Four-Leaf Towers in Houston

Photo of Four-Leaf Towers in Houston, Texas
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz

Four-Leaf Towers

5100 San Felipe, Houston, Texas, West Loop 77056
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At first glance this pair of condominium towers rising over the Galleria Area appear to be unfinished. They may even look like victims of the latest hurricane or tornado to blow through the Bayou City. But what they lack in uniformity of appearance, they make up for in aesthetic pleasure derived from serious study. These are actually the first buildings designed by Cesar Pelli in Houston. They break the mold of surrounding towers by incorporating a crossword puzzle of color instead of yet another boring blue-green glass curtain. It's like sticking a pair of 40-story plastic flamingos on your lawn just to spite the neighbors. The red, pink, and cream-colored panels are all glass and if interpreted in the extreme, could be taken as a giant mosaic or stained glass window. In another departure from convention, the rooftops are red, complementing the panes below. Before this, even the most adventurous Galleria project only went as far as European green. In a neighborhood known for its uniformity in everything from stainless steel traffic lights to stainless steel arches marking crosswalks, this represents either a refreshing break from the ordinary, or a chaotic blight on the skyline.

    >In the Autumn of 2001 a fire broke out in the left tower. The owner of the apartment was killed along with a firefighter trying to rescue him. While state law requires four firefighters on each responding engine, the city of Houston was staffed with three or fewer on many trucks due to budget constraints and a lack of firefighters. Because of the manpower shortfall the dead firefighter had no backup to save him. Just hours after the apartment owner's funeral, Mayor Lee Brown came out with a plan to fully staff all Houston fire trucks by using paramedics. The issue nearly cost him his re-election.
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