In the early 1990s, Topchy noticed rows of shipping containers stacked ten high in the Houston Ship Channel. Struck by their resemblance to interlocking Lego blocks, he imagined the containers as the building blocks of a utilitarian structure that could serve a community’s needs in a beautiful way.
In 2004, as part of the Project Row House Festival (with the support of its then Interim Director Michael Peranteau and in collaboration with architect Cameron Armstrong and artist Jack Massing), Topchy installed a single donated container simply known as Seed. Within Seed Topchy constructed mock-ups of shipping containers converted to habitable boxes re-purposed as a school, hospital, jail, shop, mall and residential living facilities. Seed became the prototype for Organ, a proposed living work of art and architecture and sustainable village to be constructed from 486 steel shipping containers. Organ was featured in the 2009 “No Zoning” exhibition at the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston curated by Toby Kamps and Meredith Goldsmith, and with further assistance from consultant Mariana Lemesoff, architect Si Dang, engineer Hisham El-Chaar, Executive Director Heidi Vaughn. Now known as HIVE, the project has become an emergent real. TemplO/Zocalo
From 1989 to 2001, Topchy was Co-Founder and Artistic Director of [TemplO/Zocalo], a nonprofit artist-run performance compound. TemplO/Zocalo was an incubator for experimental artistic activity, and gave artists of all disciplines a forum for creating, exhibiting and staging experimental and edgy works. The complex housed artists’ studios and living spaces, a gallery, indoor and outdoor stages, and embodied the belief that art is a creative and spiritual way of doing anything.
Many TemplO/Zocalo collaborators achieved regional and national prominence, including Andrea Grover of Aurora Picture Show, The Art Guys, Jason Nodler and Tamarie Cooper of Catastrophic Theater, Kevin Cunningham of Three Legged Dog in New York, dancer Richie Hubscher and lighting designer Christina Giannelli of the Houston Ballet, Richard Olsen of Nexus New York, Mariana Lemesoff of Helios Arts/AvantGarden, New York painter Giles Lyon, the late video pioneer Andy Mann, and conductor Jon Axelrod of Lucerne, Switzerland. Alison de Lima Greene, curator of the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, which owns a bit of Topchy’s earlier work, described TemplO as Gesampkunstwerk, a total work of art.