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.
On a site visit to POST Houston last month with OMA Partner Jason Long, the building was busy with construction activity. In the various zones of the sprawling sorting floors—the three atria, the rooftop, and 713 Music Hall, operated by Live Nation—crews were full speed ahead with finishing touches. Some parts of the downtown cultural campus are further along than others; office spaces and sexy bathrooms were nearly ready, and the food hall kiosks were going in, but the music venue was largely a shell. Time is of the essence: Willie Nelson is booked to play the room in two months. Later, hometown heroes Khruangbin will ring in the new year onstage.
No pressure, but also no worries. If anything, the project—by Houston’s Lovett Commercial, with OMA, Powers Brown, Hoerr Schaudt, and Harvey as key team members—has already proven itself as a glocal juggernaut, even earning a shout-out in Time’s write-up of Houston as one of the World’s Greatest Places 2021. It’s pulled in local talent—photographers, chefs, and farmers—and international design stars like Dutch designer Sabine Marcelis, to say nothing of the restaurants making their Houston debuts here.
If you’ve been following POST Houston on Instagram, you’ve been able to see daily progress—if you missed it, you should check out their Construction Highlight. Since last spring, the complex has been lit up with tours from various parties. They even conducted a tour via Instagram Live. Lately, a rotating cast of influencers have hiked the cavernous former post office, returning with photos that quickly went viral. Even Batman came through. We’ve already seen the distinctive stairs and roofscape through many eyes, but the images will only multiply as the venue opens to the public later this year. (If you’re interested in a pre-opening preview in honor of World Post Day, then mark your calendars for October 9.)
So much of the hype is rightfully focused on the building’s supercharged interiors and roof. From the outside, it’s more restrained. This is in part due to the facility’s use of historic tax credits, which limited the amount of alteration possible on the front elevation of the building facing Buffalo Bayou. (Windows, arranged respectfully, were able to be cut in its opposite north façade.) The whole effort is a good argument for inventive forms of preservation instead of the Houston tradition of scheduling a demolition crew.
Hester’s images, though old, capture the wider urban context of the facility. Scrolling through, you wander with him, carving around the long structure and down into Sesquicentennial Park. Construction was just getting started, so these images doubly serve as "before" photos—they're markers of the site’s pre-improvement state and also street photography which just preceded the pandemic's crises. For now, POST Houston is still adrift in a sea of parking, isolated along Franklin Street in the armpit of the I-45 and I-10 interchange. But if you build it, they will come. The campus will be a new center of gravity for downtown life. Once operational, I hope it feels like the post-pandemic reward we’ve all been waiting for.
OMA Partner Jason Long presented the project during his lecture “Sharing is Daring: POST Houston, Post Civic” last April. Watch a video of the lecture here. Stay tuned for a thorough assessment in Cite 103. —Jack Murphy