Overview

Expansive, experimental, resilient, energetic, and athletic—these vibrant words capture Houston’s commercial architecture. The firms and architects on this list create work that mirrors the culture of southeast Texas, whether it’s through a connection to the environment on the Gulf Coast or the freedom that comes with a city that eschews zoning regulations. The famous Texas commitment to sports is prevalent in the design, so is the desire to protect the environment. From innovative indoor airflow systems to football stadiums designed to help guide fans through them and even in the glass-bottom pools suspended above the city, the creatives at these firms find uniquely Houstonian ways to conceptualize, innovate, and execute their work.

Top Architects

Brave / Architecture

Architects:
Fernando L. Brave

Awards:
Texas Society of Architects Honor Awards,
AIA Architecture Design Award

Address:
4200 Montrose Boulevard Suite 400 Houston, TX 77006

About Brave / Architecture

Fernando L. Brave founded Brave / Architecture in 2002. He is a member of the prestigious American Institute of Architects College of Fellows—often abbreviated FAIA—which is the highest honor awarded by the AIA and a designation shared by only 3 percent of its members. He has been active in Houston architectural circles since 1988 in professional organizations like the Rice Design Alliance and the Texas Society of Architects. Brave is also a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Accredited Professional (LEED AP) and teaches design at the University of Houston’s Graduate Architecture Program. The firm’s emphasis on site-specific design leads to projects that feel personal and that fit with their environment, regardless of size. With only two principals and a nine-person office team, Brave / Architecture is smaller compared to many firms on the list but its accomplishments are still impressive. CultureMap Houston called its work “a stunning game changer” and the firm has received multiple awards from AIA Houston and the Texas Society of Architects.

Featured Projects

Fernando Brave embraced the challenge of creating a new gallery on a small, urban lot for Sicardi Gallery. To ensure a wide range of art could be viewed, Brave designed the building with a high-ceiling section and created smaller rooms for more intimate art pieces. To distinguish the commercial nature of a gallery from the more observational uses of the nearby Menil Collection and Houston Center for Photography museums, Brave placed the office and workspaces within earshot of the door. The Sicardi Gallery received an AIA Houston Design Award in 2014. Fernando Brave is also responsible for creating the Houston Police Museum, located at 1200 Travis Street. Located in the Houston Police Department’s lobby, this museum uses an eye-catching contrast of deep blue and shimmering white for its displays, which include a police helicopter hanging from the ceiling. Brave / Architecture used UV protective film to wrap the 3,000 square foot exhibition area and help preserve the historic items inside.

DLR Group Houston

Architects:
Filo Castore

Awards:
American Council of Engineering Companies Gold Award,
AIA Excellence in Architectural Detail Award

Address:
Milam Street, Suite 100 Houston, TX 77002

About DLR Group Houston

The DLR Group celebrated its 50th anniversary by opening an office in Texas. The firm tapped Italian native and longtime Houston architect Filo Castore to lead operations. Castore brings a lifetime of enthusiasm for community and environmental stewardship to the culture of the Texas headquarters. The office is located in the LEED Gold certified, 24-story 919 Milan in downtown Houston. It features a coworking space where design professionals from around Houston are encouraged to collaborate, with rotating art exhibits and easy access to Houston’s six-mile pedestrian tunnel network. The DLR Group is an initial signatory to the AIA 2030 commitment, a 2006 call for all new buildings, developments, and renovations to be carbon neutral by 2030. Architect Magazine ranked DLR Group No. 1 on its 2012 list of the top 50 U.S. firms.

Featured Projects

DLR Group’s commitment to environmental stewardship and enthusiasm for design converged in its Solar Installation at NRG Stadium. Completed in 2015, the project added 600 solar panels spread across four locations on pedestrian bridges and an hourglass-shaped 4,500 square foot canopy in front of the stadium. The panels produce enough energy to power 22 Houston homes each year. The canopy is decorated with energy-efficient LED lights that complement NRG Stadium’s lengthy columns and domed roof. The NRG Stadium Solar Installation received a Gold Award for energy from the American Council of Engineering Companies. DLR Group partnered with Page to overhaul the player and fan experience for the University of Houston’s basketball teams. The 53,000 square foot Guy V. Lewis Development Facility emphasizes the technological needs of a modern sports team, with docking stations in locker rooms, video walls, and interactive flat-screen displays for play review. Opening in 2015, the building was named after famed Cougars basketball coach Guy V. Lewis, who led the men’s team to the Final Four five times. The Guy V. Lewis Development Facility was awarded Best Sports/Entertainment Project from the Engineering News-Record Texas & Louisiana in 2016.

