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Why is the downtown skyline so dark and bland at night?


scarface

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I was hoping someone with an inside scoop could answer this, and I know it's been asked before.  I saw someone had posted this question on another forum but there didn't appear to be much knowledge on the subject.

But what is the problem with downtown Houston at night? It seems very dark, bland, and underwhelming to be the State's largest city's largest skyline. It seems that the new lights installed on the Allen Tower buildings and 601 Jefferson have all joined to start the bland monotone scheme that dominated Houston's skyline during most of the aughts. The problem too is in Uptown/Galleria and Medical Center (Even Minus the Spires 😔 all are better lit). But downtown literally looks like it's lit up with candles compared to everywhere else? What's with that? 

And what happened to the Wells Fargo tower's lighting on it's downtown? Did it just decide to go dark altogether? 

Edited by scarface
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1 hour ago, scarface said:

I was hoping someone with an inside scoop could answer this, and I know it's been asked before.  I saw someone had posted this question on another forum but there didn't appear to be much knowledge on the subject.

But what is the problem with downtown Houston at night? It seems very dark, bland, and underwhelming to be the State's largest city's largest skyline. It seems that the new lights installed on the Allen Tower buildings and 601 Jefferson have all joined to start the bland monotone scheme that dominated Houston's skyline during most of the aughts. The problem too is in Uptown/Galleria and Medical Center (Even Minus the Spires 😔 all are better lit). But downtown literally looks like it's lit up with candles compared to everywhere else? What's with that? 

And what happened to the Wells Fargo tower's lighting on it's downtown? Did it just decide to go dark altogether? 

I'm not sure if it's really in our culture to light up the buildings with a lot of flash. We do have a sign ordinance Downtown that doesn't allow company logos  to adorn our skyscrapers. Or if the companies that reside in our buildings are conservative and don't flock to the well-lit ones vs the dark ones. Maybe a bit of both. Unless the city or renters in the towers ask for more nighttime features, it's unlikely to happen. 

The reason it's so dark now is the freeze. Everyone complained about Downtown "being lit up like Christmas" while people in the surrounding neighborhoods froze to death. Ever since then they haven't turned everything back on again. Also being asked to reduce power during the hot summer months have probably prompted them to stay off.

We're just not a very "commercial" city. We'd prefer art to cover the blank walls of parking garages and the Wedge International Tower. Other cities would likely have a huge advertisement there. It's kind of cool not having advertisements in your face all the time. If only we could bury all the telephone poles we'd have a mighty fine city. Driving in LA or Dallas, you'll see a ton more adverts. They're really plugged in, so to speak. 

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  • 4 weeks later...

I don't understand why a freeze that happened over 6 months ago is still having an impact on our skyline.  Wells Fargo building went completely dark after May and hasn't come back on. It's a shame because that is one of Houston's tallest towers. And as far as the freeze, That hasn't stopped the Heritage Plaza (with it's ugly beige Christmas lighting) and 600 Jefferson and Allen Centers from continuing the blandness of the lighting.

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8 hours ago, West Timer said:

I think this thread is dark and bland. 

Then why even bother replying? 

This forum is dedicated to topics involving buildings, architecture, and projects. I would say the issue of lighting would classify. Whether you care or not, if one can't address the question on here, where can they? 

I would just suggest that if you don't have anything noteworthy to contribute, then just stay out the thread. 

Your problems are solved.

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19 hours ago, samagon said:

pardon me, but I've always heard that the stars at night are very big and bright, so we shouldn't need to extinguish lights on downtown buildings.

Well, the stars would be bigger and brighter if more thought was given to how buildings in particular, and landscape in general, is lit at night and were not washed out by poorly designed lighting. Downtown is urban by definition and is (or one would hope should be) active after dark.

Scarface asks a legitimate question: Why is the night-time skyline bland? IMO, for the longest time downtown was a place almost everybody left between 5:00 and 6:00 pm. No one really cared what it looked like at 11:00 pm. That has changed.

Without becoming lighting Nazis the city could create some lighting guidelines for downtown. There are requirements for the amount of light that must illuminate sidewalks (probably not always followed) for example. There could be rules for lighting the exterior of buildings without spilling it into the night sky or adjacent neighborhoods where it is not desirable.

But the real solution is for building owners to demand that the designers of their buildings make the effort to use exterior lighting in an effective and environmentally sensitive way to enhance their designs. We certainly expect our buildings to be attractive in the daylight, why not a night too. The technology exists to achieve this. It just takes a willingness on the part of an owner and the design team to make it happen. Frankly, I'm a bit surprised it hasn't happened yet to a greater extent.

Also, I'll go on the record stating that outlining the skyline in neon or cold cathode lighting (old school and painfully out-of-date) or even with modern LEDs is not the answer. Think, highlighting the notable architectural features of a building like the tempietto on top of the Niels Esperson building or the ziggurat on top of Heritage Plaza if the latter was actually attractive. 🤢

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Houston is a business town, not a flashy tourist trap town.

The flashiest thing this city had for a while was that Enron E. They went bankrupt. remember the Microcache computer stores? The owner of that store bought the E, had it on display at his location, now he's out of business.

Plus, someone here said that residents of Houston House complained about light pollution when they lit up the Wedge Building in that green neon.
Leds are maintenance intensive if you buy the cheap crap, not so much of you buy the good stuff, which happens to be made waaaaay out here in Ft Bend County. 

A friend works for a TV station in the Northeast. He called me asked if I could have a look at their station's outdoor display. it was a great low-res wall when it was made in the late 90's, but getting parts for that system is next to impossible, so i had to pass. Imagine owning a building downtown, installing a million dollar LED display, having it go bad and need replacing in a few years. I'd go without, too.

