Houston Endowment Headquarters International Design Competition

© MRC / Urban Tripod

The Site

Houston Endowment’s new site near downtown Houston, overlooking Spotts Park, needs confident architecture and placemaking that can lift the neighborhood, creating a new focus around the headquarters and drawing local people in.

Advantageously located one and a half miles from – and to the west of – downtown Houston, the circa 1.5-acre site near the southeast corner of South Heights Boulevard and Willia Street, commands long and extensive views in an approximately 180-degree panorama to the south.

Spotts Park, 16 acres in total, sits in a natural bowl in the topography of Houston; it connects into the much larger Buffalo Bayou Park – a 160-acre linear park with leisure trails, visitor attractions and activities running along its length from Shepherd Drive in the west to downtown and beyond in east. 

The site is close to Buffalo Bayou, the principal river of greater Houston, which floods with some regularity and experienced heavy flooding during Hurricane Harvey; however, happily, the elevation of the site prevented it from flooding. 

Houston

Houston is generally considered the most diverse city in the U.S. with no majority racial or ethnic group – the population is a mix of white, black, Asian and Hispanic people. A quarter of residents were born outside of the U.S. and at least 145 different languages are spoken in the region. The city also has a predominant youthful demographic – over a fifth of residents are in the age group ranging from five years to the upper teens.

Houston is the fourth largest city in the U.S. and one of the fastest growing; the largest city in Texas, it covers an area of nearly 670 square miles, supporting a population of slightly over two million.

The city is the economic and cultural center of greater Houston, an area which encompasses nine counties in south-eastern Texas and has an estimated population of nearly seven million.

Houston has a diverse cultural offering and has many award-winning and internationally acclaimed performing arts groups and is one of only a few cities in the U.S. with resident companies in theater, ballet, symphony and opera. The city is also host to many festivals including the Bayou City Art Festival and WorldFest: Houston International Film Festival. 

The city is home to 23 Fortune 500 companies.

Whilst industry in Houston has traditionally focused on the energy sector, today nearly half of all jobs are in non-energy fields such as business services, technology, aerospace, medicine and manufacturing. The city is home to 23 Fortune 500 companies and is well served by two main international airports – George Bush Intercontinental Airport and William P Hobby Airport. 

The city has more than 40 higher education institutions, including prominent colleges such as the University of Houston, Texas Southern University and Rice University. 

In greater Houston, there is a can do’ spirit – a spirit of pragmatism that brings people together even if they share different ideological perspectives. As a city of immigrants’, Houstonians generally view themselves as extremely welcoming to newcomers and immigrants. 

The climate in Houston is classified as humid subtropical with tropical influences.