Gensler

Architects:
Art Gensler
David J. Calkins

Awards:
ENR #1 Green Building Design Firm in Commercial Offices,
Building Design + Construction Giants #1 Office Sector Architecture Firm,
Texas Society of Architects Architecture Firm Award,
Preservation Houston Good Brick Award for Renovation

Address:
711 Louisiana Street, Suite 300, Houston, TX 77002

About Gensler

Gensler was founded in 1965 and opened its first Texas office in Houston in 1972. Gensler’s projects in Houston range from multi-use planned-neighborhood developments to hair salons and media centers. The global firm has an enormous reach that extends across Texas and uses its size to provide a “one-firm” experience for clients. The Houston regional managing principal is David J. Calkins, FAIA, who earned his Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Architecture from Rice University. The Houston Business Journal ranked it No. 1 on its list of the largest Houston area architectural firms in 2014. The company received the Texas Society of Architects Architecture Firm Award in 2015 and a Good Brick Award for Renovation from Preservation Houston in 2016.

Featured Projects

The Southwestern Energy Headquarters is a 10-story campus that links two buildings and 1,000 employees. Opening in 2014, the headquarters consolidated employees of Southwestern Energy from five different locations. It sits on a 26.5-acre development in Springwood Village near The Woodlands. The bright combination of glass, metal, and trees evokes thoughts of energy, while the building design encourages collaboration. The two towers are connected by a pedestrian sky bridge and a rooftop deck. The Houston Business Journal credited Gensler’s River Oaks District with ushering in a wave of high-end retail and restaurants. The mixed-use development, opened in the fall of 2014, was a lesson in planned urbanism. The design was modeled off of traditional city blocks, with space for 270 apartments and 100,000-square-feet of offices.

HOK Houston

Architects:
Bill Hellmuth
Carl Galiato
Roger Soto

Awards:
ENR Califrnia Design Firm of the Year,
USGBC Organizational Excellence Award,
USGBC Natural Leader Award,
Houston Business Journal Landmark Award,
AIA Houston Design Award,
AIA Merit Award

Address:
3200 Southwest Freeway, Suite 900, Houston, TX 77027

About HOK Houston

HOK was founded in 1955 in St. Louis and specializes in a wide range of commercial work from sports stadiums to airports and hotels. It currently has 23 offices nationwide including the Houston branch, which opened in 1984. The local team designed its own LEED-Platinum open-floor office, which is led by Roger Soto as the principal and regional design director. It’s hard to imagine Houston without the space program or the energy sector, and its work with NASA and BP is what makes HOK’s local office uniquely Houston. The global firm worked on NASA’s first LEED Platinum project and a BP computing center. HOK Houston’s portfolio has won several architectural and design awards, including the Houston Business Journal’s Landmark Award.

Featured Projects

The NASA Johnson Space Center’s Building 20 is 57 percent more energy efficient than a typical office building. HOK achieved this with an underflow air system, an energy wheel that pre-conditions outdoor air, and a solar hot water harvesting system. The firm’s stated aesthetic for Building 20 was a “less-is-more” approach, with understated, rectangular angles on the sparsely decorated building. Johnson Space Center Building 20 won an AIA Houston Design Award and an Engineering News-Record Texas & Louisiana Judges Award for Best Green Building Project.
With the vision of a forward-thinking company, HOK helped update the Houston Metro Light Rain for modern urban needs. The firm created a recognizable design that was flexible enough to allow for unique flourishes at individual stations. Each of the 16 stations in the transit corridor was covered by a translucent, 350-foot canopy, while landscapes and platform patterns varied. The Houston Metro Light Rail design received an AIA Merit Award for Urban Design.

Huitt-Zollars

Architects:
Chris Hudson

Awards:
Quality Texas Foundation Engagement Level Award,
Quality Texas Foundation Pioneer Level Award,
Houston Business Journal Landmark Award for Hospitality,
AIA Houston Design Award

Address:
1717 McKinney Avenue, Suite 1400, Dallas, TX 75202

About Huitt-Zollars

Huitt-Zollars is an award-winning firm with projects across the globe, but it makes this list for having the good sense to partner with the Houston-founded Morris Architects. Morris Architects was founded in 1938, and the two firms merged in 2012. Its president and CEO Chris Hudson received a Bachelor of Science and a Master of Architecture from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The firm was one of 10 that worked on the Regent Square development near Buffalo Bayou, and it was the local associate for Philip Johnson and John Burgee on the Williams Tower, also known as “the Transco.” Huitt-Zollars has consulted on development projects with the city of Houston and received multiple environmental awards, including one for Ingenious Waste Reduction and Reuse. Morris Architects operated as a Huitt-Zollars company until 2017, then changed its name to Huitt-Zollars proper in March of the same year.

