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Favorite Houston Skyscraper


TxDave

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This topic has likely been raised before, but Houston has such great architecture I think it is worthy of more discussion.

What is your favorite Houston skyscraper, and why?

For me it is a tough question to answer, but I have to settle on Pennzoil Place. Its significance in "breaking the box" is something we still see today. Its view is different from every angle, yet it is generally simple in its design.

I have a lot of runner-ups in mind: One Shell Plaza, Bank of America, Tenneco Building (or El Paso or whatever it is called today).

However my second choice is probably less architecturally significant, but one I still really enjoy: Williams Tower (still called that? I still know it as Transco). I love its simplistic, yet elegant retro (art deco?) design. There is really no reason for such a tower to be where it is, but that is part of the charm of Houston.

Please share your favorite skyscrapers!

Edited by TxDave
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I like lot of the old ones, but modern ones:

Williams

Enron II

St Lukes (night tme only, its quite beautiful when the spire is lit and the sun is setting behind it. The best view is from North Macregor east of 288)

Bank of America (sometimes)

Edited by WesternGulf
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Two favorites are 1500 Louisiana (Enron II) Cesar Pelli & Associates

1500louisiana.jpg

and Bank of America (formerly Republic Bank-NCNB Center) Philip Johnson/John Burgee

bank-of-america-1a.jpg

Aside from being striking buildings in their own right, what especially impresses me is the way in which they relate to surrounding buildings. BOA is especially brilliant in its massing, as it permits views of Johnson/Burgee's earlier triumph (Pennzoil Place), while making the most of a difficult site (an exisiting building could not be demolished to build BOA, and is contained within it).

1500 Louisiana not only reflects (literally) the design of the rather banal original Enron building; it grants it some credibility. The sight lines from Louisiana and Smith Streets factor into the design - the 1963 Exxon Building harmonizes beautifully with its more modern neighbor. This is one of the few modern buildings in Houston which is enjoyable at street level as well as from a distance, in part due to the sweeping skywalk over Smith Street.

These buildings are to be admired not only for their intrinsic beauty, but also because the architects considered the context in which they're seen.

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I agree about 1500 Louisiana (Enron 2). Pelli did a great job of relating it to the older Enron building without copying. One of the nicest touches is the way that the tower is aligned to the east-west street grid of the Fourth Ward, just like Enron 1, while the base aligns to the northwest-southwest downtown grid. This kind of detail adds to the visual interest of the complex.

I love BOA in that it has become a landmark for our skyline. My one small complaint about it is that the design is dated and it seems very much of the 1980s. To me, what makes Tenneco and Pennzoil classics is that even though they were built in the early 1960s and 1970s respectively, the designs are still fresh. Either one could be built today and still look new, which is quite an accomplishment. Tenneco especially amazes me with the articulation and quality of its facade design, although don't think the proportions of the building are great.

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I find it a little interesting that no one has mentioned Chase Tower.

It has significance in being an IM Pei project and a pleasant simplicity.

Although aside from it height, I do find it mostly unremarkable.

Perhaps it just has too much competition nearby.

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I find it a little interesting that no one has mentioned Chase Tower.

It has significance in being an IM Pei project and a pleasant simplicity.

Although aside from it height, I do find it mostly unremarkable.

Perhaps it just has too much competition nearby.

Why do you people punish me this way...all this talk about Skyscrappers...don't you realize that when you're only 3/32" tall, a blade of grass is a skyscrapper? I warn you...cease this attempt to humiliate me with such trivial trivialities or I shall unleash the full wrath of my EVIL GENIUS....but right now the Mrs. is making hologram pancakes....gotta go!

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Why do you people punish me this way...all this talk about Skyscrappers...don't you realize that when you're only 3/32" tall, a blade of grass is a skyscrapper? I warn you...cease this attempt to humiliate me with such trivial trivialities or I shall unleash the full wrath of my EVIL GENIUS....but right now the Mrs. is making hologram pancakes....gotta go!

Not to be rude, or anything, but why did you respond to that? It wasn't directed at you, he was just making a generalization. And why do you consider yourself a cartoon character in every post?

TxDave:

I love to JPMCT. I just find some other towers appeal to me more, making it not my #1 favorite. I think its significant in the skyline, and while its not the belle of the ball, it looks good to me. Its hard to realize how tall it is, unless you can see it from the base to the roof. I love the cut in the southwest corner, it adds character. But many people are not fans of the 70s/80s box.

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Rice Hotel, I like the traditional, yet still functional, porch/patio that provides one of the most vibrant public places downtown on any given night. It's an older bldg too so it's contrast with the modern skyscrapers gives it a charm onto itself. I see this building as the literal "heart" of downtown.

2nd would be the Reliant Bldg for merely ephemeral reasons :)

Edited by infinite_jim
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BoA bldg. Its the building that really defines the houston skyline. all the boxy or cylindrical towers behind are just filling, while the BoA building is what people see and think of the houston skyline as. Probably second would be the Pennzoil builing. its sort of the same way.

