Jones Hall in Houston

Photo of Jones Hall in Houston, Texas
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz

Jones Hall

615 Louisiana Street, Houston, Texas, Downtown 77002
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It takes quite a large donation to get your name on a performing arts center. The Jones family should ask for their money back. The exquisite work done inside by the Houston Symphony and others is masked in a bland, featureless shell. It's easy to see what the architect intended: Stately columns and graceful curves – a cylinder inside a cube. But what actually happened was something less. Is it a fallout shelter? Is it a loading dock? Is it the underside of a freeway bridge? No. But it is falling apart. In August of 2001, large chunks of the façade started crashing to the ground. The reason? The hinges that attach the travertine to the building rusted through. These days a safety scaffolding surrounds the building in yet another lifeless collar, while clamps near the roof keep the stonework from killing anyone below. In spite of its outward flaws, the interior is quite well done. A grand curved staircase with balconies is the main feature, guiding patrons to their seats. Inside the theater, 800 hexagons are affixed to the ceiling. They can be moved up and down individually to change the acoustics of the hall. The walls are lined in teak, and the seats with red velvet.

Quick Facts
    >2 August, 2001 - Three 100 pound chunks of the Jones Hall facade come crashing to the ground. The hinges that attach them to the building had corroded. Scaffolding goes up to protect pedestrians, and the facade is repaired over the next few years. 900 tiles are replaced, 10,000 extra fasteners are added, and the entire building is coated with a water-proofing chemical.
    >6 November, 2002 - In the wee hours of the morning a worker plummets to his death from a scaffold in the attic. He was removing asbestos from the building. The accident happened at 2:00am because the workers had to do the removal overnight so the musicians would not be disturbed.
    >May, 2003 - Another stone panel leaps from the facade and tries to smash itself to bits on the sidewalk below. It is saved by a safety net erected during the renovation to replace 899 of its friends.
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