Art show about east end on exhibit
Eastside As Found & Encounter, a collaborative art show by architectural designer Jae Boggess, University of Houston (UH) graphic design and creative writing students and Buffalo Bayou Partnership (BBP), is now on display through the end of January at the historic Sunset Coffee Building at Allen’s Landing, 1019 Commerce Street.
The show features photography from Boggess, an associate designer at the architecture firm Brett Zamore Design, of industrial and commercial buildings east of downtown, and design proposals from UH students for installations along Buffalo Bayou’s east sector.
For Boggess’ design thesis (she graduated with a Master of Architecture degree from Rice University in 2016), she presented a concept for the renovation of a dilapidated former rice mill in the Fifth Ward, now known as “The Silo,” into a mixed-use urban farm and community center with apartments.
“Around that time the Rice Design Alliance was accepting proposals for their 2016 Initiatives for Houston Grant, and I was fortunate to receive funding from them to turn my explorations into a photography series,” Boggess said.
“The grant selection committee felt that Jae presented a wonderful project to help Houstonians with understanding the area further. It is an important part of what makes up Houston,” Angie Chen, interim executive director of Rice Design Alliance, said.
Despite having grown up in Houston, Boggess said that she was not familiar with the Eastside, which lead to her interest in wanting to photograph the area.
“I was intrigued by how a banal industrial building could evolve into a community icon and take on new life with different uses, so I began scouting the area for other neglected buildings that could use a new lease on life,” Boggess said.
Boggess initially thought the project would be about proposing architectural interventions at a selection of sites, but as she found more and more interesting buildings in need of attention, she realized that a catalogue of all the buildings would be appropriate.
Buffalo Bayou President Anne Olson reached out after reading an article that Boggess had written for Offcite, Rice Design Alliance’s blog, about her project intentions. Olson suggested to host a show at Sunset Coffee Building, since it was relevant to what BBP was focusing on.
According to Olson, there is currently a large master plan effort underway in the Buffalo Bayou’s eastern sector, from U.S. 59 to the Port of Houston Turning Basin. A team of consults were hired to look into three main things: authenticity, bringing in long-time residents and businesses, and connectivity.
“We wanted to do something over in the east sector because of the master plan, to highlight the industrial and cultural legacy over there… let people know how rich the area is. The two projects just fit together perfectly,” Olson said.
“Partnering up with BBP allowed the project to reach a wider audience, and I am so grateful for that,” Boggess said. “I think there is value to being mindful of the past when considering new visions for the future, and I hope that my photos will help people see beauty where it might otherwise be overlooked.”
UH graduate and undergraduate students worked on a number of proposed design installations to go in six different locations along the bayou in the Eastside and Fifth Ward communities. The proposals ranged from small interventions, such as repurposed oil barrels, to large scale installations and community events, like typographic murals.
Jinyong Choi, a graphic design graduate student, was a part of a team that developed a design concept for the Old Gravel Silos site, that included a cylinder beacon to draw people in, with an informative kiosk.
“We also planned to apply the large scale of the graphic letters ‘together’ to the exterior of the silos. I suggested the word together because this simple word embraces the purposes of the project: connectivity and inclusivity of the communities. Moreover, materials that had been stored in the silos were gravels, shells, sand, and cement, and those turned into the concrete together and became a fundamental resource for building the city of Houston,” Choi said.
Alwyn Brownewell, a senior in the UH undergrad graphic design program, noted that exploring the Eastside of the bayou was an eye-opening experience for her, as she had never been to the sites even though she has lived in Houston for over 10 years.
“I think that these meeting points, that both UH and the Buffalo Bayou Partnership are working together on, help to reinvigorate and reconnect the communities and other visitors. Engaging with Houston’s history and communities in such a fun way is an amazing feat! We Houstonians should preserve these areas and keep them authentic while at the same time retaining the connectivity and the inclusivity of the communities and their visitors,” Brownewell said.
Olson says that BBP plans to implement the student’s projects in the spring of next year. “They are incredible. Very creative and doable,” Olson said. “The students have done so much work, and Jae has photographed all of these amazing industrial buildings. Visually it is all exciting.”
Eastside As Found & Encounter is on exhibit through January 29.