Overview

Houston is a city of business and industry, which its skyline reflects. And while the Philip Johnson Pennzoil-Place style may have dominated in the 1970s and ‘80s, new generations of architects are finding fresh ways to approach the buildings where Houstonians work. The city still has plenty of skyscrapers and sprawling office campuses — and probably always will — but they’re now being supplemented by repurposed churches, creative coworking spaces for the modern freelancer, and gorgeously designed interiors themed to the work that happens inside them. Here are 10 office architects shaping the future, and present, of work in Houston, recognized for the scale of their projects, the awards their projects have received, and, of course, their innovation.

Top Architects

10
PDR

Architects & Designers:
Drew Patton
Larry Lander
Doug Hellmann
Robert Olvera
Marc Bellamy
Peter Fisher
Stuart Harris
Lauri Goodman Lampson

Awards:
AIA Houston Design Awards,
Houston Chronicle Top Workplace Award
American Marketing Association Crystal Award

Address:
2 Houston Center, 909 Fannin, Floor 39, Houston, TX 77010

Contact:
713-739-9050
http://www.pdrcorp.com/contact/

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About PDR

PDR — short for Planning, Design, Research — is a design and architecture firm that was founded during what it calls “Houston’s last great building boom.” That’s the years from 1977 to 1983, when 36 of the city’s 100 tallest buildings were constructed. PDR worked directly with developers at the time, but over the years it has shifted to emphasize the design aspect of its work, and now often contracts directly with the companies that rent space in Houston’s office buildings. The firm has worked with many notables, including Accenture, Exxon, ConocoPhillips, and the Houston-based development giant Hines. In 2012, PDR won three American Institute of Architects (AIA) Houston Design Awards, and in 2016, it was included on the Houston Business Journal’s list of the 25 largest architectural firms in Houston.

“My focus is on gaining a deep understanding of the business and its strategy for success and then developing strategic workplace solutions that enable those goals.” – Lauri Goodman Lampson

Featured Projects

PDR designed Headquarters for TPC Real Estate. The companies wanted to create a unique type of coworking space for businesses in the vibrant East Downtown — often called EaDo — section of Houston. EaDo sits near the two largest employment centers in Houston and attracts constant business traffic. The space PDR and TPC Real Estate worked on has a relaxed layout, with mostly white walls and enough splashes of art to make the building feel fun. One prominent painting features an astronaut with a tie. The space offers flexible contracts to small- and midsize businesses and has a variety of rooms for meetings or privacy as needed. At the latest space for its longtime client Vitol, PDR personalized a 65k-square-foot office. The space has a large, open-floor trading area for the commodities company, with occasional flourishes of unobtrusive art and an excellent view of the city.

9
Powers Brown

Architects:
Joe Powers and Jeffrey Brown

Awards:
Houston Business Journal’s Landmark Award,
the Engineering News-Record Texas and Louisiana Best Project award,
PaperCity Design Award,
AIA Houston Design Award

Address:
2100 Travis Street, Suite 501, Houston, TX 77002

Contact:
713-224-0456
info@powersbrown.com

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About Powers Brown

Powers Brown was founded in 1999 by Joe Powers and Jeffrey Brown, who was awarded one of the most prestigious titles in architecture, membership in the American Institute of Architects College of Fellows — often abbreviated FAIA — a designation shared by only 3 percent of its members. The firm specializes in what it calls “neglected territory” — construction technologies, project types, and design methods ignored by most architectural practices. Powers Brown has offices in Houston, Denver, Washington, DC, and Canada, as well as projects all over the world, including planned towns in Egypt and Pakistan. The work Powers Brown has done in Houston has a stronger, more industrial feel than some of the boutique offices on this list. But its inclusion here speaks to the diversity of office needs in the Houston area. The firm has won more than 81 design awards, including the Houston Business Journal’s Landmark Award, the Engineering News-Record Texas and Louisiana Best Project award, a PaperCity Design Award, and an AIA Houston Design Award.

Featured Projects

Powers Brown was the architect for phase one of the massive Fallbrook Pines Business Park. The 117-acre park consists of four single-story, tilt-wall, office-warehouse buildings designed for businesses that need a large amount of on-site storage. The complex is near the intersection of Beltway 8 and Highway 249 in Houston’s industrial Northwest submarket. The Fallbrook Pines Business Park received the Tilt-Up Achievement Award from the Tilt-Up Concrete Association in 2016. Houston Public Media reported in July that Amazon intends to rent space in the complex for its Amazon Fresh delivery service. Powers Brown’s Intermarine Shipyard Project earned an honorable mention in the 2016 Paper City Design Awards. The 21,765-square-foot space serves as a logistics hub for the international transport company Intermarine. The firm experimented with using shipping containers as building materials, but pivoted from the idea when they weren’t suitable for the site. “No shipping containers were harmed during the making of this building,” the firm joked in a statement in Architect magazine.

