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Houston Endowment Headquarters

Constructive Engagement

Productora | kevin daly Architects

Houston Endowment Headquarters
By Raymund Ryan -

From the plane, Houston appears as some sort of feral landscape, a vast quilt of buildings and freeways and scrappy open ground. Interwoven patches of green and brown and grey blue reveal the presence of bayous, those marshy waterways suggestive of primal times that lead ultimately to Galveston Bay and the Gulf of Mexico.
From the automobile – Houston’s preferred mode of transport and, as a major consumer of petroleum products, the source of much of the city’s wealth – the metropolis is at first less readily comprehended. Great ribbons of traffic and concrete, each branded with its number, snake off through and across neighborhoods as if to separate Houstonians from nature and from specific places as efficiently as possible.
Without hills as backdrop as in Los Angeles or an oceanic lakefront as in Chicago or an immediate scenography of bay and bridges as in San Francisco, it is no surprise that many ambitious Houston buildings such as the RepublicBank Center or Transco Tower, both designed by Philip Johnson and John Burgee in the 1980s, strive to become icons on a skyline frequently experienced and registered from afar and at comparative speed.
The new Houston Endowment Headquarters has a different agenda. As a standalone pavilion on a gently rising site, it is indeed visible from many perspectives within the city. Its expression, however, is almost self-effacing. By the entryway to the north, a clever 3D sign by Swiss-Texan designers MG&Co. spells out Houston Endowment in white stainless steel letters. Otherwise, the project is comparatively slow to holler or advertise itself. 
You first see the expansive white canopy hovering high above the stacked volumes below. It is a porous solar protection, a parallelogram propped slightly askew of the main rectilinear enclosure on skinny white poles. There is a mechanical vibe, in this display of structure, an echo perhaps of the seminal Menil...

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