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10 Cutting-Edge New Developments That Will Up Houston’s Architectural Game

For all the strife and anxiety that has come with the coronavirus pandemic, there have been silver linings — including the citywide construction boom.

Yes, there were labor or material shortages and other issues, but with less downtown traffic, work progressed more smoothly on buildings such as the Texas Tower and Brava projects in Hines, as well as Skansa’s 1500 on the Green.

Here are 10 commercial projects of interest on Houston’s architecture radar.

1. Texas Tower

Demolition of the former marble-clad Houston Chronicle building on Texas Avenue began in 2017, and now a very modern glass and steel building rises in its place. Even in times of a pandemic, without a full workforce downtown, the building is nearly half rented.

Texas Tower stands out as a shiny new bauble off the street, billed as a high-tech futuristic workplace. It was designed by Pelli Clarke & Partners – the firm founded by the late architect Cesar Pelli – and developed by Ivanhoé Cambridge and Hines. This will be Hines’ new headquarters. You will see cantilevered spaces protruding from the main building, and closer you will visit outdoor terraces and green spaces in line with the future of commercial spaces.

2. Thumbs up

Around the corner from Catty at Texas Tower is Brava, an apartment building also developed by Hines but designed by Muñoz + Albin Architecture & Planning with interiors by MaRS Mayfield and Ragni Studio. This very modern building is nearing completion – slated to open in early March – on the half block that once housed the Houston Chronicle parking lot at Milam and Prairie.

Originally planned as “The Preston”, the developers pivoted to the middle and renamed it Brava. Its very modern silhouette is indeed courageous, and it is located a little obliquely on the ground, offering a panoramic view of what lies ahead.

With a boat shape and appearing to pinch at the waist, Brava is a new shape for downtown Houston.

3. Ismaili Center of Houston

When His Highness the Aga Khan and local Ismailis announced plans for the new Ismaili Center Houston – the first of its kind in America – many residents probably typed “Ismaili” into Google. A good thing, because the local Ismailis hope their neighbors will know more about them, their faith and their heritage.

The Ismailis are a minority sect of the Shia Muslim faith, and the Aga Khan – their living and hereditary spiritual leader – has opened cultural centers around the world. He has assembled an incredible design team of British architect Farshid Moussavi and New York-based Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects to design a building and gardens that will sit on an 11-acre lot along Allen Parkway at Montrose Blvd.

Their initial renderings – revealed in November – of a center clad in silver-beige Turkish marble with 10 acres of lush gardens, are so stunning they’ll have you moving forward on your calendar to mark the end of 2024 when the project wraps up.

4. After Houston

Kirby Liu and his Lovett Commercial transformed Barbara Jordan’s former post office into an office/retail/restaurant/commercial space that opened in the fall to crowds looking for a reason to leave their homes.

They used the architecture firm OMA founded by Pritzker Prize winner Rem Koolhaas to transform a very ugly civic structure into a place where people will queue to enter.

Right now, it’s kicking off with over 30 food concepts, including some from chefs like Paul Qui, David Guerrero, Ope Amosu, and Thai Chanthong, with more to come.

In a city where buildings that have lost their usefulness are often torn down, it’s nice to see one being reinvented in such a high-profile way.

5 . 1550 on the Green

Skanska’s 1550 on the Green project has construction workers reportedly working daily on what will eventually be a planned three-block development, including a 28-story building, rising to 1550 Lamar in the downtown.

Early renders show a building that is stunning by day and absolutely glowing by night. Most importantly, they strive to reduce the carbon footprint associated with construction, using more sustainable materials, including low-carbon cement.

6. Memorial Park Land Bridge

Landscape architecture has always been important, but its status in our lives has grown exponentially over the past two years as Houstonians — and others — embrace the outdoors. During the pandemic, work progressed on the new Memorial Park Land Bridge, destined to become one of the city’s most Instagram-worthy spots when it debuts later this year.

Passers-by on Memorial Drive saw it go up, and soon, eastbound cars will pass through the grand new tunnels. By the end of the year, they will begin planting an area of ​​the new Gulf Coast prairie and create one more place for us – and wildlife – to enjoy the sun.

The land bridge was the brainchild of famed landscape architect Thomas Woltz and his team at Nelson Byrd Woltz, who also designs the gardens for the new Ismaili Center Houston. The land bridge and new meadow are a cooperative effort of Memorial Park Conservancy, Kinder Foundation, Houston Parks and Recreation Department, and Uptown Houston.

7. Ion

When planners first suggested turning the old Sears building in Midtown into a technology and innovation hub, conservationists were thrilled the building was saved.

Some $100 million later, The Ion opened in mid-2021 with Microsoft and Chevron Technology Ventures as anchor tenants. It’s certainly the start of something really big for a 4-mile (as marketed) “innovation corridor” between downtown and the Texas Medical Center.

8. The Golden Dove

Most Houstonians know La Colombe d’Or as the place where they attended their high school prom or celebrated a friend’s wedding or 50th birthday. Today, the whimsical French name is associated with two things: the Beaux-Arts mansion where oilman Walter Fondren Sr. and his family lived — and an apartment building that stands behind it. (Fondren was co-founder of Humble Oil, an antecedent of ExxonMobil.)

Munoz + Albin designed the skyscraper and Rottet Studio managed the mansion’s new interiors, as it grew from an event space to a small boutique hotel with a cozy bar and casual restaurant.

The mansion was built in 1923 and remained in the Fondren family until it was purchased by businessman Steve Zimmerman, who then installed an 18th century ballroom in his Grand Salon event space . This living room is gone to make way for the skyscraper, but for most people, you don’t have to wait for a party invite to see it. Meet a friend for a cocktail in his cozy Bar No. 3 or stop for breakfast, lunch or dinner in his restaurant, Tonight & Tomorrow.

9. Westin Houston Medical Center

When Pearl Hospitality purchased the Medical Towers Building from Texas Medical Center, it was a mid-century structure showing its age. When it was built in the 1950s, it was a city highlight, designed by famed architects Skidmore Owings & Merrill and inspired by his influential Lever House, New York’s first International-style office building.

The structure is now a Westin hotel and lives up to its strong mid-century roots, with turquoise-colored exterior panels and interior skylights that allow visitors to see the exquisite lines of the building from above. Pearl Hospitality won a Good Brick Award from Preservation Houston in 2021 for its efforts.

10. Savoyard New Hope

Great architecture – to look at or to experience – shouldn’t be reserved for the wealthy. This is the philosophy of the people at New Hope Housing, who strive to provide a pleasant place to live for people on very low incomes and those who are on the verge of becoming homeless.

For a few decades now, New Hope has been creating housing around town, and along the way, garnered a shelf full of awards from the Urban Land Institute for their well-designed, energy-efficient structures. Their newest, the 120-unit New Hope Savoy, opened last fall, and when it’s finished, it will be one more thing Houston can be proud of.

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