Gerald D. Hines passed away on Sunday at the age of 95. An obituary in the Houston Chronicle quickly followed, as did a heartfelt video and tribute from Hines, his eponymous company, that celebrates his accomplishments and influence.
Hines realized the developments that made Houston famous in the second half of the 20th century. For the nearly fifty years of RDA’s existence, our members have worked on his projects and, since the earliest issues of Cite, our critics have responded to work he commissioned. It’s fair to say that we live in Hines’s Houston.
Hines also improves cities around the world. His company, now led by his son Jeffrey, has developed many well-known buildings, including Pelli Clark Pelli’s Salesforce Tower in San Francisco, Foster + Partners’s CityCenter in Washington D.C., Atelier Jean Nouvel’s tower for the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, Gehry Partners’s DZ Bank in Berlin, and Diagonal Mar in Barcelona, among hundreds of others. Hines now has more than 4,800 employees, is active in 225 cities in eighty countries, and oversees a portfolio of $144.1 billion in assets.
Gerald D. Hines cared about good design and about connecting directly with architects and artists. His projects transformed their environments for the better with their quality and inclusion of public art. They elevated the standard of construction for speculative commercial buildings. His patronage of major architects set the stage for the rise of the later debated starchitect figure at the end of the 20th century and his support of architectural education will continue to benefit students in Houston for decades to come.
In 2015, an event organized to celebrate Gerald’s ninetieth birthday brought together a host of architects who worked for him and was moderated by critic Paul Goldberger, who filed Hines's obituary for the New York Times. Speaking about Pennzoil Place at the symposium, Hines remarked, “Architecture, in many ways, can reduce your risk. That’s what we look for: 'How can we reduce our risk?' The development business is a very risky world.” Hines knew this, and still refused to settle for nothing less than the best.
As a tribute to the life and work of Gerald D. Hines we share the remembrances, anecdotes, and stories below from friends, former colleagues, and a few of those in Gerry’s orbit who generously contributed them to Cite Digital over the past few days.
Rusty Bienvenue, Executive Director, AIA Houston: We understand the influence Mr. Hines had on Houston architecture, but we don’t always think about his influence on us as Houstonians. Growing up, I lived mostly in small towns but came to Houston often to visit relatives. As a small child, I remember being mesmerized by One Shell Plaza. I’m old enough to remember when it was the tallest building downtown. As a teenager, I found Pennzoil Place to be awe inspiring and beautiful. I even bought a t-shirt with an outline of the building on it and proudly wore it home to Michigan. When I moved permanently to Houston in 1990, Transco Tower was all the rage. Before I even knew his name, Mr. Hines helped foster my interest in great architecture. When I became Executive Director of AIA Houston and the Architecture Center Houston, I was fortunate enough to know him personally and was always struck by his wisdom, kindness, and generosity.
Raymond Brochstein, Brochsteins (retired) and Rice Architecture ’55: In 1969 my father and uncle acquired a tract that became Post Oak Central. We had Gerry work on developing it, but we retained the land in a long-term lease. SOM did Gerry’s buildings until then, but my father wanted something else. We gave him a list of architects, at least five. Some of them, like I.M. Pei or Roche Dinkeloo, said they “didn’t do developer work.” But Philip Johnson had no work at the time, so he took it. Gerry told him what he wanted but it took Johnson’s office a number of tries before they got it right.
Gerry was doing One Shell Plaza at that time. It took guts to do that. It had the finest finishes in the city and when it was done, it really changed Houston. He managed to get my business the job to do the interiors for Baker Botts, a law firm that occupied 3.5 floors. All of the offices featured custom-designed woodwork—furniture, secretary stations, and paneling. We used Prima Vera for this, the same species that Mies used on the interior of the Farnsworth House. We also had some some work for a bank in the lobby using imported walnut burl. The SOM guys wanted perfection. This project put Brochsteins on the map.
Later, I was on the board of RepublicBank when they were commissioning a new building. It was decided that Gerry had the best proposal, and Gerry said if he got the project then Philip Johnson would do the building. Johnson’s preliminary design was uninspiring; it wasn’t unique. It was similar to Pennzoil Place’s curtain wall. The board didn’t care for it because it wasn’t distinctive, so he had to try something else.