Featured Projects

When Super Bowl LI came to Houston, the 29-story, 1.1 million-square-foot Marriott Marquis Convention Center Hotel Houston became its headquarters. Guests staying in one of its 1,000 rooms could see more than the game. A Texas-shaped lazy river flows on a rooftop. The Marriott Marquis Houston won the Houston Business Journal’s Landmark Award for Hospitality. Morris Architects also redesigned The Lone Star College Engineering and Manufacturing Institute. This 70s-era suburban campus was transformed into a school the Houston Chronicle called “sleek” and “integrated.” The 70,000 square foot campus has five classrooms, 28 labs, and a lightly wooded aesthetic. The Lone Star College Engineering and Manufacturing Institute received an AIA Design Award in 2014.

Jackson & Ryan Architects

Architects:
Guy Jackson
Jeffrey D. Ryan

Awards:
Houston Business Journal Landmark Award,
U.S. Green Building Council Award,
AIA Design Award,
Golden Trowel Award,
Houston Business Journal Landmark Award

Address:
2370 Rice Blvd., Suite 210, Houston, TX 77005

About Jackson & Ryan Architects

Jackson & Ryan Architects was founded in 1986 and runs a design-focused operation dedicated to Houston. The firm has remained in the same location in Rice Village for 30 years with a 35-person team that takes a collaborative, concept-to-build approach to its work. At Jackson & Ryan, the same team sees a project through from start to finish. The firm doesn’t stick to any particular theme, preferring instead to focus on the merits of each individual project. Jackson & Ryan brings the same approach to churches, sports stadiums, and luxury apartments. The team’s work has received numerous awards, including the Houston Business Journal’s Landmark Award, a Green Building Award from the U.S. Green Building Council, and an AIA Design Award.

Featured Projects

The glass-bottom pool that sticks out from the roof of Market Square Tower, a 40-story apartment building in downtown, was the talk of Houston and a few other towns when it opened. A video of a Market Square Tower resident calmly sauntering over the Houston skyline was picked up by Business Insider, POPSUGAR, CNN, and the New York Post, among others. The tower also provides an excellent view of its namesake, Market Square Park. Market Square Tower received the 2017 Golden Trowel Award for excellence in the construction of flat and level floors. Another Jackson & Ryan project, the Looscan Branch Library, was the first LEED-certified building in Houston. It was designed with large expanses of glass so passersby would feel invited to come inside. The 20,400 square foot branch holds approximately 100,000 items. The Looscan Branch Library received the Houston Business Journal’s Landmark Award for Public/Private Partnership in 2008.

Kirksey Architecture

Address:
6909 Portwest Drive, Houston, TX 77024

About Kirksey Architecture

Kirksey Architecture is an architectural firm that operates in Houston and Austin, two of the most prominent cities in Texas. The practice has a strong commitment to innovative and collaborative design, one that integrates high performance and sustainability in its process. Founder John Kirksey serves as chairman of the company, and he is one of the pioneers of sustainable design in the state. He is a member of several civic and professional boards in Houston and a Fellow of the AIA, whose main focus centers on how every project affects the community’s culture, people, and the environment in a positive way.
The architectural firm divides its massive roster into several teams, each one operating on a specific field. These markets extend across 25 areas of expertise, which include collegiate and higher education, healthcare, industrial, science, technology, and multifamily sectors. The company’s proficiency and efficiency in its craft have earned the recognition of many industry bodies, including the AIA, American Society of Interior Designers (ASID), and several local organizations.

Featured Projects

The featured Kirby Collection is a 1,200,000 square foot building completed by Kirksey Architecture in partnership with Keating Kahn Architects. It is a LEED-certified structure designed to bridge the River Oaks and Western University and the downtown business district. The 25-story high-rise features 199 units, two levels of retail space, a 13-story commercial Class-A office tower, and 5 floors of parking space.

