Skanska’s New Downtown Office Tower

Once the old 18-story Houston Club Building here at 811 Rusk is out of the way, and someone or something agrees to set up shop inside, this is the Gensler-designed office tower Skanska has said it will begin building Downtown. Tentatively named the Capitol Tower — since the main entrance will be moved from Rusk, on the south side of the block, to Capitol — the 700,000-sq.-ft., 34-story building (and a parking garage, too) will go along with a cavernous lobby designed to connect the recently vacated tunnels to the streets above.


In this rendering, you can make out through the lobby window that glassy slope of Pennzoil Place across Milam — a scene that sure resembles the what-if proposal from architect and Rice professor Bryony Roberts calling for more active go-between among the streets, tunnels, and lobbies in the CBD. The lot here is bound by Rusk, Capitol, Travis, and Milam.

Earlier this year, the Houston Club, the city’s oldest social club, vacated the long-standing building at 811 Rusk and joined forces with the Plaza Club, relocating to the 49th floor of the 50-story One Shell Plaza.

Renderings: Gensler via Carbonara Group

35 Comment

  • Looks to me like the “glassy slope” in the second rendering is Pennzoil Place, not JP Morgan Chase Plaza.

  • @bill_b: Yes, you’re right; I caught that just after the story went up.

  • At least the garage is nicer than Stream’s downtown proposal.

  • Underwhelming historic punched-window brick building replaced by underwhelming modern glass curtain-wall building. Income-generating capacity of property improved. Net effect on downtown architectural landscape nil.

  • Didn’t Skanska just build a new building across the fountain by the Galleria? Are they planning to move the entire Sweden to Houston?

  • Little advice for Skanska…If you’re going to replace a historical building and potentially cover up views of Pennzoil Place, then you might want to think outside of the glass box.

  • @commonsense: Yes, 3009 Post Oak is almost finished, and unless they have simply forgotten to issue press releases about tenants, it’s pretty empty.

    As for this tower…wow, underwhelming is going easy on it. I understand that not every building needs to make a statement, and that economics are equally important, but this one will be pictured next to the definition of ‘snooze.’

  • Loved the quote in the Chronicle from Gensler comparing the lobby to the Spanish Steps…

  • I can’t think of a single commercial or multi family building that has gone up in Houston over the past few years that is of ANY archtitectural significance. In my mind this period will certainly not go down in the history books for its architectural wonders.

  • I love the convenient tunnel access! It’ll be great to have another access point.

  • Building looks good in terms of its position on the site. The view of the Esperson building from Louisiana street though the slot between the pennzoil towers appears to be preserved. The facades, however, do not appear to match the quality or originality of Pennzoil or Chase Tower. A good, modernist granite facade would have been an interesting thing on this building.

  • Sorry if I offend anyone who works for Gensler, but their architecture is some of the most boring stuff I have ever seen. I know they are at the whim of the client, but can’t they come up with something a little more interesting? I think the days of great architecture have passed for now in Houston. I hope that someday they will return, but these boxes will be with us for many years to come. Blah!

  • Am I the only one who likes this design?? Its sleek, has clean lines, the glass curtain wall provides visual interest, maybe Im alone here but I like it

  • The entire city block?

  • Yeah but you guys, this is “like, seriously” the spanish steps of Rome according to like, um the architect. If were gonna go for ridiculous comparisons, at least pick the same geometric shape. I was gonna go with the monolith from 2001 space odyssey.

  • I think it looks great. That’ll be a nice improvement.

  • It’s not terrible, just could have been a lot more. One leased up, Skanska should be able to quickly sell the new tower to an institutional investor, and that’s probably all they care about. Interest among Houston developers in distinctive architecture has disappeared since the ’80s.

  • Even on economically efficient buildings like this one, it’s possible to add small details that add character, whether it’s a pattern in the glass facade, or a modest crown of some sort. The possibilities abound. But we don’t live in a city of big architectural vision. We live in a city of floor plate maximization. Whether you think that’s good or bad, it’s the truth.