Hines changed how real estate developers approached the design and construction of buildings. Among developers, his group was a cut above. They wanted good quality but they damn sure wanted it at a good price. He had people who would chop up a design and save cost without affecting appearance. Gerry had good people and he rewarded them. He was basically an engineer and he knew what he was doing. He never used a calculator; I only saw him use a slide ruler in meetings. He was a very bright guy.
Gerry did a lot for Houston. He put us on the map.
John J. Casbarian, Harry K. and Albert K. Smith Professor of Architecture and Interim Dean, Rice Architecture: For over half a century, Hines was the most influential figure in Houston architecture. He understood that good architecture added immeasurable value to his developments and hired the very best architects to work on them. At Rice Architecture he made invaluable contributions to both our Totalization comprehensive design studios and our real estate development curriculum. Just last December he participated on a design jury at school and it was clear that even late in life he relished the conversation about design. His pursuit of design excellence is his lasting legacy.
Stephen Fox, Lecturer, Rice Architecture and University of Houston Gerald D. Hines College of Architecture and Design and Fellow, Anchorage Foundation: Hines was a native of Gary, Indiana. He came to Houston as a mechanical engineering graduate of Purdue University but abandoned the air-conditioning business to launch a career in real estate. His ability to profit by cleverly figuring out how to work around limitations was a hallmark of his long career. Engineering rationality and careful calculation disciplined his developer-driven enthusiasm. Hines was especially known for his patronage of outstanding architects. Johnson/Burgee Architects; Skidmore, Owings & Merrill; Pei Cobb Freed & Partners; Roche Dinkeloo and Associates; Pelli Clarke Pelli, Robert A. M. Stern Architects, and Foster + Partners head the list.
The meteoric expansion of Houston’s economy between 1973 and 1983 was when Hines emerged in the consciousness of the U.S. design media as not merely a client but a “patron” of architecture. His “protégé” was Philip Johnson. Together they came up with the twin-towered Pennzoil Place office building in downtown Houston, finished in 1976. Its sensational diagonal profiles undermined the strict engineering logic of One Shell Plaza but compensated by generating both profit and publicity. Pennzoil Place changed the way office buildings were designed because Hines trusted Johnson’s intuition that architectural singularity would be the project’s greatest marketing advantage.
Gerald Hines may have made his fortune in real estate development, but he made his reputation with architecture. The gift that his son and business partner Jeffrey C. Hines made to the University of Houston in 1997 led to the university’s College of Architecture and Design being named for Gerald Hines. In 1989 Hines was honored at RDA’s second gala. He was elected to honorary membership in the Texas Society of Architects in 1973 and the American Institute of Architects in 1984.
Gerald Hines loved architecture. And it loved him in return.
Bill Fulton, Director, and Kyle Shelton, Deputy Director, Kinder Institute for Urban Research: Gerald Hines was an innovative real estate developer who shaped the field in so many ways. In the ‘50s and ‘60s, he was one of a small number of developers who revolutionized the field, which previously had been mostly a local industry. In doing so, he helped make Houston a leading headquarters city for developers and architects as well. He also understood the value of world-class architecture—not just as great design, but as a feature of his buildings that tenants would pay more for.
We should never forget, however, that Hines’ projects and legacies gave shape to entire sections of Houston itself. They are the seeds around which so much else has grown. Downtown buildings such as Pennzoil Place and One Shell Plaza help propel central Houston forward remain models to this day. Gerald and his leadership at Hines provided groundbreaking work that has shaped the city.
Richard Keating, Keating Architecture and former Director of SOM’s Houston office: I was saddened Sunday when I heard of Gerry's passing and reached out to my many friends at Hines. I first met him when he came to the Chicago office of SOM to meet with my mentor, Bruce Graham, about One Shell Plaza. Shell Oil decided to move to Houston and contacted Hines as a potential developer. Bruce had met Gerry on a golf course in Point Clear, Alabama, and had offered to help him with some structural problems he was engaged in on a residential high rise he was renovating, so when Gerry won the rights to the Shell development he contacted Bruce to help him.
