I was tempted to get on for the ride experience, but decided to wait. My next stop is the Jesse H. Jones Hall for the Performing Arts where a cool ballerina statue stands. Across the street is architect Philip Johnson's Pennzoil Place, a set of two 36-story towers. The buildings are mirrored images of each other, consisting of two trapezoidal towers placed 10-feet apart in dark bronze, glass and aluminum. This is architecture at its best! In exploring more of downtown, I photographed the Alley Theatre and Downtown Aquarium. I wanted to check out The Wortham Theater Center, home of the Houston Ballet and Houston Grand Opera, but they were closed. I later found out that The Center is still undergoing cleanup from Hurricane Harvey. Making my way past the Hard Rock Café, I come across another architectural gem and another Philip Johnson (and John Burgee) creation…Bank Of America Center.

After a brief stop for lunch, I picked up shooting at City Hall. What first caught my attention was a h-u-g-e orange, gold and white banner hanging over the front entrance. The banner was there to honor the 2017 World Champion Houston Astros. I entered Hermann Square and stood in front of the reflecting pool to get a great photo of the banner. From that same vantage point, I photographed two downtown skyscrapers…the green-glassed Wells Fargo Plaza and bronze-glassed Enterprise Plaza…both designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill. Walking past the back side of City Hall and City Hall Annex brought me to Robert A.M. Stern's Hobby Center For Arts and Education with Tony Cragg's “In Minds” sculptures on the corner. Across the street is Tranquility Park, the place to be if you just wanna chill, relax and read a book. Or just sit back and marvel at the great views of downtown Houston. There’s also a pretty cool water fountain as the center piece, but it was off on this particular day. Now walking along Bagby Street, I stop and photograph Claes Oldenburg's bright red “Geometric Mouse X” sculpture sitting outside the Houston Public Library. Heritage Plaza is another skyscraper that’s great to photograph. On the back side of the building, I got nice reflections of other buildings behind me making for a nice artistic photo. Over on Clay Street, I walked past the Bob and Vivian Smith Fountain where loads of homeless people were laid out sleep or just chillin’. I tried to take my photos quickly and discretely so they didn’t think I was trying to photograph them on the sly.

Another interesting “intersection” of buildings is the site of the old Enron Complex. Those buildings are now 1400 Smith Street and 1500 Louisiana Street. Both buildings stand across from one another, but as a photographer standing in the middle, shooting skyward makes for a spectacular view. Further up the street is 1600 Smith Street, a 51-floor office tower waiting to be photographed by me. One thing I can say is Houston definitely has its share of skyscrapers. Walking back towards my hotel, I photograph the gold-toned Wedge International Tower and the old ExxonMobil Building on Bell Street. I also photographed the Houston Police Department building, which also houses the Houston Police Museum. A couple blocks from my hotel is the JP Morgan Chase Building, formerly the Gulf Building. I also noticed more buildings on the block, so again I get in the middle of the street to shoot skyward achieving a multi-building artistic photo. Another Houston Metro Streetcar passes by as I shoot my final building for the day. The BG Group Place building on this corner is another glass-structure, designed by Pickard Chilton and Kendall & Heaton Associates. I capture another view of the building by positioning myself underneath the corner of the building and shooting skyward…capturing the sky and cloud reflections off the building.