8
English + Associates

Architects:
Kathleen English

Awards:
Preservation Houstion Gold Brick Award

Address:
1919 Decatur Street, Houston, TX 77007

Contact:
713-850-0400
info@english-architects.com

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About English + Associates

English + Associates is a collaborative architecture and design firm that works on commercial, civic, residential, and conceptual work. The firm prioritizes environmentally sustainable development. It signed the 2030 Challenge in 2010 — which is a 2006 call from the AIA for all new buildings, developments, and renovations to be carbon neutral by 2030 — and 85 percent of its employees are Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Accredited Professionals. The firm has won multiple awards for office culture and architecture. It was a winner of the Houston 101 Best Companies to Work For in 2016 and 2015, among the top three of the ZweigWhite best firms for architecture in 2013, listed as one of the top 20 architects in Houston by Expertise, and placed multiple times in the AIA Houston Gingerbread Buildoff Competition, where local firms make structures with only edible materials.

Featured Projects

English + Associates’ work on the Level Office location in the Theater District was on the Houston Business Journal’s list of coolest office spaces. Level Office rents coworking space to companies, contractors, and self-employed workers on short- and long-term contracts, so they needed a flexible floor plan. The building has multiple conference rooms, a range of office sizes and meeting rooms, and a communal kitchen with rotating beers on tap. For an adaptive reuse project, English + Associates renovated a 100-year-old Baptist church into an open design workspace for its own office building on Decatur Street. The firm brought the 12k-square-foot building into compliance with building codes and ADA requirements, and added a 15k-gallon system to capture rainwater. The project won a Gold Brick Award from Preservation Houston in 2004.

7
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 Street, Suite 1, Houston, TX 77002

Contact:
713-871-8484
contactus@pagethink.com

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About Page Southerland Page, Inc.

Page Southerland Page, often just called Page, opened its Houston office in 1973. It’s a global firm with a local outlook. The Houston office was a key catalyst in the revitalization of the downtown’s buildings in the 1990s. Staff members sometimes lead architectural tours through downtown on a red, double-decker bus, and the firm has been outspoken about what architects should do to protect cities from floods in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. Page Senior Principal Larry Speck, FAIA, was dean of the School of Architecture at the University of Texas at Austin from 1992 to 2001. In 2017, he received the Medal for Lifetime Achievement from the Texas Society of Architects. Page has won numerous awards — including nine for design or architecture of offices.

Featured Projects

When the Houston-based New Process Steel had to move to accommodate a new freeway, the company moved to a new warehouse and hired Page to create its new office. The building was separated into three areas: 30,200 square feet of offices, 40k square feet of parking, and an unbuilt area for future expansions. Page used translucent Kalwall panels, metal beams, and creative greenery to make a space that was comfortable for work, while still retaining and acknowledging its industrial heritage. The New Process Steel headquarters received an AIA Houston Design Award and an Honor Award from the Society of American Registered Architects. The firm’s own office — with a beige-white layout, tall, expansive ceilings, checkered-floor conference areas, and fountains — has even won awards. In 2007 it received the Houston AIA Design Award for Interior Architecture for Suite One, a former bank lobby.

6
Inventure Design

Architects:
James O’Neill

Awards:
Preservation Houstion Gold Brick Award,
BUILD Interior Design Firm of the Year for Texas

Address:
3118 Richmond Avenue, Suite 200, Houston, TX 77098

Contact:
713-524-5555
yourteam@invdesgroup.com

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About Inventure Design

Inventure Design was founded as Architecture + Interiors in 1997. The firm started winning awards — and changing names — almost immediately. It went through four name changes before settling on Inventure Design. The firm places a heavy emphasis on collaboration and technology in its approach to work. Clients are shown potential designs with 3D modeling, which allows for intricate discussion of a project’s structural details. Inventure Design’s founding principal, James O’Neill, prefers to be involved in all projects. O’Neill studied at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design and the University of Notre Dame and is a member of the Rice Design Alliance. In 2016, Inventure Design received a Good Brick Award from Preservation Houston, and it was BUILD’s Interior Design Firm of the Year for Texas.

