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Competition: Houston Endowment headquarters

An international competition has been launched for a $20 million base for US philanthropic organisation Houston Endowment (Deadline: 15 July)

The two-stage contest – organised by Malcolm Reading Consultants – will select a team to deliver a 3,700m² headquarters for the charity, which promotes education, civic engagement, culture and environmental issues across the Texan city.

The project will transform a 0.6ha site overlooking Spotts Park and the Buffalo Bayou, close to Memorial Parkway and Waugh Drive. The competition comes shortly after Farshid Moussavi Architecture won an international contest for a new Ismaili Centre nearby.

Contest site in Houston

Contest site in Houston

Source: Image by MRC / Urban Tripod

Contest site in Houston

Houston Endowment president and chief executive Ann Stern 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.’

Competition director Malcolm Reading said: ‘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.

Houston, Texas

Houston, Texas

Source: Image by MRC / Urban Tripod

Houston, Texas

’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.’

Houston is the largest city in Texas and the fourth most populous city of the United Sates with 2.3 million inhabitants. Houston Endowment was founded in 1937 by local entrepreneur, real estate developer and politician Jesse Jones and travel and culture enthusiast Mary Gibbs Jones. It’s endowment is valued at $1.8 billion.

In February, Farshid Moussavi Architecture has won a competition to design a landmark Ismaili Centre on a 4.5ha site overlooking the Buffalo Bayou waterway at the junction of Montrose Boulevard and Allen Parkway in central Houston.

The London-based architect – working with AKT II, Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects and local practice DLR Group – was chosen from a star-studded shortlist which included David Chipperfield Architects, Studio Gang and OMA.

Planned to complete in 2022, the latest project will create a new ‘public face’ for the charity featuring ‘healthy workspaces, accessible and inspiring meeting spaces, and flexible and innovative engagement facilities.’ The winning scheme will be expected to ‘connect strongly’ with the wider landscape and waterfront park.

Interested parties must first submit details of team, experience, and approach. At least four finalists will then receive $50,000 each to draw up conceptual proposals during the competition’s second round.

A winner will be announced in November.

How to apply

Deadline

The deadline for applications is 10am local time (CDT) on 15 July

Contact details

Visit the competition website for more information

UK Hydrographic Office Headquarters case study: Q&A with Adam Spall

The regional director of AHR discusses lessons learned designing a new HQ for the UK Hydrographic Office

Adam Spall

Adam Spall

Adam Spall

How has your project created a transformational new headquarters for the UK Hydrographic Office?

Our new headquarters for the UK Hydrographic Office (UKHO), based in Taunton, has been a catalyst for the organisation’s cultural shift towards a new way of working through a more open plan, collaborative environment.

Our design prioritises connectivity. The new headquarters places significance on increasing the ability of staff to work collaboratively and provide them with choice, all within a healthy environment that is responsive, heightens productivity and caters for everyone’s needs.

Open balconies and bridges create physical and visual connection between all parts of the building, with the central atrium’s generous staircases leading to wide bridges, providing access to two symmetrical wings.

UK Hydrographic Office Headquarters by AHR

UK Hydrographic Office Headquarters by AHR

UK Hydrographic Office Headquarters by AHR

The design provides a gradient of activity types with breakout and social spaces within the atrium, collaborative and agile workspaces around the balcony edges and individual desking towards the perimeter.

The building works with the occupants, naturally encouraging them to engage with the atrium as they move around, providing stimulation and cultivating encounters between colleagues.

Which architectural, material, visual and other methods did you harness in your design?

Our design concept took inspiration from the hydrographic office’s work to create a headquarters that truly felt like their own. Following the theme of ‘Seabed to Surface’, images of strata, contours and water currents influenced the aesthetic design throughout.

This concept has been carried through the choice of materials, detailing, colour schemes and graphics. Suspended within the impressive 800m² atrium roof, the centrepiece of the building design, sinuous timber baffles reinforce the visual concept while providing perfect acoustic control, diffusing daylight and eliminating glare. The natural colours of water and land are used throughout the workplace.

UK Hydrographic Office Headquarters by AHR

UK Hydrographic Office Headquarters by AHR

UK Hydrographic Office Headquarters by AHR

We aspired to a very high level of specification in all areas of the design, always exceeding the ‘minimum standard’ to ensure that the building meets the organisation’s needs far into the future. The building provides outstanding levels of natural daylight, exceptional acoustic control, an impressive sense of openness and remarkable level of connectivity for such a large facility. Employee wellbeing is prioritised throughout, within a highly sustainable, low energy building.

What advice would you have to contest participants on designing a new headquarters for Houston Endowments?

When designing a new headquarters, it is imperative to not only understand, but to make sense of the company’s objectives and aspirations. The design needs to respond to this and capture the essence of how they see their new headquarters positively impacting them as an organisation, to optimise their staff’s day-to-day working day and enhance their wellness.

As one of the world’s leading marine geospatial information agencies, the new HQ for the UK Hydrographic Office had to inspire and endure. We embedded longevity and flexibility within the design ethos to create a wholly responsive and connected building, designed and made for them.

UK Hydrographic Office Headquarters by AHR

UK Hydrographic Office Headquarters by AHR

UK Hydrographic Office Headquarters by AHR

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