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Heritage Plaza. Great mixture of modern skyscraper with primitive geometry. One of the few skyscrapers I've never seen cloned anywhere else.

I agree with so many on this list. Williams is so cool the way it towers over the galleria skyline. My downtown favorites are the BoA and Heritage Plaza.

If we are talking smaller buildings I love 5 Houston Center. It is very simple, but elegant at the same time. I think it is the showpiece of Houston Center if even if it is towered by the other Houston Center complex.

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#1 Fulbright Tower #2 Bank of America #3 JPMorgan Chase Tower #4 Wells Fargo Building #5 Exxon Mobile Building 1963. #6 Pennziol Place 1975

Edited by Marty
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1. Williams Tower a.k.a Transco Tower a.k.a Willie T. This one dominates any Houston skyline regardless.

2. Wells Fargo Plaza

3. BofA. Houston has a unique gothic piece of the skyline, and its right here.

4. The Ex-Enron Twins (1400 Smith and 1500 Louisiana)

5. Eleven Hundred Louisiana. Kinda reminds me of BofA SF in its design. This one is truly underrated because Heritage Plaza sits in front of it. Am I the only one that likes this building?

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  • 4 weeks later...
This topic has likely been raised before, but Houston has such great architecture I think it is worthy of more discussion.

Please share your favorite skyscrapers!

DT- Toss up between Heritage Plaza and BoA- both are unique and unlikely to be cookie cutter type architecture. i remember in '86 the laser light show Houston had with Heritage as its canvas. It was awesome! BoA is brilliant in its modern adaptation of Gothic architecture- and the coloring makes it even more interesting. I wonder if it would be as fascinating if the architect went with a bland grey or slate.

MT- The new Memorial tower is going to be my favorite. I like the "new" crown look that many highrises are getting these days. I don't know if i like the crown to seem incongruent to the building-but when incorporated into the design and lit at night...... i think it is impressive.

UT- Hands down- Williams Tower. I think that tower would look good anywhere. It would be neat to see how it would fair superimposed into Houston's DT. Would it get lost (being third tallest) or stand out?

i am glad Hines chose to put it where he did. No competition from other highrises for decades to come.

That being said, 1500 Louisiana (someone called it Enron II, so it sticks with me) is to me, one of the most impressive "baby brothers" of an earlier skyscraper. Pelli outdid himself with that one. I often think of Williams Tower as a modern version of the Empire State Building in its stateliness. As we know, Empire was a less glamourous version of Art Deco (i.e. Chrystler Building) but gets so much recognition because of its heighth, yes, BUT also because of its location. Look at it.......not many highrises around to match it. Even if 20+ 30-40 story highrises surround Williams, it is still going to stand proud for decades.

Also- besides its heighth......could someone point out the merits of the tallest Houston tower formerly known as Texas Commerce Tower? I TRY to like it, but find it rather dull. Enlighten me. :ph34r:

m.

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The Humble Building!

Yeah, I know it's not the best looking building downtown. In fact, I think it is somewhat of an eyesore. But, the Humble Building was such a huge deal when it was being built in the late 50s and early 60s. It was the beginning of Houston's "coming of age", with Houston taking its place among the country's most important cities.

Perhaps other buildings played a similar role in their day, like the Gulf Building. But the Humble Building is within my Life experience, and that's why it is of such importance to me.

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1500 Louisiana - looks it's best between dusk and dawn.

BTW - Chevron owns 1500 Louisiana and just leased all of 1400 Smith. Hopefully people will stop referring to them as the Enron buildings now. The less heard of that name the better...

Heritage Plaza - to me it looks like an old building trying to shed it's modern skin. Very unusual.

Esperson building - an oldie but a goodie.

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while making the most of a difficult site (an exisiting building could not be demolished to build BOA, and is contained within it).

I've heard this too. More specificaly, the bldg was at the northeast corner of the block. Can someone tell me what this building was and why it could NOT be demolished.

Edited by EspersonBuildings
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I've heard this too. More specificaly, the bldg was at the northeast corner of the block. Can someone tell me what this building was and why it could NOT be demolished.

It was the central Western Union office for Houston. Because of the expense involved in rerouting all of the communication cables from this site to another, it was cheaper to leave it where it was.

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  • 5 weeks later...

What is your favorite Houston skyscraper, and why?

It's a toss up between the Bank of America building and the Esperson building. I like BOA for its outward design and the interesting inside features like the rare woods in the elevators and I like the Esperson for it's more historical feel and those fantastic urns up on the fifth (I think its the fifth) floor ledge.

Another favorite is the Wortham Tower over in the American General complex. Since I have recently been enjoying all things 50's/60's, this building impresses me because it still had that feel in the lobby areas, bathrooms, etc, without appearing seedy. They keep the building up pretty well for it's age I think. I also really like the view you get from the mezzanine level across that tarmac to the building directly behind it. Classic 60s wide open spaces. Love it.

