Purveyor of all things posh, Wallpaper magazine has targeted Houston as one of the world’s top cities for the design-conscious traveler. Released in conjunction with art and design publishing house Phaidon, Wallpaper City Guide: Houston places our burg as among “the world’s most intoxicating cities” and the only one in Texas.
Sorry, Dallas - boasting two W Hotel chains doesn't win over Wallpaper.
Wallpaper City Guide: Houston is pure gold for the voyaging bon vivant. What other guide lists the average local cost of a bottle of champagne alongside bicycle rental and post office details as “Essential Info”?
Besides its slick page layout, the book features side tabs for speedy access to standard guidebook fare — hotels, restaurants, etc. — and some striking not so standards, such as “24 Hours” (an itinerary for the best of the city in one day), “Architour” (a guide to the city’s iconic buildings) ,and “Escapes” (a reference for those jonesing to skip town for a day — although Prada Marfa seems a little optimistic even with your private jet on hand).
For all its intentions of offering a finger-on-the-pulse perspective, Wallpaper’s nifty little book is already slightly outdated. Two of the listings, Raindrop Chocolate and famously precious boutique Raye, have already shuttered their doors. It’s a pity they left out La Strada and Pixie & Ivy.
The guide also becomes victim of its own highly curated brevity. The editors have packed all the city’s attractions into eight hermetic ‘hoods, neglecting reemerging inner-city neighborhoods. Where is the East End with its Saturday markets, nascent café culture and art collectives like Box 13 and Aerosol Warfare? Moreover, the guide only mentions Houston’s explosive diversity in its introduction, opting to feature ephemeral Washington Corridor designer restaurants over any of the bevy of ethnic gastro gems.
Nevertheless, Wallpaper City Guide: Houston sparkles with its inclusion of a few underground haunts, such as La Carafe and the Beer Can House. It also brings the reader’s attention to architecture that is often missed while whizzing away in our automobiles, such as the Link Mansion on the University of St. Thomas campus, and the prize of the Richmond mid-century modern corridor just east of Greenway Plaza, the Jefferson Chemical Company Building.
The careful treatment of even expected listings places the guide above the rest for its smart layout and quality commentary. For instance, the two-page spread photograph of Mies van der Rohe’s Brown Pavilion at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston presents a startlingly beautiful portrait of a deserted Bissonnet Street, magically devoid of pedestrians like a post-Ike museum district reverie.
More than simple praise for Houston’s cultural offerings, the book will undoubtedly raise the international consciousness of Houston as a destination for the design-obsessed jet-setter. If you’re a local, many of the listings may appear a bit redundant, but the design perspective is refreshing, and you might find yourself taken with something new.
Otherwise, Wallpaper City Guide Houston is an essential carry-on for the expense account-equipped business traveler and makes the perfect gift for the tragically hip yuppie in your life. Not surprisingly, Wallpaper just launched an iPhone app for 10 select cities. You can get a clue on the Berlin design zeitgeist with a free copy of the German capital’s guide available at the iTunes Store but if you're staying inside the Loop, you’ll have to stick to the $9.95 avocado-green paperback Houston edition.
The Menil Collection book store sold out of Wallpaper City Guide: Houston, but it's still available at PH Design Shop and can be ordered through bookstores.