Improbable Metropolis Houston's Architectural and Urban History, 2020

Improbable Metropolis

Houston's Architectural and Urban History

by Barrie Scardino Bradley


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.

Beautifully illustrated, Improbable Metropolis is one of the few books to use architecture and urban planning to explain the growth of a major world city, and the only one of its kind on Houston or any other city in Texas.


2021 Good Brick Award Winner from Preservation Houston
2020 Ron Tyler Award for Best Illustrated Book on Texas History and Culture from Texas State Historical Association
2021 Summerlee Book Prize (Nonfiction), Center for History and Culture of Southeast Texas and the Upper Gulf Coast at Lamar University
2022 San Antonio Conservation Society Publication Award, San Antonio Conservation Society (SACS)
2022 Julia Ideson Award, Friends of the Texas Room, associated with the Houston Public Library


About the Author

Barrie Scardino Bradley has been writing and lecturing about Houston history and Texas architecture for more than thirty-five years.


ISBN 9781477320198 : June 2020

412 pages 

8.50 x 11.00 x 1.60 in 

189 color photos, 120 b&w photos 

11 color and 20 b&w illus. 

5 color and 6 b&w maps








More by this artist




Full Name *

Email Address *

Copyright © 2024, Art Gallery Websites by ArtCloudCopyright © 2024, Art Gallery Websites by ArtCloud