Inversion Coffee House draws its name from the now infamous Inversion house that once stood in the location of the original Art League of Houston building.
In the spring of 2005, Art League of Houston was preparing to begin construction of a new facility to house its art classes and the new coffee house. But first, two 1930’s bungalows that stood on the site needed to be demolished and cleared.
Debbie McNulty, the director of Art League, decided it might be interesting to utilize the abandoned spaces for a temporary art project.
She contacted artists Dan Havel and Dean Ruck, a collaborative team that had created installations using condemned buildings in the past, and commissioned them to come up with a proposal.
The idea began with a question posed by the artists. What if a large drain were placed at the end of the long hallway that connected the two buildings and, with extraordinary force, would suck the exterior skin of the building inwards?
With this simple premise, “Inversion” was born.
Lacking any budget, Havel and Ruck erected the work with the materials at hand, an exercise in architectonic excavation. After about 400 hours of work over a month of nights and weekends, Havel and Ruck opened the piece ( literally ) to the public in mid April 2005 by cutting a 30 ft. opening in the west facade facing Montrose Boulevard, exposing what appeared to be a vertical tornado of whitewashed wooden siding. The funnel bore through the two houses, dropping back 80 ft. and shrinking in size until it reached a 4 ft. opening onto the east sculpture garden.
From the start, Havel and Ruck knew that their primary audience would be driving by on Montrose Boulevard at 30+ miles per hour and hoped to attract their attention. Instantly, brakes began to squeal and traffic began to clog as drivers stopped to take in this extraordinary vision that seemed to have appeared overnight.
For the next six months, crowds continued to flock to the site, many returning several times to crawl through the funnel, take pictures and share the experience with family and friends. Unprecedented media coverage spread the image to world-wide audiences through local, regional and international publications, television news coverage, and images posted on several blog sites.
In October 2005, “Inversion” was demolished so the new construction could proceed. The public met the news of its removal with sadness and even anger.
However, Havel and Ruck saw the ephemeral quality of the work as one of its most important qualities. Because of its imminent disappearance the viewer was forced to relegate “Inversion” to memory, where these two discarded, broken down bungalows would never be forgotten.