Improbable Metropolis: Houston’s Architectural and Urban History

with Barrie Scardino Bradley

Free and open to the public. After registering for the event, a Zoom link will be emailed.
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October 22, 2020
6:00 PM

Brought to you by the Historic Resources

Join Barrie Scardino Bradley for an online conversation and look at her new book, Improbable Metropolis: Houston’s Architectural and Urban History. The presentation will be followed by a Q&A with the author.

In collaboration with AIAH Historic Resources Committee and The Heritage Society

  • Virtual Webinar: Zoom 
  • Date: Thursday, October 22
  • Time: 6:00pm


Synopsis: Just over 180 years ago, the city of Houston was nothing more than an alligator-infested swamp along the Buffalo Bayou that spread onto a flat, endless plain. Today, it is a sprawling, architecturally and culturally diverse metropolis. How did one transform into the other in such a short period?

Improbable Metropolis uses the built environment as a guide to explore the remarkable evolution that Houston has undergone from 1836 to the present. Houston’s architecture, an indicator of its culture and prosperity, has been inconsistent, often predictable, sometimes bizarre, and occasionally extraordinary. Industries from cotton, lumber, sugar, and rail and water transportation, to petroleum, healthcare, biomedical research, and aerospace have each in turn brought profit and attention to Houston. Each created an associated building boom, expanding the city’s architectural sophistication, its footprint, and its cultural breadth. Providing a template for architectural investigations of other American cities, Improbable Metropolis is an important addition to the literature on Texas history.


Signed books are available for purchase and a portion of the proceeds will benefit The Heritage Society

Click here to purchase 


Barrie Scardino Bradley has been writing and lecturing about the architectural history of Houston and Texas for more than forty years. She has served as the executive director of the Houston Chapter of the American Institute of Architects; editor of Cite: The Architecture and Design Review of Houston; a research associate in the Rice University School of Architecture; and the architectural archivist of the Houston Metropolitan Research Center of the Houston Public Library. She is the author of Fair Winds: The History of Kirby Corporation (2017) and Houston’s Hermann Park: A Century of Community (2014); a coauthor of Houston’s Forgotten Heritage: Landscape, Houses, Interiors, 1824–1914 (1991) and Clayton’s Galveston: The Architecture of N. J. Clayton and His Contemporaries (2000); and a coeditor of Ephemeral City: Cite Looks at Houston (2003) and Making Houston Modern: The Life and Architecture of Howard Barnstone (2020).

AIA Credit: 1.5 LU

Registration is required.  Instructions will be emailed to all registrants beginning October 19.  


Photo credit: Mister McKinney’s Historic Houston