4.22: An Earth Day Perspective | 
What Kind of Footprints Do We Want To Leave Behind?

It’s all Agritectural to Me

Love: our globe, design, architecture.

The combination of these elements moving us toward a more sustainable and healthier environment, enter: Agritecture.

After a day of heartbreaking scenes from Notre Dame in Paris and coupled with the consistent concerns of EPA news and assaults on the environment – the information download and resulting urge to ‘do something!’ to counteract the negative impacts can feel – well, overwhelming.

In an effort to take things down a notch and as we, the people, can all use a quick pick-me-up right now, I wanted to share these very uplifting concepts that individuals – and entire cities – are developing, even as you read this. So unplug to connect, and read on.

Agritecture is where creative scientists (also known as architects) work hand-in-hand with agricultural biotechs (otherwise known as farmers or people like me that just like to garden) to make creative spaces that offer multiple functions on top of their aesthetic appeal. 

A couple of months ago, The Guardian (see article) highlighted some very earth-positive ideas and jobs (overwhelmingly!) well-done. Houston alone has very specific issues when it comes to potential weather extremes, catastrophic flooding, lack of green space, and an increasing population. But there is another general and global opportunity to grow – literally, and not only above-ground.

Take a look, be uplifted, get inspired, and do something to support this April 22 Earth Day by creating a cleaner, more sustainable space – even if it’s just your own.

You know what they say…if you build it, they will grow.

ReGen Villages | Netherlands: A model for the development of off-grid ecovillages to power and feed self-reliant families around the world. A regenerative and reuse concept that uses the outputs of one system for the inputs of another, while combining a variety of innovative technologies such as energy-positive homes, energy storage, and water management



Urban Hives | Beirut: Artist Nathalie Harb proposes food-growing plots for parked cars. Low-cost and easy to construct, the platforms provide shaded parking (prime real estate) and spaces to grow food and congregate in the heart of a city – this one in Beirut. Houston, take note!


Edible Education | Berkeley, CA: Thank you Alice Waters.


Buzz Building | Taipei: Last but not at all least, a conceptual insect farm and safe space for endangered bees, called the BuzzBuilding, to be built in the Taipei Ren-a-Circle roundabout offering over 10,000 square meters of farmable surface. Concept by Belatchew Arkitekter.

Buzz Building – Night View

Buzz Building – Bee Habitat

“Summer of Cool” I.D.2018

I love tearing through design rags and eating up every sketch, color, detail, and space. There’s so much to consume that you get full quickly. All of those handcrafted objects, bent steel widgets, and angular pastel shapes take on some iteration of De Stil or Bauhaus and get lost in the forgettable. Some, however, are absolute fire!

The really cool stuff pulls you so hard you scan the room for a waxed pencil and a bright pink post-it to earmark the thing. The thing can be any of the thousands of well-designed objects and spaces curated by the periodical. I once ogled over a corked topped side table for the form and orange of the stems that held it upright. I do the same for colors in textiles, modern typefaces in corporate branding, patterns in Scandinavian quilting, buildings finished of soft pink stucco, and bright yellow stainless-steel ranges. Those items that evoke are hunted, discovered, collected, and categorized.

I then tear through the design magazines, literally. When an object calls, it is cut out using clunky school scissors, my fat hands, or an Xact-O knife if care is needed. Each piece of cool is labeled “color”, “pattern”, “typeface”, “product”, or “space” and then composed onto an art board of cheap butcher paper and titled with the periodical’s name and release date. The final composition is simply my edit of the magazine I spent 30 minutes scavenging.

With so much stuff to see, only a handful of things really matter.

I recently rummaged through the summer issues of Interior Design – May through August 2018 – and offer you Rick’s “Summer of Cool”.