Featured Projects

One reason the team at Inventure Design can focus on creating great offices is because their own is so sweet. The Inventure Design office was the first stop on an ABC-13 video tour of Houston’s coolest offices. ABC marveled at the floor-to-ceiling windows that allow for maximum natural light, and the kitchen packed with drinks, food, and wine. “It’s amazing how many 4 p.m. meetings you’ll get scheduled at this place,” O’Neill told ABC-13. The office won a Landmark Award from the Houston Business Journal in 2014. At the Caterpillar Solar Turbines Houston Headquarters, the firm used a striking mix of bright yellow walls and vivid blue screens to create an energetic office. Work spaces are divided into various sizes, with small, firm chairs for quick meetings and glass panels that display an “Innovation Station.”

5
Lauckgroup

Architects:
Alan Lauck
Anne Kniffen
Brigitte Preston

Awards:
Starnet Worldwide Corporate Gold Award,
Shaw Design Award

Address:
5847 San Felipe Street, Suite 2050, Houston, TX 77057

Contact:
713-977-0375
info@lauckgroup.com

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About Lauckgroup

Lauckgroup is an interior architecture firm with offices across Texas, and projects across the country. It was founded in 1984 by Alan Lauck and is now co-owned by Managing Principal Anne Kniffen and Principal of Design Brigitte Preston. Kniffen studied architecture at the University of Texas at Austin and was an associate at the worldwide architecture and design firm HOK for five years. Preston also worked at HOK, for 13 years, and studied architecture at Kansas State University and the Coloma Instituut. Lauckgroup won the Starnet Worldwide Corporate Gold Award for flooring at an office in Austin, and the Shaw Design is… award for work on a women’s center in Dallas. An office it designed in New Orleans was used as a film location for two movies: 99 Homes and Get Hard, which starred Will Ferrell and Kevin Hart.

Featured Projects

Lauckgroup designed the new 8,970-square-foot headquarters for the Harris County Sports Authority in Houston. The office had white walls and red chairs throughout, with tall block letters that read “Houston,” and championship memorabilia from local teams at strategic locations. Lauckgroup designed the office to be “tech-forward,” with a prominent 7 x 11-foot audio visual display, and a network of interconnected screens that stream sports content. The breakroom looks out onto Minute Maid Park, where the Astros play. The Harris County Sports Authority was featured recently on officelovin.com. Lauckgroup used a more traditional style for the offices of the law firm Weil. The curated artworks and beige-brown color scheme give the office a classic, modern feel. The staff areas were rearranged to improve workflow and decrease visual clutter.

4
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

Contact:
713-844-0000
info@gensler.com

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About Gensler

Gensler is a global firm, but its Houston office keeps a local outlook. Gensler has a range of projects in Houston, from planned developments to media centers. The Harvard Business Journal ranked the firm No. 1 on its list of the largest Houston area architectural firms in 2014. The Houston office has two managing principals: Stephanie Burrett and Gerald Gehm. Burrett has worked for Gensler for 25 years and is active with the local Boy Scouts. Gehm is a member of the Ace Mentor Program for Architecture, Construction and Engineering. Gensler was founded in 1965 and opened the Houston office — its first in Texas — in 1972. Among other awards, 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

BBVA Compass, a Spanish banking firm, wanted Gensler to create an office that would foster employee collaboration. The result was an entirely open-floor plan, with a raised-floor system so employees could work in almost any part of the space. White serves as the base color, with accents in yellow and blue. The 19th floor stairwell shows off a sculpture and light-blue lighting. The BBVA Compass office was included on the Houston Business Journal’s list of the city’s coolest office spaces in 2015. Gensler’s record for LEED building was a key factor in its selection as the architect for the Capital Tower in downtown. Gensler designed the 33-story building to minimize its environmental footprint, with charging stations for electric vehicles, a rainwater collection system, and less parking than a typical office building. Capital Tower was the first Houston project awarded LEED V4 Platinum precertification from the U.S. Green Building Council.

3
Ziegler Cooper Architects

Architects:
Scott Ziegler
Kurt Hukk
Mark Nolen

Awards:
Houston Business Journal Landmark Award

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

Contact:
713-374-0000
marketing@zieglercooper.com

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About Ziegler Cooper Architects

Ziegler Cooper Architects was founded in 1977. It works on a variety of civic, commercial, and residential projects, and it takes a particular interest in creating modern, urban residential spaces. The firm splits its practice into four categories, called studios, with a principal leading each. Mark Nolan leads the Workplace Interiors Studio. He graduated from the University of Houston and is a member of the National Council Architectural Review Board (NCARB), the Texas Society of Architecture, and the Houston AIA, among other affiliations. Ziegler Cooper Architects has received the Houston Business Journal’s Landmark Award, and its office was included on the Journal’s list of the coolest office spaces in Houston in 2014. The firm participates in various civic events in Houston, including the Houston Food Bank’s annual Canstruction, which invites architectural firms to create structures from canned food for charity.