Finally on the list I would have to say the bank building at 700 or so Main. It is a great example of art deco inside in the elevators and railing details with lots of the frozen fountain theme going on. Plus it has that fantastic stained glass window in the bank lobby.

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What is your favorite Houston skyscraper, and why?

Another favorite is the Wortham Tower over in the American General complex. Since I have recently been enjoying all things 50's/60's, this building impresses me because it still had that feel in the lobby areas, bathrooms, etc, without appearing seedy. They keep the building up pretty well for it's age I think. I also really like the view you get from the mezzanine level across that tarmac to the building directly behind it. Classic 60s wide open spaces. Love it.

Good call on the Wortham Tower, and the classic 60s spaces. The front lobby is cluttered with security and a bank, but the rear lobby is one of the best modern spaces in Houston for my money.

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Good call on the Wortham Tower, and the classic 60s spaces.

Thanks. I have worked as a courier for about ten years and have probably been in every building downtown and in the outlying areas at one time or another. I've always loved architecture and use my job as an opportunity to see a lot of things people don't always get to see...like that nifty art collection on the upper floors of the Chase Tower, the Gargoyles high up on the Rice Hotel, or that secret house behind the high wall at the corner of Alabama and Edloe..which some say belonged to Kenneth Schnitzer. I love downtown Houston and are very interested in the old architecture of the city since Houston doesn't seem to treasure it so much as some other places do. There are a lot of cool things in this city if you just know where to look for them.

Edited by 2fatcats
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I don't know which hospital, but the twin caps in the Texas Medical Center are kind of a throw back to something you might see in "gotham city"

Anything is better than a cube. :rolleyes:

I think you mean the Methodist towers.

When it (they?) were first built, some people referred to it as the "Madonna Towers", because of the two pointy things...

To me, it looks like twin hypodermic needles, which seems appropriate.

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I think you mean the Methodist towers.

When it (they?) were first built, some people referred to it as the "Madonna Towers", because of the two pointy things...

To me, it looks like twin hypodermic needles, which seems appropriate.

I think you mean St. Luke's Professional Building.

Good call on the Wortham Tower, and the classic 60s spaces.

Thanks. I have worked as a courier for about ten years and have probably been in every building downtown and in the outlying areas at one time or another. I've always loved architecture and use my job as an opportunity to see a lot of things people don't always get to see...like that nifty art collection on the upper floors of the Chase Tower, the Gargoyles high up on the Rice Hotel, or that secret house behind the high wall at the corner of Alabama and Edloe..which some say belonged to Kenneth Schnitzer. I love downtown Houston and are very interested in the old architecture of the city since Houston doesn't seem to treasure it so much as some other places do. There are a lot of cool things in this city if you just know where to look for them.

What company do you work for? I worked for Hot Shot briefly.

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My favorites are

1. the BoA Building, because of the distinctiveness it adds to the Houston skyline.

2. the Pennzoil Plaza, because of its contribution to modern architecture.

3. the Williams Tower for the sleekness of its facade,

4. the Niels Esperson Building I find to be the nicest of the older buildings, although I do think that the Mellie Esperson Building does not really fit in with it.

About the Medical Center: the Houston Architectural Guide is scathing in its criticism of the Med Center, from p. 82: "... the Texas Medical Center comes as a shock. The lesson in civic decorum that Main Boulevard offers has gone unheeded here. In this district devoted to human well-being, contempt for the environment prevails, reducing the dense cluster of hospital, teaching, and research, office, hotel, and parking buidings to a competitive, hostile, and - to outsiders - incoherent agglomeration, garnished around the edges with inconsequential bits of suburban shrubbery. The act of vandalism that the medical center's administrative agency [...] committed in 1987 when it demolished one of the Houston's most popular landmarks, the Shamrock Hotel, bespeaks the elementary failure of this public institution to accept the responsibility of citizenship, of being part of the city. [...]"

Any thoughts on this?

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About the Medical Center: the Houston Architectural Guide is scathing in its criticism of the Med Center, from p. 82: "... the Texas Medical Center comes as a shock. The lesson in civic decorum that Main Boulevard offers has gone unheeded here. In this district devoted to human well-being, contempt for the environment prevails, reducing the dense cluster of hospital, teaching, and research, office, hotel, and parking buidings to a competitive, hostile, and - to outsiders - incoherent agglomeration, garnished around the edges with inconsequential bits of suburban shrubbery. The act of vandalism that the medical center's administrative agency [...] committed in 1987 when it demolished one of the Houston's most popular landmarks, the Shamrock Hotel, bespeaks the elementary failure of this public institution to accept the responsibility of citizenship, of being part of the city. [...]"

Any thoughts on this?

Yes. Sounds like Stephen Fox is making a harsh blanket judgement upon an entire area and all the buildings that comprise it based upon the act of a single entity (one of over forty). There are a lot of excellent works of architecture in the TMC that do not deserve to be associated with a single act of the Texas Medical Center, Inc.

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