Houston Inside Slowly 1999
Houston inside, slowly

When Houston looks at itself, it is usually through a windshield. As Reyner Banham realized in Los Angeles, one must learn to drive in order to experience the city at the rate and scale in which it is continuously designed. The car is an appropriate analytical tool for investigating an urban condition in which large distances must be traversed quickly in order to maintain urban cohesion and experiential continuity.

It is not necessary to slow oneself down in order to recognize the existence of other spaces, spaces that do not conform to general urban use patterns. One can “see” them at seventy miles per hour. What if the object of research is not spatial continuity, but rather, the very things that this space divides, omits, and jumps over? This urban residuum is not designed or used at breakneck speeds. It must be examined at a much slower pace — the speed of a bulldozer or, perhaps, a pedestrian — a relative crawl. To actually enter and investigate this space requires a wholesale elimination of the mechanisms that allow the city to operate in the first place. There are significant breaks in urban space that cannot be understood from the 30th floor or, even, from the sidewalk.

We must go inside, slowly.


These spaces were located and selected through a combination of mapping investigations and an informed, personal curiosity, acting as potential destinations in an itinerary of walking the city. Typically, a trip began with a Metro bus ride to the far terminus of the route which, at times, positioned me over thirty miles from Downtown, but never outside of the city limits. Then, I headed home.

Over the course of this project, I took seven trips in the city and logged over 75 hours of walking time. In an effort to accumulate evidence, I photographed these trips extensively, focusing on the void spaces and their relationship to the rest of the city. In addition, I recorded the GPS coordinates at the exact location where each photograph was taken. These photographs were sorted into catalogs defining certain recurrent themes and urban conditions, such as Transience, Cow/Pipeline, and Scenes of the Crime. Using the photographs as analytical tools, I attempted to define a set of rules that govern these spaces, spaces that are, often all too quickly, labeled as void. The interpretation of photographs and the experience of the city-trips shaped the accompanying text. This was an attempt to study Houston, not from above, but from within.

The following photographs were selected from images taken on these trips during the Fall of 1999.