For more than half a century, 800 Bell has graced the skyline of downtown Houston. The tower’s distinctive 44-stories of repetitive horizontal concrete slabs — which serve as shading devices to protect against the unforgiving Texas sun — reveal the functionalist sensibilities of its time. Constructed in 1963 and designed by Welton Becket and Associates with Golemon & Rolfe Associates and George Pierce-Abel B. Pierce, the building served as the Humble Oil Headquarters and was later occupied by ExxonMobil. Notably, at the time of construction, it was the tallest building west of the Mississippi River.
After several decades of use, plans to redevelop the building began. The architects at Ziegler Cooper won an invitation-only competition for the redesign of the building, and their proposal was published in 2013. With the goal of making the building competitive with other Class A+ properties in downtown Houston, Ziegler Cooper’s design adds over 100,000 square feet of leasable area and updates the building to LEED-Gold standards. This is achieved in part through the reskinning of the building with high-performance glazing, improving building performance but obscuring its distinctive concrete brise soleil. To date, no exterior work has been done since the proposal, and the future of 800 Bell remains unknown.