ID May 2018
Typeface – MTT Milano Black; OFS Corporate logo
Pattern – “Paris” Wall graphic by Rapt Studio at TV Studio Turner. ATL
Space – Learning Annex by BC Architects. Morocco.
Product – “Darning Sampler” Textiles by Maharam.
Color – Pantone P5-5C
Color – Pantone 10129C
Color – Pantone 3538 UP


ID June 2018
Color – Pantone 101 12C
Typeface – Nimbus Sans Novus Heavy
Architecture – “Kitz” Hotel. Germany; Meyer Architecture


ID July 2018
Product – “Courts” Rug by Coombs, Corrado, & Kaplan
Product – “NudaFlat” Lavatory by Ceramica Flaminia
Pattern – “X” by Lissoni Architecture
Typeface – Swiss 721 + Europa Grotesk SH Demibold
Color – Pantone 3588 CP


ID August 2018
Color – Pantone 13 – 1520 TCX
Typeface – Uniform Rounded
Pattern – “Steps” by Alexander Girard

Diamonds in the Rough: Celebrating Historic Houston Architecture through Re-imagination

After a few short weeks, the drive from the BRAVE / Architecture office in Montrose to my newly unpacked home in the Heights became the first, and only, trip I could make in Houston without the assistance of Google Maps. As a recent transplant from Denver, Colorado, the drive home was drastically different from my former commute; however, with this new-found independence on the road, I could finally look around. My favorite, ‘you’re almost home!’ landmark on this brief journey became a mysterious, two-story, brick building. With generously rounded corners, boarded-up windows, and walls that were stained by years of mineral deposits and the ghosts of graffiti, it certainly caught my attention. Grasses and weeds have taken up residence on the roof, creating a miniature meadow, while wildflowers sprout up from the ledge. Sited close to the road, some tangled shrubs and a chain link fence separate the busy street from this overgrown, seemingly forgotten structure.

After a bit of research, it turns out this building is in fact far from forgotten. Formerly the Heights Waterworks Reservoir Building, the 750,000-gallon reservoir was built in 1928 and placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1983. Because of this status, the building cannot be demolished. However, taking a page from the Buffalo Bayou Park Cistern rehabilitation, the Heights Waterworks Reservoir is staged to undergo a renovation of its own. The site, including two pumping stations, is currently under construction and is set to be completed in the near future. The development includes several local restaurants and retail spaces that will incorporate the existing structures. A rendering even shows a grassy, rooftop patio over the reservoir, a whimsical play on the current, green roof that I’ve been admiring.

Complexity is often what makes older buildings so interesting. The layers of the building – its past and present use (or disuse), the logic behind the design, the material and structure – tell a story. When these older buildings are celebrated and reinvented, their story is embellished, and new characters are added. I am glad to know this small piece of history will soon be resuscitated with a fresh purpose. A very small part of me however, will miss the natural, romantic quality of its current state that softly reminded me of the familiar, wild landscapes of Colorado.

Analysis of a Design Charrette

char·rette /SHəˈret/

Late Middle English (denoting a cart or wagon): from French charrette, literally ‘cart’; current sense dates from the mid 20th century, possibly with reference to the use of a cart in 19th-century Paris to collect architecture students’ work on the day of an exhibition.

A charrette is defined as an intense period of design or planning activity. The term originated in France at the École des Beaux-Arts school in Paris where students would typically work up until the last minute, placing their designs and models on a charrette (or, more commonly known by Americans, a cart) upon completion for review.

Never being ones to sit out on a design competition, our firm has participated in countless local design charrettes since our doors opened in 2002. Typically used as a way to reimagine particular neighborhoods or districts throughout the city of Houston, charrettes are a great way to pool together ideas from students, young designers, or architects.

This past January, B/A participated in one of Rice Design Alliance’s charrettes, the goal of which was to reimagine the Allen’s Landing district to promote resiliency, connectivity, and activity in the surrounding neighborhood.

With five hours on the clock, we had to put together a design and presentation that appropriately conveyed our vision — a community amphitheater.

