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It has somewhat perturbed me that I.M. Pei put a hundred thousand square foot sheet-glass wall on the west facade of Texas Commerce Tower.  It appears like a move absent-minded at best, considering the glare that will blare through the floorplates of the offices inside.  

Why, too, plant the parking block on Main Street and the pedestrian plaza facing the permanently dead travertine windowlessness of Jones Hall, instead of vice versa?  Here is what I learned.

 

 

After Hines signed on to the project in 1977, he made a list of the architects he thought were most capable in the world of giving "a real gift to Houston", as the president of Texas Commerce Bank said to his friends.

 

-- in part from Texas Monthly/May 1980;  p. 117

 

 

Minoru Yamasaki (Troy, Michigan)

Romaldo Giurgola (Philadelphia)

Hermon Lloyd (Houston, Lloyd Jones Brewer & Associates)

J. V. Neuhaus III (Houston, 3D/International)

Cesar Pelli (New Haven)

I. M. Pei (New York)

"Tiny" Lawrence (Houston, CRS Group)

 

-- in part from Texas Monthly/May 1980;  p. 253-4

 

 

Property acquisition had begun ten years before with the site of the old Montgomery Ward at the corner of Travis and Capitol, and continuing across from the Rice Hotel.  Jesse Jones' Houston Endowment had built Jones Hall in 1966 to buttress the north end of the business district as development threatened to move suddenly south.

Jones' National Bank of Commerce, headquartered in the Gulf Building - which he had built - had a financial interest in remaining at the center of the exchanges of money and contact, whereas its larger rival First City National Bank had an interest in pulling the center of power away from it.  First City National kept a crucial lot tied up for years adjoining Montgomery Ward's.  I suppose that National Bank of Commerce (after a 1970 amendment to the federal acts about bank holding companies, it would gobble thirty or forty local banks into Texas Commerce Bancshares) could have built a taller tower around the holdout to get the same square footage with a Main Street address, but at the time they were focused on a shorter, full-block edifice.   By the time the invitation went out to eight architects (one named nowhere above), focus had shifted a block to the northwest, where we find the tower today.  A full block lot was available there, and some say the tunnels had shifted downtown to the west.

 

Each designer was given an honorarium whether or not they elected to present a model, and was given a month to examine the site.  Then everyone met in an auditorium at the Gulf Building for a marathon session of deliveries.  Pei "talked almost as much about Jesse Jones and Jones Hall as he did his own building... and he spoke of Jones Hall as a civic monument in almost reverential tones."  He would leave an acre of open space immediately opposite the concert hall and would "also face Pennzoil Place, at a 45 degree angle to the street grid, thereby reflecting light in a different direction from any of the other skyscrapers and providing a line-of-sight link between the Gulf Building, the monument of Jones' life, and Jones Hall, the building erected after his death.  The enormous space created by the one-acre plaza would not only avoid the canyon effect of adjacent skyscrapers but would also serve as a natural gathering place for downtown pedestrians."  The lobby would stand with the right vertical dimension to match Jones Hall's.

 

--mostly from Texas Monthly/May 1980;  p. 254-5

 

 

 

"Gently, persuasively, he asked me one day: 'What do you think are the greatest cities in the world?'  I responded, 'London, Paris, Rome . . .'  I. M. interrupted.  'Stop right there. Have you ever thought that the reason you consider them great is not because of their solids, but because of their voids? Why don't we leave a void--an open space--in this site?  Downtown Houston architecture is impressive, but it has one weakness. Most buildings are built sidewalk to sidewalk.'
 
Then he proposed, 'Let's allocate three-quarters of the block for a beautiful plaza enhanced by a major sculpture, Bartlett pear trees, fountains, and benches for people.'  And so we did." 
 
- Ben Love:  My Life in Texas Commerce (TAMU Press, 2005)  p. 211
 
I would here interject for Love and Pei to think whether the reason they consider those voids great is not after all due to edges more than their interiors, and in Houston none of the expense went to perforating or activating the edges, so it failed.
 
 
"But whether this is great art or simply a piece by a great artist, whether the plaza will become a notable void or simply a void, I think you just have to like this thing and admire the audacity of the conservative businessmen who put it there.  It is colorful, eccentric, funny[, the Miro] -- all qualities in short supply in most business districts -- and it represents the daring, playfulness, and determination to undermine self-importance that are among the most appealing characteristics of Houston.
 
In addition to all this, the sculpture shows that one of the ancient motivations for monumental art--self-commemmoration--has not entirely disappeared.  After Miro had painted the model and it was ready for viewing, Pei, Roff, Hines, Love, and their wives visited the artist at his studio in Majorca for the unveiling [of Personage and Bird].  The three amorphous shapes at the ends of the chair legs stuck to the head were painted red, blue, and yellow.  In the enthusiasm of the moment, Ben Love said, 'I want to be the red bird.'  He had been a St. Louis Cardinals fan as a boy.  Hines wanted to be the yellow bird, and Roff became the 'blue bird of happiness.'  And the correct name of the sculpture at the corner of Milam and Capitol is Personage and Birds.  Plural."
 
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9753505395_45217d37e1_o.png

To take a look into what Gensler is trying to do with this existing plaza from across Capital St. The lobby executes a couple of public design initiatives, first by opening up the streetscape into the tunnel system and by using the sunken lobby to frame a view of the Miro sculpture. It reinforces the bldg line set by the Houston Club bldg which in turn helps frame out the void carved out by plaza. This is one of main reasons folks have to excited about this project going up, it's solid interstitial design that pays complement to some very monumental yet standoffish bldgs by being their pedestrian hub. 

Edited by infinite_jim
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  • 1 month later...

