News

Houston Endowment Headquarters International Design Competition Launches

Global search for an outstanding design team of architects and landscape architects for the philanthrophy's new headquarters

Headquarters' site, adjoining Spotts Park

© MRC / Urban Tripod
  • Competition welcomes international, emerging and diverse teams
  • New, circa 40,000 sq ft, building will embed leading philanthropic organization in the community, providing a perpetual philanthropic organization with a permanent home as well as extra facilities, reach and presence
  • No design required at first stage — architect-led teams asked to submit details of team, experience, and approach
  • Four or more finalist teams to receive US$50,000 honorarium for concept designs at stage two

Houston Endowment (HE), a leading philanthropic organization based in Houston, Texas, U.S., and design competition organizers, Malcolm Reading Consultants, today [13 June 2019] launched the global search for an outstanding design team of architects and landscape architects for the philanthropy’s new headquarters.

The initiative, on a site adjoining Spotts Park near downtown Houston, will embed Houston Endowment in the community, and strengthen its work bringing people together from public, private, non-profit and philanthropic sectors to achieve lasting positive change for low-income and under-served sections of the local population.

The center, circa 40,000 square feet, will be the organization’s new public face and will provide dedicated space for its team and community partners, including healthy workspaces, accessible and inspiring meeting spaces, and flexible and innovative engagement facilities. It is intended that the project, which has a construction value of US$20 million (excluding FF&E), will connect strongly with the wider landscape and Park.

The funding for the project has been secured, along with the site, and the project has a fast-track timetable — the finished building is due to open in May 2022.

Full details of how to enter the competition are available on the dedicated competition website.

Ann Stern, President and CEO, Houston Endowment, said:

‘Through this competition, we are looking for a design team to create a new headquarters for us that reflects the way we work today. We need a visible presence that communicates our work as a thought leader and a committed, vital force within the city and region, and that is welcoming and accessible to our community partners. Equally, we need an outstanding workplace that encourages our own team to work collaboratively and effectively.
‘In addition, over the past 20 years, Houston Endowment has made a significant contribution to the ‘greening’ of Houston, and this is a theme deeply woven into the project.
‘This is an exciting moment for us, enabling us to establish a presence and identity at ground level in the city. It will also allow us to continue in the tradition of our founder Jesse H. Jones, who earned the nickname ‘Mr. Houston’ – in part for his contributions to building and developing our city.’

Competition Director, Malcolm Reading, said:

‘Houston is considered one of the most diverse US cities and has a fantastic ‘can-do’, pragmatic culture that brings people of all different backgrounds and outlooks together.
‘We are open-minded about the architectural team we are seeking but committed to high-quality design. We would like to encourage emerging talent as well as listen to established; we welcome diversity and international designers.
‘The foundation’s site near downtown Houston, adjoining a local park, needs confident architecture and placemaking that can lift the neighborhood, create a new focus and draw people in.
‘Some of the most distinguished architecture in Houston — universities, museums, arts venues, and libraries — was directly funded by Houston Endowment’s founders, Jesse and Mary Gibbs Jones, and this initiative continues their work.’

Houston Endowment was established by Jesse and Mary Gibbs Jones in 1937. Jesse Jones was a successful Houston entrepreneur, real estate developer, politician and civic leader who served at the national level in several senior roles under Presidents Wilson and Roosevelt. He married Mary Gibbs, a travel and culture enthusiast educated at Methodist College in Waco, Texas — notable at a time when few women went to college. Mary Gibbs Jones was a community and cultural activist who brought opera to Houston radio, served on the general council of New York’s Metropolitan Opera and helped First Lady Mamie Eisenhower support military widows.

Houston Endowment does not actively fundraise; its funding is financed by an endowment, currently valued at US$1.8 billion.

In 2018, Houston Endowment provided funding to more than 200 organizations which totaled approximately US$75 million. These organizations included Houston in Action, Arts Connect and the Houston Immigration Legal Services Collaborative. The foundation also helped Harris County acquire the historically and architecturally significant Riverside General Hospital, saving it from bankruptcy for future revival as a healthcare facility.

The foundation also continued to work in 2018 with organizations such as Good Reason Houston, the Houston Flood Museum, the Harris County Youth Collective, the Greater Houston Flood Mitigation Consortium and LINK Houston (an equity-focused transportation advocacy group) — several of which it helped to create. In 2019 and 2020, HE expects to continue its significant focus on education and civic engagement.

Competition format

No design is required at the first stage — rather designers will need to study the Search Statement (available to download from the competition website) and submit their approach to the project, experience and relevant design skills through a digital form on the website.

At the second stage at least four teams will be shortlisted, and these will receive an honorarium of US$50,000 for their design work when the competition concludes with the selection of the winner.

All teams will be required to include an architect registered in the state of Texas as part of their team at Stage Two.

Full details of the competition Selection Committee, which will interview the teams and select a winner, will be announced later in the process.

The deadline for first stage responses is: 10:00 CDT / 16:00 GMT +1 Monday 15 July 2019.

The competition’s second stage will start in early August; the winner announcement is expected in November.