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    Pennzoil Place, Johnson/Burgee Architects, Houston, 1976. - photo by Leonid Furmansky

Real estate developer and investment builder Gerald D. Hines, who died on August 23 at the age of 95, changed the course of high-rise building design and construction, first in Houston, then in the U.S., then globally during the last quarter of the 20th century. Hines did so because of his conviction that building outstanding architecture was the surest way to attract the top tier of corporate and professional clients and persuade them to lease space in his buildings. Hines’ real estate and investment building firm, Gerald D. Hines Interests, founded in 1957 and reorganized as Hines in 1995, retains its headquarters in Houston but operates globally. Hines has built projects in 20 countries outside the U.S. 

Gerald Hines was born in Gary, Indiana. He came to Houston in 1948, following graduation from Purdue University and three years’ service in the U.S. Army during the Second World War. Trained as a mechanical engineer, Hines worked for an air-conditioning company selling ventilation equipment to mechanical contractors. In 1954, Hines built his first commercial building on Richmond Avenue on what was then Houston’s far west edge. Hines embarked on his first downtown project in 1966: construction of the tallest building in Houston as headquarters for the Shell Oil Company. This was carried out in tandem with the planning and construction of the Galleria mixed-use complex in Houston’s west side Post Oak district.

It was the notoriety and critical praise Hines generated with Pennzoil Place (1970-76), designed by Philip Johnson and John Burgee, that propelled him to national recognition. In The New York Times, Paul Goldberger acclaimed Hines not merely as a client but as a “patron” of architecture. Riding the crest of Houston’s booming energy, finance, and real estate economy in the mid-1970s, Hines Interests built the 55-story First International Plaza (1980; now 1100 Louisiana), designed by the San Francisco office of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill; the 75-story Texas Commerce Tower in United Energy Plaza (1981, now 600 Travis) and its companion, the 20-story Texas Commerce Center (1981, now 601 Travis), both by I. M. Pei & Partners; and the 56-story RepublicBank Center (1983, now TC Energy Center) by Johnson/Burgee. In each instance, the celebrated out-of-state architect was paired with a Houston firm: S. I. Morris Associates for Pennzoil Place, 3D/International for the First International and Texas Commerce buildings, and Kendall/Heaton Associates for RepublicBank.

Hines’ enthusiasm for architecture, and the public recognition it brought him, caused other Houston developers to take notice. Kenneth L. Schnitzer’s Century Development Corporation hired SOM San Francisco to design its 71-story Allied Bank Plaza (now Wells Fargo Plaza) of 1983 between First International and One Shell Plaza. In the Post Oak district, Lorenzo and Giorgio Borlenghi hired César Pelli & Associates to design their office and apartment towers. Smaller-scale developers commissioned local architects to produce distinctive designs. Even neophyte developers were emboldened to hire young Houston architects to design their infill townhouse complexes. Hines’ example raised the standard on architecture in Houston in the late 1970s and ’80s. His cultural impact was immediate and substantial.

The collapse of the international oil economy, which began in 1982 and accelerated in 1986, caused Hines Interests to expand operations to parts of the U.S. not affected by the crash. Twenty-three U.S. cities beyond Texas contain architecturally significant projects built by Hines. In 1990, when he was 75, Gerald Hines stepped down as president of Hines Interests, which was reorganized under the direction of his successor, his elder son Jeff Hines. In the mid-1990s, Gerald Hines and his family moved to London so he could oversee European development projects. Diagonal Mar in Barcelona, a former industrial district on a spectacular site overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, was reconfigured as an upscale retail, residential, and conference zone under Hines’ direction. Miralles Tagliabue EMBT designed the public park in Diagonal Mar; Robert A. M. Stern, the shopping mall; and Clotet i Paricio and Muñoz + Albin of Houston, two of the three residential towers. Hines and his wife, artist Barbara Fritzsche Hines, returned to Houston in 2012, where he continued to be actively involved in new development projects.

Gerald Hines’ love for architecture was clearly reciprocated by architects. Hines was named an honorary member of TxA in 1973 and of the American Institute of Architects in 1984. In 1989, he became the first individual to be honored by the Rice Design Alliance at its annual gala. In 1997, Jeff Hines presented the University of Houston with a gift that led the university to name its architecture school the Gerald D. Hines College of Architecture and Design. In 2014, he was TxA’s Cornerstone Award recipient.

Hines ranks among the 20th century’s most outstanding patrons of architecture. He built the buildings that give downtown Houston and the Post Oak district their exhilarating architectural distinction.

Stephen Fox is an architectural historian and a Fellow of the Anchorage Foundation of Texas. He is a lecturer in architecture at Rice University and the University of Houston.

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