I remember he would come to Chicago and had meetings on the fifth floor of the Inland Steel building at 7 a.m. which was hard on the partners and team. Later as the project moved beyond the design phase, he wanted to have a local architect do the working drawings in Houston so his team at Hines could influence the work. Instead, Bruce asked me to move to Houston to set up an office for this purpose. I was twenty-six years old and had been working on another Hines project in Cincinnati. It felt like I was given a McDonalds franchise as SOM was in the middle of an enormous building boom and I was working directly with what would become a major client of SOM's. This was before I was a partner, so the design work was done both in Chicago and San Francisco. At one point we had three 50-story buildings underway in Miami, Houston, and Minneapolis and I built the office to 200 people pretty quickly.
Shortly after my arrival in Houston in 1976, Bruce Graham and Gerry had a falling out and no longer worked together, which greatly added to the opportunity for Philip Johnson in Houston. This was pretty alarming to me with those 200 people. Luckily, I had just developed a relationship with Harlan Crow and had been hired by Kenneth Schnitzer for Allied Bank, so all was not lost.
Gerry will always be remembered for his drive for architectural significance and construction quality. He was unique as a developer in that way and touched the lives of a wide number of people in the industry.
Mark Lamster, Architecture Critic, Dallas Morning News and Author, The Man in the Glass House: Philip Johnson’s career would have looked very different without Gerry Hines. Johnson really only had one skyscraper to his name when he began working for Hines relatively late in his career. Their collaboration transformed Johnson into a defining architect of tall buildings. Many of them, including some of his best, were for Hines, Pennzoil Place above all.
The Houston skyline is very much a product of Hines’s vision. His gift was to yoke blue chip architecture to tight cost controls—always necessary when dealing with Johnson. The result was sophisticated architecture that would draw high returns.
Ryan LeVasseur, Managing Director of Direct Real Estate, Rice Management Company: It was an honor to work for Mr. Hines and the company he built. I had the pleasure on multiple occasions, alongside my colleagues in the Hines New York office, to present our current projects to the company’s indefatigable founder. I can attest that everything that has been said about Mr. Hines being a visionary leader was evidenced in those meetings. First, Mr. Hines cared deeply about the quality of the product that his company developed. Second, he constantly sought to innovate and fostered and maintained a creative spirit throughout the company. Third, he espoused and ingrained in his thousands of employees a deep sense of loyalty, not just to the people within the organization, but also the many designers, engineers, builders, and other collaborators who worked on project after project for Hines. And fourth and most importantly, he personified integrity, a trait that is sometimes in limited supply in the building industry. It is that very quality—integrity—that allowed Mr. Hines to grow his company into a world leader in real estate development and investment.
Marley Lott, lawyer at Baker Botts and friend: I knew Gerry for forty years, both as a lawyer at Baker Botts working on the Hines account and as a friend. What made him special was his singular mix of intelligence, ambition, curiosity, and decency. He was ambitious not just entrepreneurially, but culturally. He had absolutely no guile, which is unusual for person of his stature.
Baker Botts’s office is located in One Shell Plaza. It’s a solid, solid piece of architecture. A Hines investor once told me, “You can go into the central air conditioning plant in that building and lick the floor.” It is that well maintained.
Gerry had a great aesthetic and he cared for architecture. It was a care that came naturally to him. You can feel it in the culture of the company and in its properties. He cared about downtowns and the urban environment. But when he spoke out about issues, he didn’t do it from a pulpit. I salute Gerald D. Hines along with Will and Ima Hogg and John and Dominique de Menil as those individuals who caused people to take notice of Houston in the 20th century.
Maria Nicanor, Executive Director, Rice Design Alliance, Rice Architecture: Mr. Hines was a rare real estate developer. The kind we now desperately need more of, especially in Houston. I met Mr. Hines’ work many times before I ever had the chance of meeting him, but the stories about him preceded the man, as did his aura during final reviews at the school, surrounded by admiring students, faculty and friends. His impact can be seen in buildings that became important works of modern and postmodern architecture and though rooted in Houston, his work and influence has left a lasting and meaningful mark in cities around the world. His heartfelt care for supporting architectural education was invaluable and truly unusual in the world of real estate. Our work at RDA will forever exist in a Houston shaped by his vision.
