In the spring of 2005 the Houston Heights Association took the initiative to engage the community in a public art program. The community responded and became enthusiastically involved . One particular element of interest was the development of bus shelters reflect ing the character of the Houston Heights. A local resident and UH design professor , Cheryl Beckett engaged her U of H graphic communications class to design bus shelters to represent the special qualities found in the Heights community. The outcome was incredible. Cheryl's students consulted with historian Dean Swanson as the first step in developing the bus shelter concepts. METRO’ s staff was gracious in providing their feedback to the students concerning necessary elements of public bus shelter design . The ultimate goal was to see these student-designed shelters installed in the community.

Cheryl's class presented six very unique design concepts for bus shelters . Each celebrate s a characteristic of the Houston Heights and its history. The Houston Heights Association then requested that the community select its preferred designs with the objective of work ing with METRO to produce and install these shelters along METRO bus routes in the Heights area. Nearly 400 community members voted for their favorite bus shelter design. Below are pictures of the student’s design s , brief descriptions and the number of votes received from the Heights community for each concept.

Currently Gus Kopriva, ex member of the Houston Heights Association, with the backing of the Association is taking the lead in working with METRO in finding ways to implement these unique bus shelters. (If interested in contacting Gus or getting involved with this program you may send an email to HistoricHeights.com)

Victorian Porches - One of the unique elements of the historic Heights is its Victorian homes with ample porches where families, friends and neighbors gather. In preserving this historic element of the Heights the students developed a unique bus shelter that resembles the Height's Victorian porches where swinging benches offer a moment of rest and conversation.

"When the homebuilders of today eliminated the large covered front porch, they did more than save money; they destroyed a sacred tradition that has always been a part of Americana." Quote from the students' presentation brochure on the bus shelter.

A Common Rail - As the Heights was being developed it was necessary to provide its residents appropriate transportation to and from Houston. With the advent of electrification the horses gave way to electric trolleys. The students based their design concept on the historic trolleys that linked Houston to the Heights "to preserve and honor the past, while taking advantage of the new."

As identified by the students "Today the people of the Heights use buses and cars to carry them into Houston and back into their quaint bungalow-styled homes." Like in its early beginnings these bus shelters are to enhance the character of our residents that commute to and from Houston via METRO.

The Bungalow Revisited - As many of the bungalows in the Heights are being demolished, this bus shelter design reminds us about the founder's dream "to build a new type of town or planned community where successful entrepreneurs and working people could live and work together as neighbors." The bungalows offered the opportunity for many working families to be part of our historically mixed community.

The students' representation of the bungalow bus shelter borrows the architectural elements of he historic bungalows "in reference to the Arts and Crafts movement."

Trees of the Heights - The Houston Heights is celebrated for its boulevard covered by a canopy of trees. The Heights Blvd. with its wide esplanade and vegetation, along with our local parks, is an attraction to our residents and visitors.

It is the interest of our residents in preserving trees and the various types of trees in the area that got the attention of the student. They also discovered a tree registry that lists a list of large trees native to Harris County and where these are located - 25 of them are located in the Heights.

This particular bus shelter was inspired by the trees of the Heights.

Sidewalk Art - The eclectic aspect of the Houston Heights offers a community with a very active appreciation for art and commercial activity. In the words of the students"The Houston Heights is renowned for its artist community ...a meeting ground where artists can live and work surrounded by nostalgic landmarks of Houston's past along with a mix of arts and crafts displaying eclectic and modernist expressions."

This Sidewalk Art bus shelter was envision to be located along North Main Street where commercial activity is married to the Heights art community. It is designed as a venue to display the work of local artists.

Heights (an elevated) Foundation - Not known to many people is that the Heights was name because its topography makes the Heights the most elevated area in Houston. As the Heights was being planned in the late 1800s "The elevation was an attractive aspect for this planned community. Not only did it offer higher ground away from the city and safety from flood prone areas, it was a place for inhabitants to kick back, drink tea on their porch, and catch cool breeze during Houston's hot and humid summer days."

The Foundation bus shelter represents the topographic characteristics of the area and it is design to invite visitors to learn about the uniqueness of the Heights topography.

Following are the number of votes the community gave to each bus shelter design concept.
130 104 35 32 23 6
Martin Hajovsky from the Houston Chronicle wrote a nice article about the bus shelter project in his weekly column Home in The Heights. This article can be found at the following LINK.
Copyright © Gonzalo E. Camacho