UPDATE: I emailed with the author, Claudia Feldman, of the Chronicle’s list. She informed me that she was just joking with Ken Hoffman, of who she is a big fan. I have removed my previous comments about her. I also have to say I am now a fan because I appreciate a writer who writes back!
As you may have heared in the news around 07/07/07, a non-profit organization, New 7 Wonders Foundation, set out to have the world decide a new list for the Seven Wonders of the World. It what is being hailed as the largest election of its kind, over 90 million votes were cast around the world, electing the following 7 Wonders:
The Great Wall of China
Christ the Redeemer, Brazil
Machu Picchu, Peru
Chichen Itza, Mexico
The Roman Colisseum, Italy
The Taj Mahal, India
For the purposes of this post, I would like to point out the original Seven Wonders of the World:
Pyramids of Giza (the only surviving member of this list)
Hanging Gardens of Babylon
Temple of Artemis at Ephesus
Statue of Zeus at Olympia
Mausoleum of Maussollos at Halicarnassus
Colossus of Rhodes
Lighthouse of Alexandria
With all that laid out for you, I would like to now discuss an article that appeared in the Chronicle, creating their own list of Houston’s Seven Wonders. Now, before I begin, let me say that this is a VERY subjective exercise. These are their opinions, and I will soon be weighing in with my own. Of course, I think my ideas will be better, but that is not to say I do not expect some people to feel differently. I decided to create my own list after reading a subsequent article in the Chronicle discussing the objections many readers had with this list. Consider this as both a defense and an answer to the Chronicle’s list.
The Chronicle’s Seven Wonders of Houston (and my commentary)
There is just not an argument against the locally fashioned Eighth Wonder of the World. It will head my own list as well.
Beer Can House
Hmm, it can certainly count in terms of sheer uniqueness, but I do not think awe and wonder really leap to mind when you are standing in front of this building. Sorry, while certainly one of our more endearing landmarks, it’s not what I would call one of Houston’s Wonders
Houston Ship Channel
Uh, big YES on this one. Totally in agreement here. I’ll talk more about the reasoning I have used on this list, and the Ship Channel will qualify in a couple of categories.
I-10 & Beltway 8 Interchange
This is a head scratcher. While I agree that there is consideration to be made for the freeways in town, I cannot faithfully agree with a choice that was is in the process of being completely rebuilt because of terrible, wasteful design.
The Menil Campus
The Chronicle uses the word compound which reminds me of Branch Davidian and Waco. That is not something I think about when I visit the Menil, one of the most magical places in Houston.
Saturn V Rocket
As mentioned in the previous Thoughts, this particular Chronicle Wonder was recently reopened to the public. I am torn, and will eventually decide its fate on my list as I continue writing.
Quan Am Sculpture
While I appreciate the notion, there is a much more awe-inspiring site in Houston that will replace this wonder on my list.
Now, about that reader response to the article, which ranged from off base to respectfully against.
One reader wrote, “”You seem to forget you are a NEWSPAPER (yes, in all caps), not a gossipy Hollywood magazine.” Apparently this jerk-off doesn’t understand the purpose of a newspaper’s Lifestyle section. Overall, this comment just doesn’t compute. This was a more than appropriate article for the Star section.
A transplant, as the Chronicle describes them, said the list should include potholes, traffic jams, poisoned air and flooding. Let me go on record now in saying that we should now define a transplant as bitter assholes who hate their lives that brought them to Houston so much, that they have nothing better to do than bitch about EVERYTHING. Transplant has now been added to the official glossary of the Urban Houstonian.
My Selection Process
Okay, so how did I go about choosing my seven? I developed my own guidelines based on the old and new lists of Seven Wonders of the world. Take that for what you will, but this is my list. You are welcome to disagree, and I welcome debate.