Natalye Appel + Associates Architects

Address:
6909 Portwest Drive, Houston, TX 77024

About Natalye Appel + Associates Architects

Natalye Appel, FAIA, founded Natalye Appel + Associates Architects in 1987. The small partnership’s five members work on offices, art projects, and public spaces; most of their work is located in Texas. Appel, an alumna of the Rice University School of Architecture, is a regular presence in Houston. She is a member of the board of the Hermann Park Conservancy and previously served on the boards of AIA, the Rice Design Alliance, and the Greater Houston Preservation Alliance. She is a LEED Certified Accredited Professional. Natalye Appel + Associates Architects was the Houston AIA Firm of the Year in 2012.

Featured Projects

Natalye Appel + Associates Architects led the 2011 project to modernize the Oak Forest Branch of the Houston Library. The renovation reimagined the 7,500 square foot original and created a 4,500 square foot addition. The library uses a mix of glass and natural light to create indoor and outdoor reading areas, each with individual entrances to minimize distractions. Appel partnered with Architect Works Inc. and James Ray Architects on the project. The Oak Forest Branch Library received an AIA Houston Design Award, a Swamplot Award for Best Neighborhood Upgrade, and the Houston Business Journal’s Landmark Award for Community Impact. When Levy Park was renovated in 2016, Natalye Appel designed the Levy Park Central Pavilion. Its design features a boardwalk that winds through the oak trees and a curved concrete pavilion that houses the Levy Conservancy offices. It even includes enough space for a symphony orchestra. The Houston Chronicle called the pavilion the park makeover’s “most prominent feature.”

Page Southerland Page, Inc.

Architects:
Larry Speck

Awards:
Texas Society of Architects Medal for Lifetime Achievement,
AIA Design Award,
AIA Firm of the Year,
Urban Land Institute Houston Development of Distinction Award

Address:
1100 Louisiana St., Suite 1, Houston, TX 77002

About Page Southerland Page, Inc.

This 500-person firm, with offices across the world, has maintained a strong presence in Houston since 1973. Beginning in the early 1990s, Page worked to revitalize Houston’s downtown through adaptive reuse of old buildings. The Houston office members are so proud of their downtown location that they sometimes lead architectural tours on a red, double-decker bus. The firm assisted the Houston Medical Center after it was damaged in a then-record flood in 2001 and has been outspoken in the wake of Hurricane Harvey about what architects should do to protect cities from floods. Page’s Buffalo Bayou Park renovation project elements survived the hurricane and rains despite the high water. Page’s Houston projects have received numerous design and architectural awards, and Page’s Senior Principal Larry Speck, FAIA, received the 2017 Medal for Lifetime Achievement from the Texas Society of Architects.

Featured Projects

Page collaborated with the DLR Group to create TDECU, the perfect experience for football fans at the University of Houston. The 40,000-seat TDECU stadium emphasizes easy functionality, clear sightlines, and colors loyal to the school’s Cougars football team. A permeable white and red corrugated metal wrap uses red accents to guide fans toward the entry. Locals call it the “Cougar Cage” or just “the Cage.” TDECU stadium won a Design Award from AIA and received the 2015 Landmark Award for Public Assembly from the Houston Business Journal. For Page, The Rice was the building that started it all. The firm renovated the former 1,000-bed Rice Hotel—which had once been the site of the Texas State Capitol but had sat empty for two decades—into the Rice Lofts in 1998. This kickstarted a wave of development in downtown Houston. In 2015, Page returned to the 18-story building, now dubbed The Rice under new ownership, to design a sleek update to its interiors and lifestyle amenities. The Rice renovation earned an Urban Land Institute Houston Development of Distinction Award.

Pickard Chilton

Architects:
Jon Pickard
William D. Chilton
Anthony J. Markese

Awards:
AIA IDP Outstanding Firm Award

Address:
980 Chapel St, New Haven, CT 06510

About Pickard Chilton

Pickard Chilton has designed public and private sector projects in Houston since 1997 and has built strong relationships throughout its over two-decade industry tenure. Its 50-person team takes a collaborative approach to work on commercial high-rises, corporate buildings, and university campuses, creating ambitious projects without neglecting the people who occupy them. Principal Architect Jon Pickard has lectured at Rice University and collaborated with the Houston-based global development firm Hines on two significant buildings that opened in recent years. The two firms received an award together for architectural innovation from Architectural Record Magazine. Pickard Chilton has more than 15 Fortune 500 clients and received more than 160 architectural awards, including the IDP Outstanding Firm Award from the AIA. The firm is also part of the U.S. Green Building Council since 2001.

