Houston Endowment Headquarters International Design Competition

© MRC / Urban Tripod


Houston Endowment (HE) needs a visible, though not showy or self-promoting, presence that communicates its work as a vital force within the city and region and is welcoming and accessible to its local community partners.

Practically, it needs a well-planned workplace with a friendly and sociable atmosphere that fosters a collaborative culture that is disciplined, focused and determined.

Both inside and out, the successful design will need to be inviting and welcome partners and other visitors, having an active façade to both the street and the adjacent Spotts Park and curb appeal’. It will need to reflect innovation and collaboration and be flexible and adaptive to the foundation’s current work and evolving needs. The building should be integrated with its neighbors and surroundings and reflect HE’s values and priorities – notably cultural inclusivity, sustainability, and health and wellness. 

In 2018, Houston Endowment provided funding to more than 200 organizations which totaled approximately US$75 million.

Connectivity between indoor and outdoor spaces within the design is important, particularly in relation to the proposed engagement functions and amenities to be contained within the building. The character of the building at entrance level should enable participation and programming with HE’s community and charitable partners, providing engagement facilities that could range from a café and exhibition/​events spaces through to corporate and affiliate meeting facilities.

The support and encouragement of Houston Endowment to the greening’ of Houston, and improvement of access and inclusivity to parks and green spaces, has been a consistent theme over the past 20 years. The building should seamlessly connect – both physically and visually – into its context and environment. Its interface with Spotts Park should be carefully considered, ensuring that it is both integrated into, yet appropriately delineated from, the Park. The design challenge at Stage Two of the competition included the exploration of a new vision for Spotts Park.

There is also a clear ambition to address sustainability and resiliency in the design and operation of the new headquarters building – to provide an exemplar for others to learn from and replicate.

The new building should honor Houston Endowment’s history, and its founders, Jesse and Mary Gibbs Jones, while focusing on the future of the foundation: embodying the past, present and future contributions of HE.

HE funds work that benefits the people of greater Houston across a range of issues. In 2018, the foundation provided project funding to 221 organizations which totaled US$74.5 million. These organizations included: Houston in Actions, Arts Connect, and the Houston Immigration Legal Services Collaborative. HE also helped Harris County acquire the historically and architecturally significant Riverside General Hospital, saving it from bankruptcy for future revival as a healthcare facility.

Houston Endowment has also continued its work with entities and 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 increase focus on education and civic engagement.

Further information on Houston Endowment can be found on its website.

Aims and Objectives

Houston Endowment’s headquarters design needed to:

  • Create a visible physical presence for Houston Endowment (HE) that is not showy or aggrandizing but presents the foundation as a catalyst for positive change in the community – proactive and attuned to community feedback. 
  • Enhance the site through exemplary architecture and placemaking to achieve a beautiful and welcoming presence that becomes a known Houston landmark and is integrated with its neighbors and surroundings.
  • Communicate HE’s work as a thought-leader and committed vital force within the region and reinforce its defining values – in particular cultural inclusivity, innovation, accessibility, transparency, sustainability, health and wellness, independence and non-partisanship.
  • Give staff and visitors an inspiring workplace environment where they can work collaboratively and meet with others; a shop-window for HE and a flexible and well-planned center that supports the organization and energizes it.
  • Create a health-promoting, flexible and future-proofed headquarters that will have longevity and meet HE’s evolving needs.
  • Be an exemplar of sustainable principles and practices, and affirm holistic sustainable values – from design through to operations and use.
  • Consider the wider connections to the surrounding landscape and a vision for improvements to Spotts Park.
  • Provide value for money for Houston Endowment.