Use the slideshow to view Hester's photographs. If viewing on a computer, clicking the image will open the slideshow in a shadow box gallery.
The Ion is the first building to be realized in the Ion District, a sixteen-acre innovation district that will ultimately span twelve city blocks in Midtown owned by Rice University. According to a press release, the effort aims to link “educational institutions, incubators, accelerators, businesses, and investors,” and create “pathways for the future workforce.”
The project is a renovation of a 1939 Art Deco department store for Sears, originally by architects Nimmons, Carr, and Wright. The alteration adds two floors, an atrium, and new facades to the existing structure. It was designed by SHoP Architects, with Gensler’s Houston office as the Architect of Record and Interior Architect. James Carpenter Design Associates led the design of the façade and atrium. James Corner Field Operations is the landscape architect. Gilbane served as general contractor and Hines is the development manager. HR&A Advisors was engaged to support the creation of a master plan and development strategy for the district.
Construction of The Ion began in 2019 and is now largely complete; opening events, delayed by the pandemic, are anticipated for Fall 2021. The first phase of the district is stated to open in 2023, with full completion by 2030. The campus includes the former Fiesta grocery store (now Greentown Labs) and a tire center designed by architect Hugo Neuhaus.
These photos were taken by photographer Paul Hester on December 13, 2019. As work was just beginning, they show the building in an early stage of deconstruction while also capturing the surrounding environment. —Jack Murphy