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8 Starchitects Celebrate Gerald Hines' 90th Birthday

“Hines built a few early projects and transformed the business of commercial architecture.” We couldn’t say it better than Pickard Chilton’s Jon Pickard did at Gerald Hines’ 90th birthday in Houston late last week. The legendary developer (whose properties grace 185 cities in 19 countries) celebrated with some of the world’s most notable architects, and they had a lot to say about how he raised the bar in their industry.

Pennzoil Place changed what an office building could look like.


Pennzoil Place, Hines’ iconic Houston development from 1975, doesn’t look like a brave move today. But designing anything other than a rectangle was unheard of then. Pennzoil designer Johnson/Burgee’s John Burgee says he and Philip Johnson wanted to pitch the idea of a “top” to Gerald’s client, and Gerald was so nervous about the idea that he made them create a model with removable tops. The client loved the brassy concept, but Gerald was still unsure; he thought he’d have to lease the smaller floor plates for a discount. The opposite happened; the space was in such demand that Gerald rationed it out, making companies take offices on other floors to get the right to a penthouse suite. Pictured: We snapped Gerald in 2011. 

Gerald spurred architects to work for developers.

Gene Kohn, Henry Cobb, John Burgee and Gerald Hines at Hines' 90th birthday event.

John says he had to really push his partner to take the meeting with Gerald; Philip strongly believed developers didn’t let architects do their best work. Most architects at the time preferred to work directly for a corporate client. Today, almost every project is done through a developer, and the starchitects attributed that partially to Gerald proving how it’s done right. (One secret: Knowing when to get out of the way and let them shine, and when to reel them in.) Pictured are Gene Kohn, Henry Cobb, John Burgee and Gerald Hines at the birthday celebration.

Gerald walked the tightrope between art and business development.


Noted architectural critic/Vanity Fair editor Paul Goldberger and KPF’s Gene Kohn said Gerald was one of the first developers to see buildings as more than income-producing structures that housed companies. He stressed the importance of creating something beautiful that would impact its surroundings. Bob Stern says that continues today through Hines’ research, which bridges the gap between art/concepts and doable technology. (For example, Hines did a study about using wood in tall buildings, and now the government is considering trying out the tech.) Gerald says that's because architecture reduces risk; making something lovely and functional will keep it in demand.

He makes everyone else up their game.


Gerald’s most extraordinary achievement, according to Pei Cobb Freed’s Henry Cobb, is how he has established a “Hines standard” or “Hines ethic” around the world. He says a Hines development in a city raises the bar, spurring everyone else to strive for architectural and urban design excellence.

Bonus: Hilarious Gerald Hines first impressions


John Burgee met Gerald for the first time at an IHOP in the early ‘70s, and Gerald showed up sweaty in a jogging suit. Cesar Pelli (left, with dean of the Yale School of Architecture Bob Stern) has one better: Gerald said the only time he could meet with Cesar was during a plane ride, so Cesar booked a flight from New York to Chicago. Gerald showed up on the plane with a garment bag full of potatoes. They talked, Gerald hired Cesar to design the Northwest Center (now Wells Fargo Center) in Minneapolis, and Cesar switched planes and flew home.