The images below document both the process that our team went through as we planned our design and a few slides from our final project presentation the to judges.

After several hours of intense design (and a few slices of pizza), we were ready to present our final product to the judges. Ta da!

Although we didn’t win this particular charrette, we are always proud to be a part of initiatives to reinvigorate the Houston community we love so dearly. We look forward to the next one!

Houston History Launch Party + Panel Discussion: Latinos in Houston

Yesterday evening, some of the BRAVE team went to Talento Bilingue De Houston in Houston’s East End in support of B/A’s Architectural Intern, Alicia Islam. Alicia recently wrote and contributed an article to local publication Houston History titled “Past, Present, and Future: The Women Shaping Houston’s Architecture” where she discusses the historical and profound impact that women have had on our city.

Last night’s launch party featured a panel discussion between retired educator and University of Houston administrator, Dr. Dorothy Caram, lawyer and former Mayor Pro Tem, Gracie Saenz, and lawyer and owner of Villa Arcos, Christian Navarro on Latino empowerment and their contributions to our community. The discussion was led by Houston History editor and University of Houston Honors College history professor, Dr. Debbie Harwell. Harwell, a former professor of Alicia’s, created Houston History with the goal of making our region more aware of its history and more respectful of its past and to contribute to the development of a stronger historical consciousness in Houston.

Click here to read Alicia’s article featured in Houston History.
Issues of Houston History Magazine can be purchased here.

AIA Houston’s Kids & Architecture Sketching Class

AIA Houston’s Kids & Architecture Committee scheduled another great class on a beautiful Saturday, pairing architects with students to meander around a section of Houston and lay down some pencil (or pen) to paper. This past weekend, the focus was on Hermann Park and the Cherie Flores Garden Pavilion.

AIA Houston schedules the Kids & Architecture Sketching Classes every so often and will reconvene in the fall once school starts up again.

Walk This Way: A Resident’s Plea for More Sidewalks in Houston

Many people laugh when I say that Houston is the largest small town I’ve seen, but think about it. We have the population, the arts, the restaurants and yet, how do they interconnect? Look out your window. Is there anything missing? If you see a wide (five-foot minimum), well-maintained, accessible, and unobstructed sidewalk — congratulations! You are an exception and may be part of positive development of the city.

I keep hearing people wonder how to attract large corporations, innovators, and young entrepreneurial talent to Houston to push it to the next level. We have to realize that every property without a sidewalk is a clear statement saying, “you, pedestrian, neighbor, are not welcome here.”

New development, blocks away from the Museum District.


Southgate Boulevard, blocks away from the Medical Center.

All of us have a role to play in the development and success of this city and are responsible for maintaining the small section of Houston located along our property lines.

Think about the benefits associated with a well-maintained sidewalk:

– They significantly reduce chances of a neighbor getting run-over at your front door (this should be a good enough incentive on its own, but I’m just getting started…).
– They provide greater opportunities for neighbors to meet and interact with each other. Nobody stops and chats in the middle of the street — this magic opportunity only happens when people have a safe place to pay attention to each other and forget about the traffic passing by.
– They provide increased safety. Pedestrians walking along a safe path pay much more attention to the details in the activity of the community when they don’t have to worry about oncoming traffic. Well-organized Neighborhood Watch groups (like this one in Idylwood on the east side of town) are very effective at alerting the community about unusual activities.
– They create increased property value. Sidewalks improve curb appeal, increase a neighborhood’s desirability, and with it, its property value many times over.
– They establish the grounds for a healthier community. A small amount of daily exercise can improve overall health and sidewalks provide the easiest, quickest, and cheapest option for neighborhood walks.
– They promote increased sales for commercial properties. Chances are higher for a pedestrian to get “tempted” by an appealing storefront along a sidewalk than a driver getting the urge to make an impulsive purchase just by noticing your logo across a massive parking lot.
– They also promote a reduced dependency for vehicles. It doesn’t matter how many means of public transportation a city implements. None will be used regularly if people have to risk their lives to reach them.

