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May 6, 2009

Texas is known for propagating a "bigger is better" attitude. But even in Houston—the state’s oil and energy epicenter— residents are starting to understand the environmental predicament we’ve created for ourselves and the need to change our actions in order have a livable future.

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Architect Brett Zamore in his office in Houston, Texas
Architect Brett Zamore in his office in Houston, Texas
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A view of the Houston skyline, with the Wortham Theater Center and the George Bush Monument in the forefront. Image courtesy of the Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau.
A view of the Houston skyline, with the Wortham Theater Center and the George Bush Monument in the forefront. Image courtesy of the Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau.
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Courtesy of the Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau
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Houstonians enjoy the Blue Bayou Festival along the banks of the Buffalo Bayou. The city's annual calendar also includes the Bullunar hot-air balloon festival, the Bayou City Arts Festival, the Art Car Parade, the Livestock Show and Rodeo, the Internation
Houstonians enjoy the Blue Bayou Festival along the banks of the Buffalo Bayou. The city's annual calendar also includes the Bullunar hot-air balloon festival, the Bayou City Arts Festival, the Art Car Parade, the Livestock Show and Rodeo, the International Festival, and more. Image courtesy of the Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau.
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Houston's Discovery Green park has brought bustling activity—including free yoga and Pilates classes—to the once-deserted downtown area. Visit Discovery Green online at <a href="http://www.discoverygreen.com">discoverygreen.com</a>. Image courtesy of the
Houston's Discovery Green park has brought bustling activity—including free yoga and Pilates classes—to the once-deserted downtown area. Visit Discovery Green online at discoverygreen.com. Image courtesy of the Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau.
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Discovery Green, a 12-acre park located in downtown Houston, opened on April 13, 2008, giving Houstonians a reason to head downtown and promoting urban development and living. Visit Discovery Green online at <a href="http://www.discoverygreen.com">discove
Discovery Green, a 12-acre park located in downtown Houston, opened on April 13, 2008, giving Houstonians a reason to head downtown and promoting urban development and living. Visit Discovery Green online at discoverygreen.com. Image courtesy of the Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau.
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In addition to walking paths, Houston's downtown park Discovery Green offers an array of activities, from free yoga and Pilates classes to concerts and performances to a playground for kids and a man-made pond for steering electric boats. Visit Discovery
In addition to walking paths, Houston's downtown park Discovery Green offers an array of activities, from free yoga and Pilates classes to concerts and performances to a playground for kids and a man-made pond for steering electric boats. Visit Discovery Green online at discoverygreen.com. Image courtesy of the Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau.
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Houston often appears to be a ghost town, in part due to its nearly complete lack (until recently) of downtown draws but also because its hot and humid weather (which locals oft refer to as "super-summer"). Below the city streets is an underground city of
Houston often appears to be a ghost town, in part due to its nearly complete lack (until recently) of downtown draws but also because its hot and humid weather (which locals oft refer to as "super-summer"). Below the city streets is an underground city of restaurants, businesses, and shops along a 6.3-mile pedestrian tunnel system that connects more than 80 downtown buildings. Image courtesy of the Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau.
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The streets of Houston's downtown historic district are lined with examples of 19th-Century architecture. Image courtesy of the Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau.
The streets of Houston's downtown historic district are lined with examples of 19th-Century architecture. Image courtesy of the Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau.
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Courtesy of the Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau
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The recently completed METRO light rail connects downtown Houston to Rice University to the Reliant Astrodome and has increased access to Houston's urban core. Image courtesy of the Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau.
The recently completed METRO light rail connects downtown Houston to Rice University to the Reliant Astrodome and has increased access to Houston's urban core. Image courtesy of the Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau.
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Courtesy of the Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau
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"Houston’s one of those undiscovered cities when it comes to food," says local architect Brett Zamore, who moved to Houston from New Haven, Connecticut, in 1995. The local barbecue, served up in places like Goode Co. Bar-B-Q (pictured), borrows flavors fr