John O’Connell, CEO, Kendall/Heaton: It was with great sadness that we learned of Mr. Hines passing this past weekend. Gerald Hines and our firm, Kendall/Heaton, have a long history together. Mr. Hines gave our firm its first major commission in 1978, and since then we have been beneficiaries of nearly sixty major commissions for Hines as architect of record.
Bill Kendall, our firm’s founder, knew Gerald Hines on a personal basis. Bill admired Gerald Hines as a great man. Bill’s admiration for Mr. Hines was not simply due to his success as a real estate developer, but because of the way Mr. Hines went about achieving that success—by creating something better than what others offered and striving to better himself on every successive project. It was exciting and gratifying to play a part in these projects that transformed our cities. Bill, who liked informality and insisted everyone refer to him on a first name basis, referred to Gerald Hines as “Mr. Hines” as a sign of his respect for his integrity, fairness, the trust he put in his own employees, his sense of loyalty, and his commitment to quality in both service and architecture.
Most of us here at Kendall/Heaton who have worked on Mr. Hines’ projects over the last four decades knew him mostly from the occasional project meeting and professional events. We saw the leader of a national and then international real estate company who was as enthusiastic about the number of air conditioning zones on a floor, or how deliveries got from the loading dock to a retail space as he was about the iconic presence of the building on the skyline. This enthusiasm made him seem younger than his years—which is all the more remarkable when we consider that he was in his mid-fifties when our firm started forty-two years ago. We had a ringside seat to see many of the innovative initiatives Mr. Hines’ incorporated in his early projects as they evolved and were embraced over time by organizations like LEED and WELL that recognize the impact of buildings on the environment and the opportunities for buildings to create healthy, and fulfilling working and living environments.
Mr. Hines’ legacy extends beyond the buildings he developed and the dynamic company he created to firms like ours and others like us in the building and design community that have learned and benefited from the vision and tremendous accomplishments of Mr. Hines. All of us at Kendall/Heaton extend our deepest condolences to the Hines family.
Patricia Oliver, Dean, University of Houston Gerald D. Hines College of Architecture and Design: I am truly saddened by the passing of Gerald D. Hines. At the Venice Biennale in 2014, we had a wonderful dinner at a small trattoria. It was the end of our trip and the faculty and students were celebrating the opening of our exhibition. We were beginning to plan Mr. Hines’ 90th birthday to be held at the College. He got a far-away look on his face and when I asked what he was thinking, he said he wished he could live for another 90 years.
In truth, his legacy will live on. We see a college forever transformed by his commitment and generosity to our students. His imprint is on the international studios and his legacy lives in the internships he has funded. Beyond the College, the Houston skyline pays tribute to him and projects of extraordinary impact populate the major cities around the globe. He proved that architecture and design provided value and forever changed the commercial real estate world.
Mr. Hines was a fervent supporter of the University of Houston. In 1997, he made a $7 million gift establishing a permanently endowed fund at the College of Architecture. The gift connected his world-renown name to the College and quickly elevated the institution’s stature in the architecture community.
It was important for Mr. Hines and his wife, Barbara, to advance with the College and engage with its students. Over the last ten years, they continued to support the College with additional gifts funding international programming, student scholarships, internships abroad, and most recently, the new Advanced Media Technology Lab.
As I mentioned above, Hines traveled to the Venice Biennale with students and faculty where the College won the Global Arts Foundation Prize for its exhibition. Three years later, Hines and his wife Barbara, traveled to Berlin, Germany, to participate in the College’s “Houston: Genetic City” exhibition opening and symposium at the most prestigious architecture gallery in Europe.
