Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Objects and Memory

This home in the Montrose neighborhood of Houston illustrates that an architectural antique need not be a building material or element originally. The antique can be a tool, a machine, or even a piece of a tool or machine. These objects can be randomly found or part of a family estate. Regardless of the source, the object has some memory attached to it and it is this story that instills value.

Inward looking, the home reveals little from the street. With circular openings placed at the front and side, the curious pedestrian may catch a glimpse of life inside. The owner and architect, John Zemanek, built the house from sketches in his mind that he had collected since childhood while growing up on the family farm in Fort Bend County.

The form, space, and order of the design falls somewhere between a Texas farm house and Japanese Tea House. However, the landscape, structure and furniture are accented with mysterious objects. Some are recognizable and easily comprehended, but most are not -- engaging the viewer to imagine the story behind the piece.

Walking through the front gate, visitors enter into a shaded courtyard and are greeted by the first objects...

These cylinders were part of a larger farming apparatus from the Zemanek Family farm, but now rest in peace within the home's courtyard.

At the front door, while waiting for John to answer, the visitor can ponder the other objects around.

Standing guard by the door is a piece of the engine from the family's 1923 Buick. Through the window, a mounted tracker seat also found at the farm.

On a pedestal, the family typewriter sits frozen in time.

The entry way gives view to the main axis of the house and several types of wood.

Pine floor joists were salvaged from the original home on the property and reused for flooring, cabinets, and furniture.

The side table is made of old floor joists, but the eye goes to what is sitting on the table.

Another piece from a farming apparatus is beautifully displayed as abstract art.

A walnut table, pine column, sliding cedar panels and shoji screens made by former students.

A cast iron vice attached to an exterior column with wood pegs -- a great center piece for an outdoor workshop!

A bucket of carpentry tools sits just outside the office.

Architecturally, these ordinary objects are defining a space. The pieces are communicating a story from the past and it is this dialogue that gives life to a place. Without the stories, the significance of the antiques are lost forever.


  1. Just found your blog. I'm looking forward to following. Great start.

  2. We all have things in our homes and museums whose value lies in the memories they evoke. Indeed these irreplaceable symbols of who we are, what we want to remember, and what we seek to pass on can be our most important possessions. Few of us highlight these objects as effectively as Mr. Zemanek. For more about this universal human impulse take a look at the documentary film "Objects and Memory". (www.objectsandmemory.org)


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