Yet Another Protest of Houston’s New Planned Parenthood Headquarters

A reader writes in to complain about the not-quite-complete renovation of the former Sterling Bank building overlooking I-45 South at 4600 Gulf Fwy. The building was stripped down to its structure and is being reborn as the largest Planned Parenthood administrative headquarters and healthcare facility in the nation.

Is anyone else really bothered by the fact that on the stair-stepped portions of the curtain wall the spandrel glass doesn’t line up with the spandrels on the rest of the building? I mean if you’re going to design a facade that’s all about geometry, shouldn’t the geometry work? There had to be better ways to do this, really.

A close-up view:


You can look at the design drawings and it’s pretty clear this wasn’t the original intent. Of course, it may just be another instance of architects selling the client on a pretty picture before it’s clear that it really can be built that way.

I know a bunch of people were out there over the weekend protesting this building for other reasons, but I just felt I had to speak out.

Photos: Candace Garcia. Rendering: Planned Parenthood of Houston and Southeast Texas

36 Comment

  • The architectural issues with the building are least of my concerns compares to what goes on inside.

  • and here we go! lets see how many religous wacko’s spout off their pro-life agenda on a local real estate blog……

  • You don’t have to be religious one bit to be against Plan Parenthood and what they do. I’m not religious. I don’t go to church.

    When quintessential essence of innocent human life isn’t valued, then we as a society should not survive.

    Beyond that, I’m not going into a long post to back my beliefs up. I won’t change others and they won’t change me.

  • It is an odd looking building. It reminds me of cross between a partial rubik’s cube and a Qbert pyramid stuck onto the ground floor of a mid-1960’s laundromat. And I don’t get the chimney-like structure plastered on the side of the building either. Is that the elevator shaft?

  • That’s it Random Poster!!! Q’bert!

    I knew it reminded me of something.

    I can just see him hopping up the building.

  • Yes. Design fail. Understandable, but still funny.

  • Very quickly:

    Only 3% of the services performed at Planned Parenthood are abortion services. The rest include but are not limited to providing affordable birth control, STI testing and treatment, relationship counseling, annual Well-women exams and safe-sex education and information. PP focuses on providing the necessary information and resources to prevent unwanted/accidental pregnancies and STIs, as well as providing counseling to discuss options other than abortion. Pro-lifers have every right to believe what they want to believe, but PP is an excellent resource for many women. For more about the breakdown of their services, their annual report can be downloaded from their website.

  • Sara,

    Can also add information about the founder Margaret Sanger and what she viewed as PP mission?

    Quick run through of what Sanger wanted:
    -A master race achieve through castrations and abortions of minorities (blacks, jews, catholics)
    -A staunch believer in Eugenics, she often attend lectures given by others in the Eugenics movement such as Hitler’s talks at Harvard
    -She attended meeting with various KKK sects to show support for their beliefs in a master race.

    This makes it really funny when Hillary Clinton says she was in agreement with early progressives like Ms. Sanger.

    What’s even funnier is that Ms. Sanger would never have let PP have a black person as their head.

    Volumes have been written about her from various views. She has a place in the Eugenics movement in America of the early 20th century.

  • KJB,

    What does that have to do with PP’s current agenda? Or do you honestly believe that the organization exists for those reasons…in which case I would say Sanger’s plan was a miserable failure (because you were born) and the functions listed in Sara’s post are a better alternative. Too harsh? Nah.

  • kjb, I must have missed the part where you explained why Margaret Sanger’s viewpoints have anything to do with Planned Parenthood’s mission in the 21st century. Should we also rail against the concept of the United States as a nation because of the founding fathers support for slavery and the implied belief that blacks are an inferior race?

  • Outside of making this into about politics as above tryign to make this into Dems vs GOP issue, I kind of LIKE the design. I am not an architect. The design is eccentric enough to stand out which is cool. It is better than cookie-cutter strip malls, townhomes, or suburban homes.

  • KJB, you never cease to surprise and amaze me. When I think you’re gonna go one way, you go the other. Quite the enigma.

  • I aim to surprise EMME. I’m not throwing bombs here. Just some truth.

    Ok, I’ll stick with what Sara said. For that 3% of services perform, how many shredded and vacuumed babies does that equal too?

    PP has moderated their language from an earlier time. You are right, but all their services outside of the baby killing could easily be performed by the various departments of health we have. Instead, some of our tax money goes to them for those other services. This is where my objection lies with them. They couldn’t continue to exist without tax payer money. Technically it doesn’t pay for the controversial service they offer, but it goes to everything else they do.

    Back to the architecture, our taxes assisted in paying for it also.

  • The spandrel glass alignment totally bothers me too!

  • 1) NO tax money paid for the new Planned Parenthood building, it was funded by private donations.
    2) Yes, that is an added elevator shaft on the west side.
    3) Sanger said some things that were common for the time, but we all learn from history and it is not what the organization stands for now.
    4) Texas has over 1 million uninsured citizens, many make too much to qualify for government funding, so they are “cash clients” at Planned Parenthood, getting quality, affordable health care where they are treated with respect. Why shouldn’t they have a nice location to get healthcare?
    5) Changes were made since that picture was drawn.
    6) It is a very “green” building.

  • I always thought the building looked like a cash register.