One of many abruptly-interrupted sidewalks, this one at Bell Park in Montrose.


University at Morningside, West University area.

I understand that Houstonians are very attached to their lack of regulations, but the city should consider the valuable opportunities lost due to lack of planning. Houston’s Planning Commission has been working on additional regulations for new development.

But what about existing properties? Do we wait 100 years until every property has undergone a major renovation? A more aggressive approach is needed to see any kind of meaningful improvement. Perhaps implement a plan to have sidewalks along every property within the city limits? With a strict deadline, incentives, and/or penalties? Although there is a cost associated with these improvements, some of the worst offenders I’ve seen are multiple sections of central, high-end neighborhoods such as Southgate, Old Braeswood, and River Oaks (the latter of which was originally touted as a pedestrian-friendly neighborhood that now has multiple blocks of a once-service road turned major artery like San Felipe Road running through it, completely deprived of pedestrian access). The examples are plentiful and extend as far as the city boundaries. I haven’t even mentioned ditches, old and cracked three-foot wide strips of concrete, or utility poles — the list of obstacles is long.

San Felipe Road in the River Oaks district.

Our community is strong and has many opportunities for growth that go beyond reaping the benefits of an oil-based economy.

Houston, it’s time for all of us to get serious and do our part. Build an appropriately-sized sidewalk along your property and maintain it. Join a community organization. Make your voice heard. Together, we can make Houston a healthier, more resilient city.

Great sidewalks along Montrose Boulevard.


Generous sidewalks along the new MFAH Glassell School of Art.

Here are some great resources for finding out more about building healthier environments:

BRAVE / Architecture Awarded AIA Houston’s 2018 Firm of the Year!

BRAVE / Architecture was the recipient of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) Houston Chapter’s 2018 Firm of the Year Award at this year’s annual Celebrate Architecture Gala. The award is given annually to a Houston architecture firm that has produced distinguished architecture for a period of at least ten years. In addition to architectural accomplishments, the judging panel, which consisted of representatives from AIA Kansas City, recognized the firm’s significant contributions to both the profession and the community.

BRAVE / Architecture has become a successful, non-traditional practice by turning the traditional model around: they do not hire based on project needs, but rather seek project opportunities based on firm resources, capabilities, and ambitions. To that end, they also redefined hiring practices by allowing the team to conduct the search and hire with its own goals in mind. This means each person is hired by their co-workers and peers rather than by management. The staff seeks people who are inclined to immerse themselves in architectural research early in their careers while applying fresh and innovative thinking to projects.

The firm has completed numerous projects in and around the Houston area, but is best known for their award-winning Sicardi Gallery (now Sicardi | Ayers | Bacino), one of the first art galleries in the United States to represent avant-garde and contemporary artists from Latin America. The project has been featured in a variety of publications, most recently Phaidon Press’ Destination Architecture: The Essential Guide to 1000 Contemporary Buildings.

B/A’s 2018 Spring Cookout

This past Saturday, the BRAVE team, along with friends and family members, trekked out to Memorial Park for a good, old-fashioned cookout. The weather posed a bit of an inconvenience early in the morning but, as the day went on, conditions improved significantly. Chef Brave manned the grill, cooking up a variety of delicious meats and veggies to feed his hungry crew. Once the weather began cooperating, it quickly became a peak park kind of day – blue sky, cold brews, great tunes, and perfect company.

Until next year!


On Our Desks
by: Robert McCarter
Edited by Phaidon

We just received a copy of the most comprehensive book ever written on the work of Marcel Breuer (1902-1982). The monograph contains the architect’s work plus all his furniture design. It highlights his association with the Bauhaus and Walter Gropius, his work in Europe and the US. The book is illustrated with fantastic photographs, plans, and sketches of the master’s work. It is a great reference and a prized addition to our ever-growing library.