MID-CENTURY MODERN ARCHITECTURE
by F. Carrington Weem II Fall 2008
In 1949, I attended the Rice Institute Department of Architecture as a sophomore on the advice of its Chairman, William Ward Watkin. I had completed a year of Science / Engineering in 1947 / 1948 at RiceUniversity, and we both thought I could skip freshman year in Architecture. This proved to be somewhat difficult. Later, I went on to Colorado University and finished there with a B.S. Degree in Mechanical Engineering in August of 1952. I came back to Houston and attended senior year classes in architecture at The University of Houston, still with an intense interest in Architecture. I spent two and a half years as an engineer in project and product engineering, with Lockwood, Andrews and Newnan, and Oil Center Tool Company, respectively, both of Houston.
In 1954, I became the designer, builder and developer of “Baywood” on the shores of GalvestonBay in Seabrook, Texas. My company was “Bayshore Development Company.” We introduced to the Bay Area, year around living in modern architecture. We had 40, 1/3 acre lots, some with views of the water, all with 20’ x 20’ boat slips on our private boat basin. I had designed and built my very modern studio (see photos) as an extension to my Cape Cod Colonial house on the bay, and was now ready to design and build some of the houses in Baywood.
“The Floating House” was my first and was indeed a creation of which I was most proud. Everybody loved it, but nobody would buy it. It finally sold at a very slight margin above cost but the designer, me, didn’t make any money on my hard work effort to build a house whose excessive amount of cantilever would make it seem to “float.” A couple of jet flyers from Ellington Field came by my office in downtown Houston one day and said they had fallen in love with “FH,” flying over it at night in the moonlight. They had named it “Moonwatch” and wanted to buy it when they got out of the Airforce. I told them I probably couldn’t wait that long, but thanked them for their admiration. Some prospects for the house were amazed by the design lines. Some, I think, were shocked by its modernism.
I was also the weekend Sales Manager along with James Gilligan Kelly, my assistant. I was also the water company (Weems Water Works). We supplied the water to Baywood’s homes and I personally read the water meters and sent out the water bills. It was seven days a week for two years and I was twenty-eight years old when I started the project.
Of course, my heroes were Frank Lloyd Wright, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, and Phillip Johnson. My “studio” was influenced by my having visited Philip Johnson’s all glass house in New Cannan, Connecticut. “Floating House” in Baywood was inspired by seeing pictures of the The Wright House, “Falling Water” in Pennsylvania. And, our home in River Oaks, Houston, Texas, was more of a classic modern architecture entry influenced by Mies van der Rohe.
I think the modern designer/architect is always striving for uniqueness and simplicity, clean design lines, pleasing contrasts of material textures and colors, and finally the interplay or intersection of geometric shapes (planes and boxes); thus, if he is successful, he will produce a very large sculpture, or space sculpture, pleasing and stimulating to the eye of the beholder. I would like to think that I had done that at least once in my short, intense involvement with design in the 50’s and early 60’s.
The following projects were designed and developed by F. Carrington Weems II:
RESIDENTIAL REAL ESTATE PROJECTS
Glass Studio House, 1955
Baywood Subdivision, 1956
“Floating House” of Baywood, 1956
Joseph Camp House, 1957
The R. F. Wahl House, 1957
Dr. Jane Telford Home, Baywood, 1958
Two Speculative Homes, Baywood, 1957-1958
Proposed Additional Homes, Baywood, 1957-1958
Bay Forest Green, LaPorte, Texas 1959
Other Proposed Projects, 50’s and 60’s
Oyster Bay, 1961
River Oaks Home, 1962
COMMERCIAL REAL ESTATE PROJECTS
Le Ville Fontaine, Apartment Building, 1962
Lamar Hotel, Block 139, 1975
I dedicate this presentation to Mary Ann Weems, my wonderful wife, best friend and partner for more than 55 years. She is a 50’s graduate of the famous and prestigious New York School of Interior Design. She is a fine artist and a talented designer. Her expert “touch” is everywhere visible in the preceding pages.
—F. Carrington Weems II, December 2008