  • All the “starchitects” are getting commissions in NYC and Miami right now to build condo towers for the financially well off. There is literally a competition among developers to see who can build the most distinctive, stylish towers for trophy properties. There’s just not that kind of money in Houston, for commercial, or residential. So we’ll just have to make due with what Densify calls “floor plate maximization”.

  • One day architectural preservationists in 2080 will wax poetic when talking about Houston’s amazing collection of Brutalist and glassy Post-Brutalist buildings. Society sometimes has to evolve (or degenerate) for many decades before an era and its architecture develops the romantic patina known as appreciation.

  • I’m a bit tired of every old building being described as “historic”. There is nothing historic about the Houston Club it is just old. It calls to mind a quote from Chinatown, “Ugly buildings, politicians and whores all become respectable if they stick around long enough.” Old does not equal historic. Sometimes old is just old.

  • I’m pretty much a preservationist, but I have a hard time finding much of anything to get warm and fuzzy about with the Houston Club building (and I even had my senior prom there, lo these many years ago). When we were touring potential office sites a few years back, it was the first one we struck from the list – we didn’t even finish the tour.

  • Hines is doing a similar size job in NYC called 7 Bryant Park. Pei Cobb Freed is the architect on that one. Fumihiko Maki is doing a +/- ten story building around Astor Square. Too bad we can’t get stuff like that here.

  • How about something more daring like the Shanghai Tower (designed by Gensler) currently under construction, or the Shanghair World Financial Center (opened a few years ago)..Gensler also designed the Houston Ballet Center for Dance ..

  • It really does not matter–it will have utterly no effect on the skyline, its height and placement guarantee that–the design is very staid–in fairness to Gensler maybe the client ask for a dull, non description eddiface. I agree comparing that lobby to the Spanish Steps was hyperbole at its most hyper

  • Indeed this building is too short to have much skyline presence. It will, however, face the large chase tower plaza and the broad sidewalks around jones hall from which you will be able to see the building from top to bottom.

  • It does appear in the 3rd rendering that the building might have a lit crown at the top…or something. It’s okay. Nothing special.

    Surely, Gensler understands this. I’m betting that the “Spanish steps” reference was a joke at their client’s expense.

  • The building is good for it’s height in design. It don’t have to be the all that building if floors don’t go above 39.

  • I am ready for the southside of Downtown in the Exxon Bldg and Federal Bldg to start growing/cleaning up and the Skyline expand southward….especially the old boarded up buildings….

  • It is not fair to Houston to trash the city for all of the architecture; Houston has some total jaw dropping architecture. It just so happens that we are not in that phase currently. I’m not sure if the drive is for homogenity to appease the lenders or simply maximize the foot print/sq. footage. It is also so funny to hear that buildings are “Green”. It’s great to build with the latest technology which should be less of an energy hog than past buildings; however, there is nothing green about construcing a new building.

  • Certanly underwhelming. Most of these, and the builidngs along the West Beltway look like variations on the same design. Developers are chasing the botom-line and architects, even the large corporate firms, churn them out willingly for the fees they are paid. Don’t forget that most memorable Houston buildings were designed by out-of-towners! Piano, Johnson, Pei, Pelli, Bofill, etc…

  • Skanska likes Houston. But like prior comments say: the last 2-3 decades have some of the most boring styled buildings on the planet. The institutions that rule the financing have no architectural vision.See the skylines of Hong Kong,Shanghai,etc. Those skylines are exciting. They may be garish and gaudy. But compared to our dullsville skyline they’re way better visually.And how about some colored neon outlining the exteriors at night? See Dallas & LA for examples.

  • Boring! Boring! Boring! It’s almost as bad as their pitiful building on Post Oak Blvd., which is an eyesore compared to the Williams Tower and other buildings in the area.

  • It’s probably one of those that looks better once it is built. The rendering of the tunnel access looks nice enough…