Now in the UH Digital Library: Burdette Keeland, Jr. was an influential Houston architect who left a legacy as a designer, an educator, and a member of the Houston Planning Commission. At the peak of his practice, from 1950 to 1980, Keeland produced some of the city’s best modernist architectural design. Yet he will also be remembered for his four decades on the faculty of the University of Houston, where he dedicated himself to mentoring the next generation of architects. This digital collection provides a sample of five of his imaginative works, including architectural drawings and renderings, photographs, clippings, and audio interviews.
A 1950 graduate of the University of Houston, Keeland quickly developed a successful architectural practice. As with many architects of the period, his work of the 1950s reflected the influence of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Philip Johnson. Keeland’s innovative design for the Fred Winchell Studio and Apartments (with Harwood Taylor, 1953) combined a professional office with rental apartments on a small city lot. Two years later he produced his best-known work, a steel-frame residence for homebuilder W. K. King, featured in the 1955 Meyerland Parade of Homes.
In the 1960s Keeland’s work expressed other trends in architectural design. He interpreted the Brutalist aesthetic in the Essex-Houck Office Building (with Herman F. Goeters, 1962), where his tight grouping of masonry towers gave this small office building a sense of the monumental. In the Williams Beach House of 1967 (with Alan Rice), his crisp, shed-roofed volumes evoked the barnlike structures of California’s iconic Sea Ranch development.
Keeland experimented with new ideas in his own house on Ferndale Street. In 1976 he transformed a modest 1930s house into an urban retreat for his family. He made further changes in the 1980s and 1990s, but the rear courtyard received the most attention. He showed his flair for artistic and whimsical details in the over-scaled metal column that supports a second floor overhang; a few feet away a vine-covered spiral staircase offered access to a roof-top office and observation deck.