Featured Projects

The Houston Chronicle called 609 Main “one of the more ambitious skyscrapers developed downtown in years” when it was completed in May. Reaching 48 stories with its glass walls, 609 Main looks something like a sister building to principal architect Jon Pickard’s other recent collaboration with Hines, the BG Group Building. The design for 609 Main was inspired by one of Houston’s most famous buildings, Philip Johnson and John Burgee’s Pennzoil Place from 1975. The building has Houston’s first underfloor air system, which saves energy and allows tenants to set the temperature on their individual floors. Pickard Chilton also handled planning and design for the sprawling ExxonMobil Energy Center in Springwoods Village. The centerpiece, a 10,000 square foot cube that looks like it floats over a plaza, speaks to the scientific endeavors of the company it’s named after. The Energy Center received honorable mention in the Steel Erectors Association of America’s 2013 Steel Erection Project of the Year.

Studio RED Architects

Architects:
Pete Ed Garrett
Trung Doan
Brady Vinje

Awards:
AIA Houston Firm of the Year,
Houston Business Journal Landmark Award,
ULI Development of Distinction Award,
Texas Architect Design Award

Address:
1320 McGowen St., Houston, TX 77004

About Studio RED Architects

TreeHouse Memorial City “is the kind of project that you dream about as a kid,” says Micah Simicek, principal architect with Studio RED. “So as an adult, the chance to build a treehouse or help someone else build a treehouse, it’s even more whimsical.” Studio RED brought environmental harmony along with the whimsy to this two-story, 14,700 square foot office and event space. The building boasts a rooftop garden with solar panels that collects rainwater and indoor lights that adjust automatically. Studio Red collaborated on the project with the Acumen Design Group. TreeHouse Memorial City received two LEED Platinum certifications for interior design and construction. Studio RED Architects worked with Lake | Flato on the design for the Midtown Arts and Theater Center Houston in 2015. A hub for the vibrant art and performance communities in Houston, the 46,000 square foot MATCH houses a 350-seat theater, rehearsal areas, and smaller black box spaces. MATCH received the Urban Land Institute 2017 Development of Distinction Award in the nonprofit category.

Featured Projects

TreeHouse Memorial City “is the kind of project that you dream about as a kid,” says Micah Simicek, principal architect with Studio RED. “So as an adult, the chance to build a treehouse, or help someone else build a treehouse, it’s even more whimsical.” Studio RED brought environmental harmony along with the whimsy to this two-story, 14,700-square-foot office and event space. The building boasts a rooftop garden with solar panels that collects rainwater, and indoor lights that adjust automatically. Studio Red collaborated on the project with the Acumen Design Group. TreeHouse Memorial City received two LEED Platinum certifications for interior design and construction. Studio RED Architects worked with Lake | Flato on the design for the Midtown Arts And Theater Center Houston in 2015. A hub for the vibrant art and performance communities in Houston, the 46,000-square-foot MATCH houses a 350-seat theater, rehearsal areas, and smaller black box spaces. MATCH received the Urban Land Institute 2017 Development of Distinction Award in the nonprofit category.

ZieglerCooper Architects

Address:
700 Louisiana Street, Suite 350 Houston, TX 77002

About ZieglerCooper Architects

Since it was established in 1977, ZieglerCooper Architects has completed projects that cover over 18 million square feet across the country, an impressive feat for the Houston-based practice. Among the projects completed by the studio are corporate facilities, urban residential buildings, resort-style amenities, hospitality, and mixed-use establishments. The architecture firm upholds inspirational methods in its practice, a trait that makes them stand out from the architectural landscape. Four internal teams work on every project, each one assigned with a specific field and led by a senior principal—Scott Ziegler for the Urban Residential Studio, Mark Nolen for the Workplace Interiors Studio, Jim Zemski for the Corporate and Commercial Architecture, and the Stephen Lucchesi for Worship, Education, and Community Studio.

Featured Projects

Though focused on different markets, the team shares a mission to provide not only stellar structural designs but to enrich people’s lives through its work. Its commercial subsidiary, in particular, has earned acclaim for its top-of-the-line design seen in over 80 high rise buildings throughout Texas. The Lockton Place, an example of its work, is a notable commercial project designed for Triten Real Estate Partners. The eight-story building features a sustainable energy-efficient design with numerous amenities including a café, a fitness center, a conference room, and an improved landscape for an outdoor gathering space.