Friends of mine, Houston natives, who voted on November 5 against funding the rehabilitation of the Astrodome, also mourned that day its unknown fate. Both their own nostalgia and a general sorrow over Houston’s attitude to some of its most important buildings were mixed in their mood.
Two days after the bond issue failed, I was at the Asia Society Texas Center, at 1370 Southmore Boulevard in the Museum District, for a traditional Asian night market. Outside on the street, food trucks drew long lines. Inside, there was a show of short films dedicated to the traditional weavers of the Southeast Asian archipelago and galleries hung with examples of their difficult, intricate craft. There were also Asian women actually weaving that night and stalls and tables displaying other craft work for early Christmas shopping.
The Asia Society’s building was designed by the Japanese architect Yoshiro Taniguchi, who designed the renovation and expansion of the Museum of Modern Art in New York. The Texas Center is serenely horizontal and built of visibly rich materials that make its interior a soothing series of galleries and spaces that open onto each other in unexpected ways, as though aspects of the interior were designed to be hidden from itself as it leads us on.
With a grand hall, an auditorium, an education center, galleries, and a café, it is a building open to many different uses, as the Astrodome was. Standing in it last Thursday night I tried to imagine a moment in the future when this building would outlive itself and become ready for razing. A terrible thought for a thriving and very beautiful symbol of our city’s internationality.