r e m o t e   c o n t r o l


This project has had two lives, though I suspect in time it may grow a few more.

Houston Wet began as my graduate thesis in architecture at Rice University, which I presented in January 1997. Before graduating with a master's degree that spring, I produced a required written version of the project, adding a few chapters of explanatory material. Through the middle of 2000, the website remained online -- and unaltered. I received some nice comments from visitors who happened upon it, but the site lacked much explanation and may not have been completely understandable to those who had not seen me present it.

In the summer of 2000, with the encouragement of two former professors, Albert Pope and Sanford Kwinter, I returned to the project, first to create a video version to be included in the exhibition they were preparing on American urbanism this fall in Bordeaux, France, and second to refine and expand the website -- both for the exhibition and, well, for you.

Houston Wet was heavily influenced by ideas in the (conditioned) air at the Rice University School of Architecture in the mid-90s. Though I learned much from all of my courses and many of my classmates there, this project shows most obviously the influence of my experiences in studio courses taught by Albert Pope, Robert Mangurian and Mary-Ann Ray, and Lindy Roy, as well as the work of dean Lars Lerup.

I am grateful to the Houston office of Gensler for allowing me a leave of absence from my job in order to work on this project.

This project also owes considerable debt to the research of Anne M. Platoff, which I describe below.

I owe thanks to Kathy Strawn, Mike Gentry, and Mary Wilkerson at the Johnson Space Center Media Resource Center for allowing me access to their film and print archives. Dennis Preisler and Steve Hausfeld of The History Company, Toni Cooper of the ExxonMobil Baytown refinery, Wanda Mitchell and Lila Friederich at the Baytown Historical Museum, Perry Cartwright at the University of Chicago Press, and Rebecca Iappini at KTRK-TV all helped me find and get permissions for images. Carrie Pryor and Wanda Cash were kind enough to let me scrounge through the photo collection of the Baytown Sun. Bob Gabrysch, Ronald Neighbors, and several other staff members at the Harris-Galveston Coastal Subsidence District helped me pick through their photo archives and answer questions. Phyllis Bledsoe, Marilyn Uhrich, and Clark Bartee of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Galveston District helped me with their photo and document archives. And Suzanne Brown has patiently kept pace with my onslaughts of emailed questions and photo-identification requests.

I am also including, below, my original acknowledgments from the written version. Because it's all still true.

Larry Albert
December 20, 2000


This project would not have been possible without the kindness, patience, and assistance of many people.

Lois Morris, Steve Johns, Joan Ferry, and Nancy Boothe of the Woodson Research Center and Johnson Space Center Archives helped me greatly with information and photographs related to the space program and President Kennedy's visit to Rice.

I owe thanks to everyone I interviewed in the course of my research, but especially to Jack Kinzler, who set up his flag on his front lawn to show me how it worked, and to Suzanne Brown, who was generous enough to let me spend two days in her living room scanning family photographs.

Denise Fisher and Betsy Anderson of the Sterling Municipal Library in Baytown allowed me access to their collection on the history of Baytown and Brownwood. Captions to their photos, many by historian I.M. "Deacon" Jones, helped to fill many gaps in my understanding of the story.

"Off to the Moon" is based heavily on research by Anne M. Platoff. Her paper, written for NASA, is entitled "Where No Flag Has Gone Before: Political and Technical Aspects of Placing a Flag on the Moon."

I would like to thank Wanda Mitchell and Hallie Martin of the Baytown Historical Museum, David Ondrias of the Baytown Parks and Recreation Department, Mike Gentry and Amy Kennedy-Reynolds at NASA, the staff at the Texas Room of the Houston Public Library, Steve Wasserman and Patsy Harris at KPRC-TV, Robin Dunbar of the Rice University geology department, and Jack McCaine for their assistance.

Aubrey Calvin, Jack Terence, Kim Shoemake, and Eric Shamp were kind enough to allow me use of their personal photographs in this project. Eric's haunting scenes of Brownwood and his paper on the subdivision's fate first attracted me to the story.

Support and ideas from many class- and studio-mates were invaluable; I will mention only a few here. Angelo Directo gave me some quick but important tips on website design. David Cunningham's assistance with coding in the final days of the project was critical. Ann Doyle would make a superb photo editor, should she ever decide to leave architecture; I relied heavily on her eye -- and patience through my constant interruptions -- for many decisions concerning the use of photographs. Branden Hookway, James Horn, and George Soo gave me a few hours of their time in the final days before deadline.

This project also benefitted from the comments of School of Architecture faculty members at interim reviews. I am indebted to my faculty advisors -- Albert Pope, Stephen Fox, and Richard Ingersoll -- for their helpful criticisms, but especially for their support and encouragement.


Larry Albert
May 7, 1997


Photos above, left to right: Flag at Rice Stadium, 1962. Courtesy Aubrey Calvin. Brownwood subdivision, 1994. Photo by Eric R. Shamp. Used with permission.


r e m o t e   c o n t r o l