• The project comprises two indoor venues and an outdoor amphitheater. The site offers views of downtown Houston, and the light rail is a five-minute walk away. Photo by Peter Molick

Location Houston
Client White Oak Music Hall
Design Team Troy Schaum; Rosalyne Shieh, AIA; Tucker Douglas; Ian Searcy; Ane Gonzalez Lara; Anika Schwarzwald; Giorgio Angelini; Anastasia Yee; Nathan Keibler; Hazal Yücel; Drew Heller; Amelia Hazinski
Photographers Peter Molick, Claudia Casbarian, Julian Bajsel

Just north of downtown Houston, at the edge of I-45 and the banks of the Little White Oak Bayou, sits White Oak Music Hall. This campus of several entertainment venues was designed by SCHAUM/SHIEH and consists of both indoor and outdoor performance spaces. “We really respected the complexity of the program that was delivered to the architects, and the way in which they handled that complexity in a very convincing way that could really revitalize the neighborhood and be an anchor to a different kind of mobility that’s now emerging in this neighborhood of Houston,” Anne Schopf, FAIA, says.

The hall encloses two stages: one on the main floor and mezzanine, for an audience of 1,200, and a smaller, 220-capacity venue on the upper floor. The outdoor landscape-and-turf-grass amphitheater accommodates 3,500. The building has two balconies and a roof terrace that overlook the outdoor stage. Whether you’re standing on one of those platforms, or lounging in the grass of the amphitheater, the full scenic skyline of Houston is in full view.
The building — both interior and exterior — is clad in simple, durable materials. “The White Oak Music Hall attracted a lot of attention from the jury because it was done very subtlely,” Eric Cesal, Assoc. AIA, says. “There were no grand gestures, but it managed to create a grand space.”

The building reveals its program while attempting to achieve a monumental architectural expression by simple means, shown in the black-to-white gradient of the horizontally oriented fiber cement lap siding. Cedar boards backed by rockwool insulation provide acoustic dampening in the main performance space inside and on the facade of the building that faces the outdoor stage. There are three bars inside — each realized by means of a different material: wood; metal; concrete. While many of the materials are budget-conscious, the architects did custom-design most of the doors, focusing money and effort on those aspects of the architecture that people actually touch. “We thought the application aptly demonstrated that it was being used and being enjoyed by the community, with a minimal exertion of effort [and] minimal exertion of materials,” Cesal says.

The project is near the newly expanded light rail and connects to the ever-growing Houston Bayou Hike and Bike trail network. These alternative transit options, along with the venue’s ability to foster community gatherings, influenced the jury’s view of the project and its contributions
to the neighborhood.

Andrew Hawkins, AIA, is principal of Hawkins Architecture in College Station.

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