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5 hours ago, Tumbleweed_Tx said:

Houston is a business town, not a flashy tourist trap town.

One can always go to Times Square in New York, The Ginza in Tokyo, or the Myeongdong (the name means bright cave) in Seoul for a "flashy fix."

The flashiest thing this city had for a while was that Enron E.

Don't forget the giant Gulf sign from years past but I would have traded that for Dallas' Pegasus any day of the week and twice on Sunday😀 

 

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Posted (edited)
On 8/29/2021 at 3:17 AM, Tumbleweed_Tx said:

Houston is a business town, not a flashy tourist trap town.

The flashiest thing this city had for a while was that Enron E. They went bankrupt. remember the Microcache computer stores? The owner of that store bought the E, had it on display at his location, now he's out of business.

Plus, someone here said that residents of Houston House complained about light pollution when they lit up the Wedge Building in that green neon.
Leds are maintenance intensive if you buy the cheap crap, not so much of you buy the good stuff, which happens to be made waaaaay out here in Ft Bend County. 

 

I see what you're saying. 

But look at Dallas? That's about as business as it gets. But there's no denying that a little bit of flash helps that city stand out.

Look at Austin? It doesn't even have the skyline Houston has, yet it doesn't use bland lighting. TMC and Uptown/ Galleria Houston even do well, but when it comes to our largest skyline, it looks a dim when you compare it to other major cities (except maybe Ft. Worth)

Specwriter, i'm glad you see my point. It just seems like Houston is plagued with business owners that don't even try or take time. 609 Main was a huge disappointment and missed oppprtunity. But i guess that doesn't matter now anyway since it's now overlapped by Texas Tower coming from North.

 

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Let's keep it civil. As much as possible anyway.

 

I really enjoyed the skyline during the "power over houston" in the late 90s. Particularly the spotlights on most of the skyline. It's as simple as illuminating the buildings, without anything "flashy". Most of our towers have huge plazas that could easily incorporate some lighting. 

Although I am a sucker for flashy, and would not complain if every building was wrapped in LEDs fading between all colors of the rainbow. 

We know why it went dark, so how do we ask them to turn on the lights again?

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On 8/3/2021 at 1:40 PM, scarface said:

But what is the problem with downtown Houston at night? It seems very dark, bland, and underwhelming to be the State's largest city's largest skyline.

Very few people live downtown. And most people aren't at the office at night.

Edited by Valhalla
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On 9/3/2021 at 2:32 PM, j_cuevas713 said:

Before Covid, when Downtown was really starting to hit a nice stride, the buildings were being lit up way more. 

I noticed that. Around 2017-2020, the lighting and downtown action seemed like it had really gotten it together. The old continential building had started doing a lightshow, then january 2021, here comes the Allen buildings all with the same beige rooftop lining. 600 jefferson joined them with the same scheme bringing us back to circa 2005. Wells Fargo stopped lighting its white rooftop at night completely sometime after May. 

I knew they were all participating in that nocturnal bird and natural lighting of the stars thing until May 19, 2021. Wells Fargo went completely black after that, but all the Allen Towers, Heritage plaza, and Jefferson stayed on.

I got a chance to visit San Antonio last weekend, and while they may not have the best skyline out of the big 4, i was quite impressed with their downtown at night.

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17 hours ago, scarface said:

I noticed that. Around 2017-2020, the lighting and downtown action seemed like it had really gotten it together. The old continential building had started doing a lightshow, then january 2021, here comes the Allen buildings all with the same beige rooftop lining. 600 jefferson joined them with the same scheme bringing us back to circa 2005. Wells Fargo stopped lighting its white rooftop at night completely sometime after May. 

I knew they were all participating in that nocturnal bird and natural lighting of the stars thing until May 19, 2021. Wells Fargo went completely black after that, but all the Allen Towers, Heritage plaza, and Jefferson stayed on.

I got a chance to visit San Antonio last weekend, and while they may not have the best skyline out of the big 4, i was quite impressed with their downtown at night.

I know people scoff at this idea but it's these little things that make a city great. The same applies to the 59 bridges. I talked to the company operating the lights for the bridges and they hope to have things fully repaired by the end of the year. Honestly I'm not going to hold my breath. 

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I know. Knowing how things operate in Houston, the 59 arches are going to be said to be too expensive and they will eventually cease lighting them. Look at the iconic spires in the Texas Medical Center!

I hope I'm wrong, but that was pretty discouraging and disappointing.

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On 8/31/2021 at 7:35 AM, scarface said:

But look at Dallas? That's about as business as it gets. But there's no denying that a little bit of flash helps that city stand out.

 

That's just it - Dallas has always sought the flash to attract its business (in the tertiary realm like finance and corporate HQs). Houston is driven by resource extraction and small business - two sectors notorious for penny-pinching.

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1 hour ago, ADCS said:

That's just it - Dallas has always sought the flash to attract its business (in the tertiary realm like finance and corporate HQs). Houston is driven by resource extraction and small business - two sectors notorious for penny-pinching.

What's interesting is that Houston wants to draw more tech to the area, but it can't do it without adding a little flash to it's nightlife. I do know we'll be adding those digital kiosks throughout the city, and some digital billboard signage. Maybe that will help motivate these building owners to step up their game a bit. I guess my point is that as Houston starts to add more pedestrian amenities at ground level, that same attention will eventually show up in our skyline naturally. Kind of playing off my earlier comment about life pre pandemic, the skyline was getting way more attention on a more regular basis and downtown was def alive. Right now things seem to be slowly crawling back amid a surge in Covid. 

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