"Houston’s one of those undiscovered cities when it comes to food," says local architect Brett Zamore, who moved to Houston from New Haven, Connecticut, in 1995. The local barbecue, served up in places like Goode Co. Bar-B-Q (pictured), borrows flavors from not only other areas of Texas but Louisiana and the Gulf Coast, as well. Image courtesy of the Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau.
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Courtesy of the Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau
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Founded in 1900, the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston is the largest art museum in the Southwest, comprising 51,000 works from antiquity to the present. Visit the MFA online at <a href="http://www.mfah.org">mfah.org</a>. Image courtesy of the Greater Housto
Founded in 1900, the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston is the largest art museum in the Southwest, comprising 51,000 works from antiquity to the present. Visit the MFA online at mfah.org. Image courtesy of the Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Courtesy of 
Courtesy of the Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau
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Architect Brett Zamore describes the MFA as " one of the most beautiful art galleries in the United States." Opened in 1900, the museum hired Ludwig Mies van der Rohe to design an addition in the 1950s. Visit the MFA online at <a href="http://www.mfah.org
Architect Brett Zamore describes the MFA as " one of the most beautiful art galleries in the United States." Opened in 1900, the museum hired Ludwig Mies van der Rohe to design an addition in the 1950s. Visit the MFA online at mfah.org. Image courtesy of the Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Courtesy of 
Courtesy of the Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau
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The Holocaust Museum Houston remembers the six million Jews and other victims of the Holocaust and honors the legacy of its survivors. Visit the museum online at <a href="http://www.hmh.org">hmh.org</a>. Image courtesy of the Greater Houston Convention an
The Holocaust Museum Houston remembers the six million Jews and other victims of the Holocaust and honors the legacy of its survivors. Visit the museum online at hmh.org. Image courtesy of the Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Courtesy of 
Courtesy of the Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau
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The Menil Collection building by acclaimed architect Renzo Piano. Visit the Menil Collection online at <a href="http://www.menil.org">menil.org</a>. Image courtesy of the Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau.
The Menil Collection building by acclaimed architect Renzo Piano. Visit the Menil Collection online at menil.org. Image courtesy of the Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau.
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Courtesy of the Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau
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The Menil Collection, located in Houston's Montrose-area museum district, houses the collection of John and Dominique de Menil. The landmark building was designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Renzo Piano. Image courtesy of the Greater Houston Conve
The Menil Collection, located in Houston's Montrose-area museum district, houses the collection of John and Dominique de Menil. The landmark building was designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Renzo Piano. Image courtesy of the Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Courtesy of 
Courtesy of the Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau
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The Children's Museum of Houston is one of the city's many attractions and was designed by acclaimed American architect Robert Venturi. Visit the museum online at <a href="htpp://www.cmhouston.org">cmhouston.org</a>. Image courtesy of the Greater Houston
The Children's Museum of Houston is one of the city's many attractions and was designed by acclaimed American architect Robert Venturi. Visit the museum online at cmhouston.org. Image courtesy of the Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau.
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Fireworks over Houston. Image courtesy of the Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Fireworks over Houston. Image courtesy of the Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau.
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Courtesy of the Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau
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Architect Brett Zamore in his office in Houston, Texas
Architect Brett Zamore in his office in Houston, Texas

Houston is a diverse city that attracts intellectuals from around the world to industries such as energy and aerospace (NASA’s Johnson Space Center is located 25 miles southeast of downtown Houston). It’s an international metropolis that retains its sense of Southern hospitality and offers a surprisingly large number of modern and International Style architecture gems.

Brett Zamore is one of Houston’s leading modern architects. He moved to Texas from New Haven, Connecticut, in 1995 to attend graduate school at Rice University, then opened his own firm, Brett Zamore Design, in 2006. I spoke with Zamore on a recent trip down to Houston about the city’s constant state of change and renewal, its lack of zoning laws, the drive to bring more people downtown, and the reason why Houston is the country’s fattest city.

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