The Story of Houston's Beer Can House

Well-Designed Travel

I spent this past weekend in Houston, reveling in some of the city's more artistic sites. I meandered around The Menil Collection and its surrounding campus, taking in its fantastic contemporary art collection and enjoying the beautiful grounds. I took a restful stroll through the beautifully manicured Bayou Bend, reveling in the lushness and serenity there. But if I had to pick one place in Houston that was my favorite, it would certainly be The Beer Can House.
The artist and homeowner, John Milkovisch, began work on the grounds in 1968, but it became his full-time work in 1976 when he retired from his career as an upholsterer at the Southern Pacific Railroad. He began by slowly paving and tiling the front and back yards of the house (he hated mowing the grass), incorporating his massive glass marble collection as a decorative element.

But marbles weren't the only item John stashed away. He despised waste, and had been saving empty beer cans for about 17 years. Not knowing just quite what he would do with them, he slowly figured it out, one step at a time. He began deconstructing the cans, experimenting with tiling patterns and stringing together the caps and bottoms to make a decorative garland.

Not only did John, his wife Mary and their children have the most unique house on the block, this new aluminum siding and beer can garland seriously cut back on the energy consumption of the home. The garland not only provides window shade from the Texas heat, but it sings a beautiful and unexpected song as the breeze blows past. Though John and Mary are no longer with us, I could almost hear their laughter and warmth asking me to have a seat, stay a while and have another beer.

More Info: The Beer Can House

(Images: Smith Schwartz)

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