    And I was at the protest on Monday, volunteering for Planned Parenthood. There are few organizations I’m as proud to be a part of.

  • I’ll say it loud and proud — I’m pro architecture!

  • There are ugly buildings and then there are ugly buildings. And this is a really ugly building. But then it goes with the ugly politics of what goes on inside and outside the building.

  • If you look closely, there were a few changes to the curtainwall design between the rendering and construction. The lack of alignment in the panels is probably due to “value engineering” during the design process to bring down the cost of the building. I would have proposed a different solution, though.

  • can someone please block KJB’s IP address and email from swamplot!

    what a bafoon! i can see this guy picketing elementary schools with giant posters of aborted fetuses

    stay classy KJB!

  • Mr. Hand,

    So squashing free speech and censorship is how you deal with other views. How tolerant!

  • guys.. please take your pro-life/pro-choice nonsense to a website that cares.. none of you are getting anywhere.. your grandchildren’s grandchildren will be arguing the same thing in 100 yrs.. it really is pointless.

    about the architecture.. maybe SWAMPLOT should post pictures of what it used to look like so that we could at least have a fair conversation on the changes that were made.

  • @nachOS: Here’s a somewhat obstructed view (with another rendering in the foreground) from the Chron. Do any of our readers have anything better?

  • This building was pretty ugly before the renovation. And while I agree about the awkwardness of the spandrels, the overall result is still an upgrade over what it looked like before.

    Also, it hasn’t been mentioned yet, but this site provides opportunities for better security than the old planned parenthood facility did. An unfortunate necessity in these times.

  • I hope and trust the building was built with security for its workers and client/patients in mind. Is the security fence in place going to stay once it is complete or even be improved? Having “protected” a few of their locations, they were pretty wide open to the onslaught of varying views.

  • Hrm.

    It’s not so much the spandrel pattern that bothers me, as the color scheme clash between the windows and the fascia panels. The fascia and brick colors are muted, while the windows are very bright; stark, almost.

  • I frequently disagree with kjb434. But I respect the content that he/she provides and he/she has been part of this community for a while. I think asking for him/her to be banned is way out of line.

  • I believe the jog is there because it is the simplest solution to the necessary added ht. of a parapet around the flat roofs at each stair step (about 8″) — which can’t then align with the spandrel glass of the adjacent plenum dimension that follow the floor slabs. While it doesn’t have to be resolved that way, it is an honest expression of the condition. I don’t mind it. It is kinda a necessary floor/roof alignment detail when dealing with stair stepped buildings. I think the rendering solution would have been worse (adding another mulion and smaller rectangles at the roof).

    I suppose, in this particular case, the misalignment looks more like an “oops” or an after thought, as illustrated, detailed and pictured.

    Should they have run from aligned horizontals and verticals and standard window sizes all together to disguise the jog? Would that have been a better solution?

    What do folks think of the new BioScience Research Rice building at the corner of Greenbriar and Main and all those misaligned stacked windows in a brick building?

  • I should add, I like the new Rice research building and its misaligned brick openings. Any moral architectural obligations of an ancient brick belief system that could dictate what is “right” and “wrong” may be upended on that building, but I like it. I’m not sure I could have done it because I live by different rules, but more power to the sinner that did!

  • I’d much rather see abortion banned and women forced into lethel back alley procedures. Typical pro-lifers respect the sanctity of life….until it arrives.
    I say ban kjb434….The question was one of architecture….NOT a soapbox for teabaggers.

  • The Chronicle started banning people during the mayoral election. The reason? Unlike other politicians, the Chronicle decided that we are not allowed to peek into, ponder about or comment on the personal life of Annise Parker. And I have an email from the online editor stating just that.

    The Chronicle has not only become a blog but the worst example of a blog.

    Bloggers who demand other bloggers be banned because they don’t like the message and believe the best way to get rid of the message is to kill the messenger aren’t exactly people who believe in the 1st Amendment. Don’t like the message? Ignore or it answer it. Or start your own blog and control your own blog.

    What does the architecture have to do with the matter of abortion? Nothing. But the politics of what goes on in the building was brought up. Some ignored it. Some answered it. And some demanded the messenger be killed.

    The politics are ugly. The architecture matches the ugliness. So they have that in commmon.

  • EMME – The building does have very good security features. The black fence is the permanent fence, it is set off from the property line by varying depths. The construction chain-link fence is coming down as permanent fence goes up. Client and staff security was an important factor in the selection of this location (it is on 6 acres of land, parking on the property, and a distance from the street) and the design of this building.

  • Thank you tex, my original post stated the same thing! this is a real estate blog, not a forum to discuss womens rights. I knew the subject of abortion was going to be #1 topic in this blog because the architecture isnt that interesting to begin with.

    and as far as banning kjb is concerned, those who practice tolerance of someone who wants to diminish the rights of women has no ground to stand on as far as I am concerned. Thats like saying “lets listen to what the taliban has to say, because some of their ideas are half bad!”

    haha hey marmer! great post, thanks for showing everyone that you have no backbone or sense of decency!


  • The design is solid. The motif is clearly repeating from the top floor window pattern. It’s more interesting than the rendering for sure.

  • Does it not look a lot like those Mayan Temple of sacrifices?