That level of involvement was totally in character. The first week I was in Houston, he called me up and invited me to lunch. He arrived with his architect, Jon Pickard and one of his Vice Presidents, John Mooz. We met at a tiny, little sandwich shop across the street from his BG Group Place project in Houston. Hunched around a tiny, rickety table these three giants of architecture and development quizzed me on the College and the plans for the future. He then asked if I wanted to tour his building. Before I knew it, we were crawling inside the state-of-the-art mechanical system on the 18th floor of the office tower. He was so excited to tell me how this new system was going to transform the energy consumption of the tower and make office life ten times more productive. He was a mechanical engineer, after all. From that 18th floor, we looked out toward Pennzoil Place and he regaled me with stories about why Philip Johnson built two towers instead of one, and how his One Shell Plaza was the tallest building in Houston when it was built in 1971. It was clearly his city. His VP took a picture of us and that picture graced the cover of the Hines newsletter that month. It was a memorable first meeting.
Yes, his legacy will live on. His gifts to Houston and his gifts to the College will live on. He showed us that architecture and design had the power to transform cities. His legacy is part of our DNA. He will be missed.
These remarks are from a letter that Dean Oliver shared with the Hines College Community on August 24, 2020.
Troy Schaum, Schaum/Shieh and Associate Professor, Rice Architecture: I met Gerald several times over the years as he remained very engaged in the development of architecture students. During a review of a student’s project he would never fail to endorse the boldest aspect of a project. He had the ability to look a wall of drawings and zero in on the one that contained the idea. He could leave the rest of the work. He seemed to trust that one clearly stated idea could encapsulate the power of architecture. He was someone who believed in the power of an idea but more importantly the power of a person with a conviction. He encouraged our students to stick to their convictions. I appreciate his participation in, and support of, our Totalization program.
Aaron Seward, Editor, Texas Architect: If the American development community were to kneel before the alter of a god other than Mammon, they could scarcely do better than the graven image of the dearly departed Gerald D. Hines. He was one who saw the value in the upfront investment in quality design and construction, which, bogglingly, seems to be an increasing rarity among developers these days. Growing up in Houston in the 70s and 80s as I did, Hines' influence was inescapable. Though I did not then know his name, I moved regularly through the built environments his company created. It was in the cool hush of the Galleria, specifically the Neiman Marcus store, where my mother and grandmother loved to shop, that I learned to place good manners before the pangs of desire. The beguiling profiles of Pennzoil Place and the RepublicBank Center filled my imagination with the wild possibilities of seemingly impossible constructions. The sweeping beacon atop the Transco Tower beamed the message that wherever one was in the vast and uncertain terrain of Houston, one was in the city. (Incidentally, all of these buildings were designed by Philip Johnson.) If I believed then that my hometown was a place of high sophistication, the equal of world capitals like New York, London, or Tokyo, as opposed to a mud hole on the edge of a vast and cruel frontier, Hines is in large part to blame. He will be missed.
Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM): We are deeply saddened to learn about the passing of Gerald D. Hines, Founder and Chairman of Hines. He was a longtime collaborator of ours, and a pioneer who transformed the built environment—he will be missed greatly. We extend our deepest condolences to the Hines family and team.
This statement was previously posted by SOM on behalf of its global partnership and subsequently shared with Cite Digital.
Sarah Whiting, Dean and Josep Lluís Sert Professor of Architecture, Harvard Graduate School of Design and former Dean, Rice Architecture: Gerald Hines and Louis Sklar came to the school early in my tenure there—I think it was in 2012—and did one of our “Insider Trading” lunchtime talks. This was a series that offered up a chance for us to pause and talk through issues among ourselves at the school, sometimes with invited guests. The session was titled “The Value of Architecture.” The audience’s optimism soared when Hines and Sklar insisted that “good design doesn’t necessarily cost more,” but then plummeted when Hines recounted having only had to put 10% equity into projects early in his career—when he was doing Pennzoil, for example—versus the 50% he was putting in towards the end, when he was working on large scale projects like MoMA and La Défense. It was sobering to recognize to what extent the banks determined the breadth that developers—let alone architects—might have. When he had only 10% at stake, Hines could take the risk of hiring someone like Philip Johnson for Pennzoil, even after they’d rejected four different schemes by Johnson for Post Oak Central.
Hines, in short, valued architecture and architects. Pennzoil Place, One Shell Plaza, the Galleria, and the many small buildings on Richmond with which he started his career: Houston lives on as a more valuable city because of Gerald Hines.