Arts / Galleries

AIA Houston Artisan of the Year Patrick Renner Debuts His Newest Installation at ArCH

"Once & Future Architecture" Is the Sculptor's Tribute to His Hometown's Community and Nature

BY // 07.23.23
photography Emily Peacock

Discarded building materials, an old TV, and collected wasp nests all get a new life at the Architecture Center Houston’s (ArCH) newest installation by Houston artist Patrick Renner, who is being honored as AIA Houston Artisan of the Year. 

The exhibition, entitled “Once & Future Architecture,” is Renner’s tribute to both the beauty of the Houston community and the boundless inspiration of nature.

One insect, in particular, inspired his work: the mud dauber. The wasps build nests from mud and dirt, and when the eggs hatch, the emerging insects leave behind patterns of holes in the dried-out nests. 

A giant recreation of such a nest surfaced with cardboard, protrudes from one wall of the installation. On the opposite side of the wall sits Renner’s personal collection of real nests that he accumulated over the years, each one unique in size and shape (and perhaps a bit unsettling for those afflicted with trypophobia). Linda Renner, Patrick’s mother, surfaced the nest.

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Giant mud dauber nest at Patrick Renner’s “Once & Future Architecture” Exhibition at the Architecture Center Houston

 “I was already thinking of those nests as a kind of architecture, like an animal’s architecture. But then I became additionally amused, realizing they’re like abandoned buildings, in a sense, for the wasps,” Renner tells PaperCity. “And all the materials that I’m using are kind of in that same vein of the abandoned building. It’s architectural refuse, stuff that people are taking off of their houses when they’re renovating.” 

The entire exhibition is enjoyably interactive in its design. Visitors can walk all the way around the installation to reach the inner alcove, where they’re enveloped by a colorful variety of found wood beams and hidden mementos. A series of large circular cut-outs continues the theme of the holes from the nests. It is easy to be impressed by both the scale and complexity of the build.

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The vibrancy and variety of the colors are one of the most noticeable features. Each board holds the unique stories of the homes and individuals it came from through the marks of natural weathering, contact residue, or paint strokes —or even pieces of work by Daniel Anguilu, whose distinct murals are easily recognizable all over the city. Renner does not alter the color and essence of the boards, collaging them together to create the distinctly organic, rustic feel of his work.

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Patrick Renner’s “Once & Future Architecture” Exhibition at the Architecture Center Houston

“That’s, for me, a beautiful metaphor for Houston. We have such a cool community of lots of different types of people and cultures…everybody’s bringing something different to the table,” he says. “It’s a record of time in some way.” 

Also reflected in the work is Houston’s resiliency in the face of the numerous challenges of the last few years. Renner’s work was originally slated for 2016 when he was first awarded by ArCH and the Houston chapter of the Architecture Institute of America (AIA), which collaborates with the Architecture Center Houston Foundation to make ArCH possible. Between Hurricane Harvey, which caused catastrophic flooding of the old ArCH space, and the COVID-19 pandemic, the project was delayed until 2023. However, thanks to the delay, the ideas for the installation evolved and manifested into the current exhibition, which is housed in ArCH’s new, flood-proof space. It is a sentimental representation of the city’s rebuilding, as well as the vibrant artistic spirit that has blossomed here.

 

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Patrick Renner’s “Once & Future Architecture” Exhibition at the Architecture Center Houston

The “Once & Future Architecture” exhibition was made possible in large part by the efforts of Peewee Ruiz, who served as Renner’s right-hand man on the project, as well as creative collaborators Jaykub Rodriguez, Jonathan Rico, and artist Mike Kirby.

The exhibition is free to view at the Architecture Center through August 18 from 9 am to 5 pm Monday through Thursday, as well as 9 am to 3 pm on Fridays. For more information, visit aiahouston.org

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