Zemanek, John

John Zemanek, FAIA, was born in Guy, Texas. He attended Texas A & M University and graduated with a degree in architecture. As a member of the Corps of Cadets he enlisted in the Army Air Corps Reserves and entered active duty in January 1943. After the war, he attended the University of Texas in Austin earning a Bachelor of Architecture and Master of Architecture degrees. He then moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts, to earn a Master of City Planning degree from Harvard University Graduate School of Design, led by Walter Gropius. John returned to Houston to practice with Kenneth Franzheim and then relocated to Tokyo to work for Czech American modernist architect Antonin Raymond; there he planned 17 airbases in the Far East. He practiced also for the U. S. Department of State in Bangladesh planning village housing and institutes. Returning to Houston, he worked with many of Houston’s eminent firms, including Wilson, Morris, and Crain, where he contributed to the development of the Harris County Domed Stadium, now known as the Astrodome. Zemanek was invited to teach at the University of Houston College of Architecture first as a visitor, then full time in 1964, he earned tenure in 1969. He also maintained his solo practice. His work was published in local, national and international journals and television media, and won design awards at the local, state, and national level. In 1978 he earned the national AIA Honor Award, for his Three H Services Center, a social services complex for the Bordersville community, which had been established by former slaves. He is remembered especially for a series of three Montrose houses, each designed as his personal residence, dating from 1969, 2000 and 2011. He would later refer to these as Gaia 1, 2, and 3. Over his 48 years of teaching at the University of Houston he never failed to challenge students to think critically and to engage them in “architecture that begins with our social structure.” His final creative effort was his memoir Being Becoming published just before his death in 2016. John Zemanek was 94.