Reliant Energy Design Statement

Houston, Texas, US

The transformation of this building for Houston Industries (now Center Point) is a unique exercise in architecture, rehabilitation, and city building.  Originally constructed in 1972, the existing building’s neutral façade and straightforward floor plan created a timelessness and efficiency that eludes some buildings of the 1980’s.  Over the years, however, the relatively elegant and simple flush curtain wall had been allowed to deteriorate into a patina of chalky discoloration.  Moreover, the original concept of a base subordinated to retail under a glass skirt had been a failure, and the building suffered from the lack of a clear entry.  The circulation pattern leading to the elevators was confusing and inappropriate for a first class office building.  The materials of the plaza,, lobby, and public spaces were inappropriate for a building which must project a corporate identity. 

The redesign created a symbol of the light company on the Houston skyline that is effective 24 hours a day.  This “lantern in the sky” provides screening for mechanical equipment and is complemented by a 70 ft high light tower on the plaza. 

The light tower is a streetscape element of significant scale, which typifies the continuing efforts of our practice over the past 20 years. 

The skin of the tower has been completely transformed, as have the base of the building, the internal circulation, and the lobbies, while the structural system has been upgraded, asbestos removed, and handicapped access has been provided. 

The external expression at the base not only reflects corporate solidity, but also works with adjacent urban elements and spaces including the corner plaza across the street and its Dubuffet sculpture, the Tenneco fountain, the Wells Fargo entry element and the strong based definition of each of the surrounding buildings.  The continuity of the urban landscape is enhanced on this block, which provides extensive seating as well as skylights into the pedestrian tunnel system below.  Based on our work for a master design for Louisiana Street at the center of the City, we have fulfilled our plan with each of the elements mentioned above as designers of each.   

The redesigned building lobby transforms the previous confusing circulation pattern into one that unites access from the street, the tunnel level, and a bridge level, culminating in an indoor park at the second floor.,  The materials and details reflect the character of the corporation, present and future technology, and the focus on employee amenities.  This project represents a unique opportunity to bring together needs and opportunities, timing, vision, and a fundamental alignment of a multitude of people and roles.  In the end, a city benefits, a corporation is more viable, and design is uncompromised.