The See-Through Years: Creation and Destruction in Texas Architecture and Real Estate, 1981-1991 / Edition 1

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The ritual of real estate dominated the spiritual life of Texas for a decade, a ritual based on the mythic premise that developers function as divinely ordained princes who bring prosperity to the whole of society. In the early years of the '80s Texas cities sprouted new skylines that showed off the stylistic explorations of some of the country's leading designers. By the end of the decade scores of new projects stood vacant. They were see-through buildings, towering symbols of the collapsing economy of a state that had for a time seemed to embody the nation's vitality. Once a promising architectural laboratory, the landscape had become a study in blighted expectations. Joel Barna incisively reveals the links between architecture, economics, and contemporary American beliefs. Interweaving his analysis with more than 120 black-and-white photographs and 50 drawings, he scrutinizes the RepublicBank Center in Houston, the Allied Bank Tower in Dallas, the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, and many other structures. Texas's architecture and urban growth not only form a physical record of the boom and bust of the decade; they point beyond the borders of the state to trends and developments that will affect the country into the next century. This is a book not just about Texas, but about our future.
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Editorial Reviews

Gerald Moorhead
"Land was developed and buildings were built for the simple reason that money was available . . . Joel Barna . . . chronicles this boisterous period with clear, critical judgment. . . . Much of the architectural theory of the Postmodern era has centered on meaning—the conveyance by architecture of societal symbols through association with historical styles. Barna dismisses this theoretical pretext by clarifying the real function of buildings placed on the land. 'Real estate is an engine,’ says Barna, 'powered by money . . . ’Buildings are put up not so much to fulfill functional needs as to enhance the value of the land, to become real estate commodities. This is not what architects like to hear. But evidence is abundant in our era that the message of the medium is simply to call attention to itself."—Gerald Moorhead
The see-through buildings are the office towers in Houston, Dallas, Fort Worth, and other Texas cities, that are sitting empty a decade after an exuberance of architecture innovation and construction failed to ward off economic collapse. Photographs and text explore the interplay between art, economics, and public relations. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780892633166
  • Publisher: Texas A&M University Press
  • Publication date: 10/1/1992
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 304
  • Product dimensions: 6.29 (w) x 7.84 (h) x 0.94 (d)

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
1 J.R. McConnell Died for Our Sins 2
2 Middle-Class Houses of the 1980s 60
3 '80s Middle-Class Workplaces 90
4 Schools from the Bottom Up 108
5 Feeling Better about Medical Buildings 120
6 Plans and Curses in Downtown Austin 134
7 Tower Tops in Dallas 152
8 Public Housing and Welfare 168
9 Solana, the Electronic Hacienda 184
10 The Dallas Arts District: The Last Ditch 196
11 Creating More Perfect Landscapes, '80s Style 210
12 Saving the Kimbell for Philadelphia 230
13 Coda 240
Notes 249
Index 271
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