Not impressed at all. Personally, someone better than me should construct a miniature scale model of downtown or Houston within the observation view and place it in a case in the observation tower in order to have people try to place different landmark locations. Ash, birch or even Aspen hardwood floors would work better.

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  • 2 weeks later...

This press release came in earlier today.  I thought the HAIFers were onto this a couple of weeks ago, but I couldn't find the original thread.


HIGHEST PUBLIC SPACE IN HOUSTON GETTING A MAJOR MAKEOVER

 

post-1-0-95002000-1383888840_thumb.jpg

 

(HOUSTON) - The Houston office of Hines, the international real estate firm, along with partner and building owner, Prime Asset Management, announced today that construction has commenced on the new sky lobby design at 600 Travis (formerly JPMorgan Chase Tower) in downtown Houston.
 
Designed by Gensler, the two-story sky lobby will include: new museum-quality wood flooring instead of carpet; a new ceiling with more design and lighting features; added seating; and new video displays.  Offering the highest public view of Houston from the sky lobby's 60th floor, the observation area is currently closed for renovation and is scheduled to reopen in early 2014.
 
Developed by Hines in 1982, the 75-story tower is Texas' tallest office building.  Designed by I.M. Pei & Partners, 600 Travis contains 1.7 million square feet. 
 
President of Prime Asset Management Rafic A. Bizri said, "600 Travis is one of the most iconic towers in downtown.  We look forward to working with Gensler and Hines on this dynamic redesign, and know Hines will continue to provide best-in-class property management services to the tenants during this renovation."
 
600 Travis is 91 percent leased to a number of world-class companies, including: Andrews Kurth; LINN Energy; Locke Lord LLP; Winstead; Breitburn Energy; Eaton; Morgan Stanley; and JPMorgan Chase & Co; among others.
 
Rush Durkin, senior property manager, commented, "Renovating and modernizing the sky lobby will add to the appeal of the iconic tower, and provide a fresh new vantage point for existing and new tenants, as well as visitors to the building."
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I wasn't aware that the JP Morgan Chase name was dropped. When did this happen?

 

That's exactly what I came here to find out. Saw this posted on my FB news feed. Article above fails to mention it as originally the Texas Commerce Bank Building

Edited by djrage
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Someone on skyscraperpage gave a good example of a building in Chicago facade changing andthe result was much better than how it was previously.

First Canandian Place in Toronto. The building was recladded, and has a more clean look to it now. Something like this for JP Morgan Chase Tower would be nice.

Before:

2389915597_8e0f11aec1_b.jpg

After:

6458476891_81364d3b63_b.jpg

Edited by Urbannizer
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First Canandian Place in Toronto. The building was recladded, and has a more clean look to it now. Something like this for JP Morgan Chase Tower would be nice.

Before:

2389915597_8e0f11aec1_b.jpg

After:

6458476891_81364d3b63_b.jpg

 

Yea that was it and I would like something like that to be done to the JP Morgan Chase Tower too. It just looks so much better.

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Dont know if it was mentioned but they are renovating the sky lobby.

If I could add anything, I would add a super tall antenna or spire, just to reclaim the "tallest building west of the mississippi" title and piss off all those friendly people in LA :lol:

Some places don't count antennae in height counts it would have to be a spire or crown.

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^ I doubt it.  San Fransico's Transbay will be 1,070 feet in an extremely overcrowded and EXPENSIVE market.  Houston - as we've seen during this current boom is far more content to build 20-30 floor towers with adjacent 1,000 space parking structure out on the periphery than to build multi-tennant highrises in downtown.  I believe we really need to see more density here before someone wants to pony-up the cash to build a 70+ floor tower (or even a 50 floor tower with an embellishment atop it).

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^ I doubt it.  San Fransico's Transbay will be 1,070 feet in an extremely overcrowded and EXPENSIVE market.  Houston - as we've seen during this current boom is far more content to build 20-30 floor towers with adjacent 1,000 space parking structure out on the periphery than to build multi-tennant highrises in downtown.  I believe we really need to see more density here before someone wants to pony-up the cash to build a 70+ floor tower (or even a 50 floor tower with an embellishment atop it).

 

As a developer stated from Chicago: Houston is where Chicago was 20 years ago.

 

Meaning Houston is densifying .

Edited by TowerSpotter
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^ And that's fantastic!  Particularly for people in my line of work...

 

The more the merrier.  Although I still think we're 4-5 50 or so floor towers away from seeing something larger pop-up.

 

And honestly the best chance we have of seeing a major 300m + building is the Chevron campus.  They have the money and power to easily facilitate something like that.

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^ And that's fantastic!  Particularly for people in my line of work...

 

The more the merrier.  Although I still think we're 4-5 50 or so floor towers away from seeing something larger pop-up.

 

And honestly the best chance we have of seeing a major 300m + building is the Chevron campus.  They have the money and power to easily facilitate something like that.

 

Yea, so far it is a rumor Chevron will add another tower to it's campus.

 

The developer from Chicago is the guy behind hanover highrise in BLVD Place and also the one in charge of the 30 story highrise in montrose.

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  • 5 months later...
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No clue what it was, several more showed up as well as ambulances and tahoes. It appeared that smoke was coming out of the top. They were out there for around an hour then just left.

Six fire trucks show up at cvx tower every week

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  • 3 months later...
  • 10 months later...

http://www.chron.com/news/houston-texas/houston/article/The-Sky-Lobby-at-Chase-Tower-is-now-closed-to-the-8315663.php

 

"The 60th floor Sky Lobby at the Chase Tower in Downtown Houston has recently closed to the public, according to a representative.  According to a representative, the closure is permanent and was done in the interest of the building's tenants."

 

 

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  • The title was changed to JPMorgan Chase Tower

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