Architecture You Should Know: The Chase Residence, Houston, Texas
A discussion with David Heymann, FAIA
July 15 & 22, 2020, 4 p.m. Zoom
This event is free and open to the public; donations are appreciated and help us continue to produce programs promoting the value of the built environment for all Austinites!
Hester + Hardaway (left); courtesy of the Houston Metropolitan Research Center (right)
The low-slung brick house that architect John Saunders Chase completed for his own family in 1959 was Houston’s first modernist house with a true interior courtyard, a form with which other progressive architects were only starting to experiment. But the design was equally radical for having been built it at all. When Chase graduated from The University of Texas School of Architecture in 1952—the first African American to do so—none of Houston’s white architects would hire him. Chase had to petition the state for special permission to take the licensing exam, and he became the first African American registered as an architect in Texas. By 1959, he ran his own thriving firm, and had established a position of remarkable influence in Houston’s social, political, and economic life.
The Chase Residence served as an epicenter for political and social life in Houston, in Texas, and in the United States. Lloyd Bentsen, Vernon Jordan, John Connally, and many others were guests of honor there. When he was in the Texas House, Mickey Leland had dinner at the Chase Residence every Friday evening on his way back in from Austin. The house was initially built with a protective inward focus, but in 1968 Chase altered the architecture fundamentally. He transformed the hidden courtyard into a great, open, double-height social room inside, and the heretofore opaque public exterior of the house into a sort of neighborhood lantern. Notorious but not well known, the Chase Residence is an important architectural and cultural landmark. You should know it.
This webinar is in conjunction with the publication of the book John S. Chase — The Chase Residence (Tower Books), edited and with an essay by David Heymann, FAIA; with drawings of the house by University of Texas School of Architecture graduate students; and with an essay on Chase’s architectural career by the historian Stephen Fox.
David Heymann, FAIA, is the Harwell Hamilton Harris Regents Professor at The University of Texas at Austin School of Architecture. His work in design and writing examines the complex relationships of constructions and landscapes. Heymann is a contributing writer for Places Journal, and author of My Beautiful City Austin. Design honors for his architectural work include selection for Emerging Voices by the Architecture League of New York.