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Kevin Daly Architects with PRODUCTORA win Houston Endowment Headquarters International Design Competition

Winning design concept praised as a dynamic response to Houston’s architectural and landscape tradition

Winning design by KDA Architects. Image © KDA Architects.

Leading philanthropy Houston Endowment and competition organizers Malcolm Reading Consultants (MRC) today [7 November 2019] announced that the team led by Kevin Daly Architects (KDA) with Mexico City-based PRODUCTORA, in collaboration with TLS Landscape Architecture, has won the international competition to design the new Houston Endowment Headquarters.

The new Headquarters will enable Houston Endowment, one of the largest private foundations in Texas, to relocate from its current offices in the city’s business district and embed itself within the community. The initiative will give the philanthropy a more accessible, welcoming base from which to work, bringing people from public, private, non-profit and philanthropic sectors together. The foundation’s aims are to best meet the needs of the community and achieve lasting positive change for the greater Houston region.

The distinguished Selection Committee (identified below) was unanimous in the choice of the winning team, which beat 120 others in the course of the two-stage competition to secure the commission for this US$20 million fast-track project, due to open in 2022.

The winning design concept envisages an airy, elegant superstructure generously shaded by a large canopy within a grove of oak trees. The proposal is strongly connected to the site and context: the landscape and history of Spotts Park. In KDA’s words, the new building, which is attuned to Houston’s demanding climate, is intended to be ‘as welcoming as the shadow beneath a tree’.

The intricate lattice of the roof canopy — the design’s ‘fifth elevation’ — will offer a sense of shelter to both the organization and the local community, whilst practically maximizing use of daylight within the building and minimizing solar gain.

Interior spaces are conceived within public and private zones and are highly flexible, linked to the park through a series of exterior terraces, shaded by awnings. The design is intended to promote healthy working and offers welcoming engagement spaces that provide for convening and collaborating with the community.

The winning team will now work with the client and stakeholders to develop this initial design concept. Longer term, they may work with the Endowment to consult with the local community and the city authorities on improvements to Spotts Park, including the planting of new trees.

Joseph C. Dilg, Board Member, Houston Endowment and Selection Committee Chair, said:

‘We were pleased with the world-wide interest in the competition. The four finalists excelled in producing highly accomplished concept designs. The Committee was very impressed by each of the four submissions and our challenge was to identify the very best of the best.
‘We were unanimously persuaded by the KDA team’s beautiful, dynamic design that promises to be a significant addition to Houston’s wonderful architecture collection, without being monumental. And, while this design is contemporary both in its approach to work spaces and sustainability, it contains a memory too – with its slender rhythmic columns it echoes the iconic Jesse H. Jones Hall for the Performing Arts, named after the Endowment’s founder.’

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

‘We are thrilled with the design and the team – this is a hugely energizing moment for Houston Endowment. The new building will help us reach out to new audiences and better communicate the work we do everyday with our community partners. We are excited this effort is publicly underway.
‘Our community partners tell us that Houston Endowment is a grounding force in an ever-changing dynamic city. We see our move from the 64th floor in downtown Houston to this new home as a manifestation of this wonderful compliment.
‘We wanted to bring outstanding architecture to Houston to complement Houston’s notable architectural wonders, and this design successfully communicates openness and transparency while also providing a tranquil and inviting presence.
‘The winning team had a strong sense of Houston’s DNA – Kevin Daly, the team leader, studied at Rice University and is licensed in Texas. We very much look forward to working with them.’

Malcolm Reading, Competition Director, said:

‘This design is reminiscent of Houston’s architectural exemplars: the ice houses, the Menil Collection and parts of Rice University campus — where a building mediates between the outside landscape and the interior experience. The team seized the opportunity to create a building that allows users to engage with the park for much of the year.’

Kevin Daly Architects is an award-winning Los Angeles-based practice that interweaves technological innovation with new approaches to sustainability and urbanism to produce environmentally and socially responsive architecture. Recent projects include the UCLA Ostin Music Building, the Backyard BI(h)OME and the Berkeley Global Campus.

KDA leads a collaborative team alongside PRODUCTORA, including TLS Landscape Architecture, Arup, Transsolar, and Houston-based Kirksey Architecture.

Kevin Daly, Principal, Kevin Daly Architects, said:

‘We are really honored to be chosen for this project. Houston Endowment is fundamentally about helping to define and build toward Houston’s future. We were challenged to capture that mission in the design of this project through resilience and energy conservation.
‘The living canopy of Houston was a huge influence on the team: the tradition of buildings that balance the being “a part of” and “apart from” the living landscape of the city was inspiring. We wanted to establish a continuity between the park setting and the vocabulary of the building.
‘With our collaborators at PRODUCTORA in Mexico City, we wanted to focus on fundamental building elements: the loggia, veranda, the canopy and the screen. These work together in a climate like Houston’s to create openness and accessibility while balancing the effects of the environment.’

The full Selection Committee was chaired by Joseph C. Dilg, Board Member, Houston Endowment and included Jesse H. Jones II, Chair, Houston Endowment Board; Guy Hagstette, Vice President of Parks and Civic Projects, Kinder Foundation; Ann Stern, President and CEO, Houston Endowment; Tom Forney, President and CEO, Forney Construction; Alex Washburn, Principal, DRAW Brooklyn; Meejin Yoon, Dean of the College of Architecture, Art and Planning, Cornell University and Principal, Höweler and Yoon Architecture; and Malcolm Reading, Competition Director.

The three other shortlisted teams were led by US practices, Deborah Berke Partners, Olson Kundig and Schaum/Shieh Architects. The Selection Committee praised all the finalists for their hard work and commitment and awarded Olson Kundig an honorable mention.

The first stage of the competition, which launched in June 2019, attracted submissions from 121 teams comprising 354 individual firms from 22 countries. Collaborations between established and emerging talent and strong partnerships between architects and landscape architects were encouraged.

Four finalist teams were shortlisted in August 2019. They were asked to submit concept designs for the new 40,000 sq ft Headquarters building, which 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. The Selection Committee interviewed the teams in late October.

An honorarium of US$50,000 will now be paid to each shortlisted team for their design work. A digital gallery of all four finalist schemes is expected to be published towards the end of the year on the competition website.

Houston Endowment would also like to express their gratitude to their supporting advisors, including the Technical Review Panel and local Architectural Advisory Group, comprising Michelle Addington, Dean of Architecture, University of Texas; Sheryl Kolasinski, Chief Operating Officer, The Houston Zoo; Michael Kubo, Assistant Professor of Architectural History, Theory, and Criticism, University of Houston; and Maria Nicanor, Executive Director, Rice Design Alliance, Rice School of Architecture.

Established in 1937, Houston Endowment is a leader in Houston’s philanthropic sphere. The foundation works to support under-resourced communities in the greater Houston area, and in 2018 provided funding of c. US$75 million to over 200 organizations in the education, healthcare, immigration, environmental and arts fields.