The Art Guys’ Walking Building by the Pierce Elevated Isn’t Going Anywhere

Last year, Boxer Property told reporters it wanted to do something “iconic” with the St. Joseph’s Professional Building along the Pierce Elevated. Well, how about this idea: bringing the 18-story Midtown office building to life by attaching 2 massive, swinging arms to its east and west sides. Boxer engaged The Art Guys (Jack Massing and Michael Galbreth) shortly after purchasing the building in September 2017 to make it happen. They worked on the project in secret, dubbing it The Walking Building. It had an estimated budget of $2.8 million.

Alas, the vision of a giant robotic pedestrian attempting to cross a busy section of I-45 into Downtown was not to be. Boxer informed The Art Guys 2 months ago that it would no longer pursue the project.

The arms would have swung back and forward roughly once a minute, making for a somewhat leisurely gait:


Framed with aluminum trusses, they’d be guided across their total 133-ft.-9-in. sweep span by a system of motorized drivers:

Toronto-based Media Resources had been designing that mechanism for the 2000 Crawford St. building, while Houston’s own National Signs was on board to fabricate the arms.

Measuring 116 ft. from the shoulder to the fingertips, each limb would have been roughly the same height as Lady Liberty:

“Giant renderings of humans is an ancient heritage,” note the Guys. (Think: Easter Island, the Colossus of Rhodes . . . the statue of Sam Houston off I-45.) All those famous figures, however, were anthropomorphic from the get-go. What would have been less precedented about The Art Guys’ project is that their humanizing touch comes in after the fact: “What was once an ordinary building,” they wrote in a brochure for the project, would have become “a fantastic and fanciful animated character.”

The building’s east and west side walls had sported illuminated steel crosses since 2009:

They came down about a year ago (but continued to hang around for a while).

Other changes planned for the building included renovations to its garage podium. Details of that transformation hadn’t been fully worked out by the time Boxer nixed The Art Guys’ project, but one idea was to swap out the brick finish:

For something lighter:

Photos, renderings, and video: The Art Guys. Diagram: National Signs

St. Joseph’s Professional Building, Reimagined

12 Comment

  • That’s a neat idea. I wouldn’t want to be in one of those corner offices that would get shaded every minute or so in the morning or afternoon.

  • This is so corny I love it. Theres going to be issues with getting a 118′ cantilever attached to the side of the building for wind loads though. At 120′ long, lets say 20 feet wide and 30 psf wind load youre looking at quite a bit of windloading for the art itself and for the structure at its connection point.

    Hope they get that worked out

  • Wow, that would have been awesome, but I bet it would cause a thousand wrecks.

  • I like it. The building could “Be someone”…

  • Man!!! give me 1.4 million and I would have gotten it done. lol

  • Boxer announced it on April 1.

  • Yeah, my mind also went to straight to wind. Wind is freakin’ powerful and it adds a lot of dynamic, turbulent, chaotic loads to a structure that can be hard to predict, especially when it is near other tall structures. Remember what happened to the wind turbines atop 6 Houston Center? And that was a building designed from scratch to have wind turbines as part of it.
    This mid-century building wasn’t designed for anything like that. I’m not saying that it couldn’t theoretically be retrofitted, but on the face of it these swinging arms are obviously an engineering challenge, an insurance cost, and potentially a legal liability.
    It was a really neat idea, though…

  • Very clever!
    though I’d make LEGO arms with a LEGO head.
    The cupped hands could hold seasonally appropriate props and the hair-piece on the head could rotate…
    “Everything is awesome!”

  • Those Art Guys are just brilliant.
    Sorry it won’t happen.

  • Tell us more about the mechanics that will move the arms.

  • Brilliant ? This bit ‘o art is destined to go the same place as the Art Guys’ career – little to no where.

  • Geeeez what a ridiculous idea…