Rice Architecture
Feb 08, 2023

One of Houston’s foremost residential architects of the first half of the twentieth century, Birdsall P. Briscoe practiced architecture from 1912 to 1956, parallel to Houston’s transformation from an ambitious town on Buffalo Bayou into an international city, economically powered by cotton, trade, and oil. In The Architecture of Birdsall P. Briscoe, by Architectural Historian and Rice Architecture Lecturer Stephen Fox examines the suburban country houses designed by Briscoe, offering a glimpse into the methods and analysis of how Briscoe constructed a “social architecture” to frame his clientele during periods of economic expansion and contraction. 

Designed for three generations of affluent clients, Briscoe’s country houses are sited along a spectrum of Houston neighborhoods, including Courtlandt Place, Shadyside, Broadacres, and River Oaks. The designs display his exceptional skill in formulating stylistic and social identities for his clients and their families. In his book, Fox demonstrates how Briscoe cultivated and managed elements of taste, style, and fashion to embody assertions of class identity and solidarity in the context of Houston’s capitalist economy. 

Published by Texas A&M University Press, the book is illustrated throughout with masterful color photography by Paul Hester (Hester + Hardaway). It reveals insight into a crucial period of Houston’s social history and the architect who helped shape it.


A lecture and book signing for The Architecture of Birdsall P. Briscoe will be presented by AIA Houston Historic Resources Committee and the Heritage Society on Tuesday, February 21, at the Heritage Society’s Albert & Ethel Herzstein Museum Gallery. Fox will provide an overview of Briscoe’s career, emphasizing his association with the American Institute of Architects and historic preservation in Houston and Texas.

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