This is primarily a picture book. Its being was provoked in large part by the pre-existence of a cohesive body of photographs by Richard Payne illustrating a sensibly selected sampling of Texas’ best architecture. Those photographs were the product of an extensive effort on the part of Texas Society of Architects in 1983 to heighten public awareness of Texas’ architectural heritage. That effort included the production of a traveling exhibit titled “Creating Tomorrow’s Heritage” and the production of a short catalog for the exhibit which appeared in the December 1983 issue of Texas Architect.

Much of the credit for that effort by TSA must go to Larry Paul Fuller, who helped conceive the whole notion, organized and directed the process of building selection, and commissioned both the photography and the original catalog text. Additional credit is due Jerry L. Clement, then president of TSA, and Larry Good, chairman of the task force charged with overseeing the effort, as well as to Ray Bailey, Reagan George, Stan Haas, Tom McKittrick, Patsy Swank, Des Taylor, and Jack Tisdale, who were members of the task force.

Any selection process to determine twenty outstanding examples of architecture anywhere is bound to be fraught with controversy. Although advice for the selection was sought in a polling of practicing architects across Texas, the final determination in this instance was sensibly made by a panel of both academics and practitioners well versed in the subject matter. The selection jury was chaired by architect Ray Bailey of Houston and included architectural historian Blake Alexander of the University of Texas at Austin, William T. Cannady of Rice University, Larry Paul Fuller, then editor of Texas Architect, and architects Frank Welch of Midland and James Wiley of Dallas.

The committee’s intention was to produce a list of buildings, well balanced in both time and geography, to represent the best of the state’s building history. Most major periods of Texas’ architectural development are represented – from Spanish Colonial to Greek Revival, to Victorian, to Modern. As political expediency might suggest, four of the selections are from Houston, four from Dallas, four from San Antonio, three from Austin, two from Galveston, one from Fort Worth, and two from smaller towns.

Contemporary buildings (i.e., buildings built since 1945) receive a lion’s share of the list temporally. Although this period represents less than one-sixth of the total time period covered, more than one-third of the buildings included are post – World War II. The great boom of building in Texas during the last forty years probably justifies such a skewing by quantity of buildings represented, if not necessarily by quality.

It is interesting that the list, without particular intention, contains an even balance between buildings designed by in-state architects and out-of-state architects. Neglecting the missions (which could not really be called architect-designed), nine of the projects included were designed by out-of-state architects while eight were designed by resident architects. The design for the other two must be considered joint design efforts by in-state- and out-of-state collaborators.

The list is impressive, as well, for its balance and range of building types. Although there might be a temptation in such a selection to emphasize more “flashy” and visible building types, such as skyscrapers and public monuments, the list admirably contains not only these but also university buildings, recreational buildings, shopping centers, urban open spaces, and even single-family homes and industrial uses.

The selection jury itself represented a broad ideological background and the list reflects that breadth. There is no singular “direction” for Texas architecture established by the list. It is, like the body of work it represents, diverse and eclectic. Although I, as author, had nothing to do with selecting the buildings and would certainly have made some different choices myself, I have become more and more impressed by the selection jury’s wisdom and even-handedness as I have worked with the list. It is a good set of choices.

The modest text of the book is not intended to be definitive in any sense. It is directed primarily to non-professional architecture aficionados, although the “design community” may find it enlightening as well. The commentary is divided into fairly independent “bite-sized chunks” which should make the book easy to dip into and dip out of. I hope it will yield easy reading for those interested simply in finding out more about the environment around them.

Although the text is short, it still required many hands and minds to produce. I am indebted to James Poteet and Jamie Lofgren for their help with research, to Patricia Henderson, Ann Loberg, and Mack White for their help with typing and editing, and especially to Susan Hoover, who researched, advised, edited, and organized for me on this project as she has on so many others. I am also thankful to Graham Luhn for coordinating work with Richard Payne and to Richard Payne himself for being so fast and cooperative.