Featured Projects

When Ziegler Cooper Architects created a space for the collaborative office design showcase DesignHive, it created what was arguably the coolest entry. In contrast to the minimalist themes of the other spaces, Ziegler Cooper used light, bright colors for a playful entry inspired by Casa Giraldi in Mexico City, which was the last house built by famed architect Luis Barragan. The space has blue- and purple-tinted window panels, and lighted, decorative bananas throughout. A jagged “receptionista” table doubled as a coffee bar and reception area. At Ziegler Cooper’s Research Forest Lakeside 4 in the Woodlands, the firm used fountains and its setting on Lake Woodlands for a waterfront theme. The 12-story, nearly 300k-square-foot building faces the south side of the lake. Sunshades help guide natural light into its offices. The building was done in partnership with the international architectural firm Odell.

2
Kirksey Architecture

Architects:
John Kirksey

Awards:
AIA Houston Associate Member of the Year,
IIDA Excellence and Sustainability

Address:
6909 Portwest Drive, Houston, TX 77024

Contact:
713-850-9600
http://www.kirksey.com/contact

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About Kirksey Architecture

Kirksey was founded in Houston, with a Texas-sized dose of chutzpah to match: Founder John Kirksey, FAIA, started the firm one year after he left the University of Texas. He still serves as president. The firm’s work is ubiquitous in Houston. They have designed or built offices all over town, and they’re a regular at design and architectural events across the state. Just recently, Kirksey designed fashion pieces for the International Interior Design Association Product Runway, held a show of art by its employees, and participated with partners Metzger Construction in the 2017 AIA Sandcastle building contest — which they won for the third consecutive year. In 2016, Kirksey won an International Interior Design Association award for design excellence and sustainability, and an American Society of Interior Designers Best in Show award, both for offices.

Featured Projects

The Kirksey-designed office of Smith & Associates, LP, was named one of Houston’s coolest office spaces by the Houston Business Journal in 2015. The company, an electronics distributor, merged two operations teams at the 57k-square-foot space on Clay Road. Kirksey used dark carpets with white walls and whiteboards, with snack and lunch rooms designed for mingling. Kirksey, as one of this list’s larger firms, is also known for commercial office projects. The firm worked on a massive three-building office complex with 1.6M square feet of office space in the Energy Corridor it calls Energy Center Three, Four and Five. ConocoPhillips was initially the anchor tenant but later purchased the building. The energy center complex received a Houston Business Journal Landmark Award in 2014.

1
Rottet Studio

Architects:
Lauren Rottet

Awards:
IIDA Design Excellence Award

Address:
808 Travis Street, Suite 100, Houston, TX 77002

Contact:
713-221-1830
info@rottetstudio.com

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About Rottet Studio

Lauren Rottet, FAIA, the founding principal of Rottet Studio, is often celebrated as the only woman to attain fellow status with the International Interior Design Association and the AIA. But, beyond even those honors, Rottet is one of Houston’s most decorated architects — male or female. She has been named Interior Design Hall of Fame and Interiors Designer of the Year and was among the first members of the Women in Design Hall of Fame. In 2012, she was named designer of the year by Boutique Design. Rottet studied architecture at the University of Texas. Through her decades of experience in architecture and design, Rottet has designed offices for Goldman Sachs, Disney, and General Electric. She founded Rottet Studio in 2008. The firm is well-decorated too, with a list of honors that includes several best of the year awards from Interior Design magazine.

Featured Projects

Rottet Studio won a Design Excellence Award from the International Interior Design Association Texas-Oklahoma Chapter in the large corporate office category in 2015 for work on the offices of Seyfarth Shaw. Seyfarth Shaw is a global firm with a 60-attorney office in downtown Houston. The office has large windows and rounded chairs, with a minimalist design that allows distraction-free work. The classic simplicity is reminiscent of Mad Men, if the advertising firm were showcased in the 21st century. Rottet Studio also received a Design Award for Interior Architecture from the Houston AIA in 2014 for Seyfarth Shaw. Earlier this year, Rottet Studio partnered with three other Houston architectural firms — Gensler, Inventure Design, and Zeigler Cooper Architects — on DesignHive, a project in an iconic Houston skyscraper that showed the best in modern office design. Rottet Studio’s 5,305-square-foot space had neutral colors with the occasional flourish — like a Ms. Pac Man machine. The nontraditional angles in the interior of the building create glorious mind games about what’s possible.

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