Saving Houston’s History: Q&A with Architect John Cryer III

Architecture and preservation often go hand-in-hand as Page has proven with the successful – and popular restoration and adaptation of historical projects such as the first underground drinking water reservoir in Houston, the hotel built to replace the former Texas State Capitol of Texas and the Mercantile National Bank Building skyscraper. Page Board of Directors / Emeritus John N. Cryer III, FAIA, has also served as immediate past president of Preservation Houston, a city that is only beginning to appreciate its historic infrastructure.

Realty News Report interviewed John on his thoughts about Houston’s progress in learning to love its past and how preservation and adaptation can actually serve as economic drivers. An excerpted version of the interview appears below:

Realty News Report: Too many times Houston has torn down its great buildings. Do you think saving the Astrodome [and the Cistern] helps Houstonians learn to love its old buildings?

John Cryer: Preservation has not been a high priority for Houston. That fascination of something new was death to many of the wonderful historic pieces of architecture in Houston. I think today there is far greater sensitivity to preservation… Too often vision is lacking to see the possibilities for the future.

Realty News Report: What does wanting to preserve the Astrodome say about Houston?

John Cryer: Successful preservation is usually achieved when a historical structure is adapted to a modern use. A sports stadium will essentially always be an arena for events. The contrast of the historical and contemporary is what makes successful preservation relevant and successful.  Historical architecture is more significant when it also preserves the history, the stories, and a legacy in a point in time. That is why it makes the Astrodome important to preserve for Houston.   

Realty News Report: Where do you see Houston’ future expansion?

John Cryer: Houston’s expansion will be in the central business district. This will be driven by long term national trends, but also the I-45 reconfiguration, the $7 billion rebuilding of the freeway system around downtown and midtown. The future of the automobile is facing dramatic change.  Unlimited land in 360 degrees and no natural edge will no longer continue the horizontal expansion. Culture shifts and economics will consolidate future expansion around more of a central core.

To read the Realty News Report interview with John in full, click here.