All of the Wonders are man made structures, not to mention being fairly permanent. This, for me, eliminates the Beer Can House and I-1o Interchange. That would conceivably elminate the Saturn V as well, but it’s place in Houston and American Space history would seem to trump its permanence. That, and it’s no longer really in danger of deteriorating. I also took some special consideration for the historical and cultural perspective of each of my choices. In short, what do they mean to Houston’s stature on a national and international scale? Certainly, the Pyramids at Giza are a defining element to the image of not only Cairo, but the entire country of Egypt. Most, if not all, of Houston’s Seven Wonders should figure highly on this scale.
Urban Houstonian’s Seven Wonders of Houston
I now reveal to you my list of Houston’s Seven Wonders. I have also included my own reasons for each.
Quite simply, this is the most recognized symbol of Houston’s ingenuity. The Astrodome was a clever solution to a fairly stick issue; how can you watch professional baseball in the summer in Houston? The Astrodome, in short, brought professional sports to cities that hadn’t, before its creation, been viable options for sports teams. I would reason that teams in cities across the country with domed stadiums would never gotten the chance to have teams without Houston’s solution.
The San Jacinto Monument
This is one of the wonders that figures not only in local history, but national history as well. It marks one of, if not the, greatest route in military history where the Texas Army, led by Sam Houston, routed the depleted forces of Santa Anna to win freedom for the state of Texas. In the United States, the fights for freedom against opression ring loudest in the hearts of all Americans. The shouts of “Remember the Alamo” give me chills as I type this. It is almost criminal that this did not make the Chronicle’s list.
The Water Wall
Not alot can be said for the Water Wall, unless you consider its actual purpose, as the water cool component of the Williams (read: Transco) Tower’s air conditioning system. It is, arguably, the most beautiful air conditioning water system in the world. Again, do I need to mention the ingenuity? Finally, as Houston is the AC Capital of the World, this was a natural choice.
The Houston Ship Channel
More than any other Wonder, the Houston Ship Channel reigns supreme in its importance to the city of Houston. Not only is it the most ingenious of the Wonders, it is also the very reason Houston is the fourth largest city, and top 10 among the world’s ports.
The Menil Campus
The Menil was really challenged by the Herman Park/Museum District area for this spot on my Wonder List. In the end, I feel the Menil is more magical and more u
nique. I mean, all major cities have museums, zoos and public parks, but only one has the Menil.
The BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir
This is the one Wonder that will likely garner the most debate, mainly because it resides in Stafford, and not Houston. I invite you to visit both the Quan Am sculpture and the Mandir, and let you tell me which is more likely to evoke wonder. This is also the only wonder in this list that truly embodies the spirit of the ancient wonders for its amazing attention to detail, and its almost ancient energy.
The Texas Medical Center
I struggled with this one. I thought about Houston being space city, and that Saturn V would be a viable seventh addition to this group. However, while I was at my doctor’s office this morning looking out the window at a magnificent view of the Medical Center, my choice was made. It is the entirety of the Center that brings a level of wonder to it. I mean, have you ever truly looked at the Medical Center? It’d be the central business district of its share of large cities. Factor what it means for the city of Houston in terms of jobs and industry, and it is surpassed by only the Port and Energy industry.
Sidebar, as I sit here in Inversion coffee house, I find myself surrounding by people typing away on Apple iBooks; I am here with my modest little Dell laptop. It’s kind of bizarre. I feel like the outsider, and that these people are going to slip something into my drink, and I’ll wake up with a tingly sensation in my rear, and be gazing into Apple OS X. End of sidebar.
Okay, so that is my list of the Seven Wonders of Houston. Personally, I think it stands up to inspection quite well. I’m sure there are one or two changes some can make, but I’m fairly confident that at least four of my choices, The Astrodome, San Jacinto Monument, Houston Ship Channel and Water Wall are undeniable choices. I’ll leave it to you to decide the fate of the other three, but I think they are pretty damn good as well!
Another girl just sat down, ANOTHER APPLE LAPTOP!! It is a conspiracy!!