Hines’ Brava high-rise signals a new era of modern residential living downtown

by HomeDecorBeauty


Downtown Houston’s newest building, the Brava residential high-rise, pushes the edges of design boundaries and establishes a new, thoroughly modern architectural vocabulary for the city’s center.

Coupled with its kitty-corner neighbor, Texas Tower, the two Hines developments stand as a bold statement about the late Gerald D. Hines’ vision for Houston: that it would be architecturally progressive, always moving forward.

Texas Tower sits on the 800 block of Texas Avenue where the Houston Chronicle was located for decades. Brava, the 46-floor apartment tower newly unveiled at the corner of Milam and Prairie, is a big, new “wow moment” for the half block that used to be a boring multi-story garage where Chronicle employees parked their cars.

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While Brava and Texas Tower are completely separate projects, both Hines and its teams – Ivanhoe as a co-developer and Pelli Clarke & Partners as architects on Texas Tower plus Cresset-Diversified QOZ Fund and Levy Family Partners as investors and Houston-based Munoz + Albin Architecture & Planning as architects for Brava – worked collaboratively to ensure the buildings would speak the same visual language.

For Brava, architects Jorge Munoz and Enrique Albin took into consideration the site, its neighbors and history, including the proximity to Allen Landing, the birthplace of Houston, as they imagined what a new building could be.

Munoz and Albin had been invited to participate in a design competition to earn the right to design the new, multi-family tower. They were one of five teams, and when they’d finished their presentation for what is now a sailboat-shaped building – think of it as a rhombus with rounded corners placed diagonally on an 0.86-acre lot – they knew they would win the contest when they saw smiles on the faces of the entire Hines team.

“Enrique and I are contextual architects, we believe that every project we get involved in is about the context of the site, so we explored this,” Munoz said. “We kept playing with the idea of ​​the geometry of the site. One crucial aspect is (Texas Tower), another building that will be over there and (Market Square) Park. All of those inform us.”

The base of the structure is designed to resemble the hull of a ship, with a glassy tower that bursts from it as the taut sail in a slender silhouette. Even the apartment balconies were designed at different angles so it appears as if the structure is twisting in the wind to those looking up from below.

Instead of apartment dwellers staring out at another building, their view, enhanced by plenty of floor-to-ceiling windows, is a 180-degree look at Texas Tower, Market Square Park and whatever future building goes up on the site of a small parking lot lot across the street.

Upper floors have an incredible view not only of the city, but also Buffalo Bayou’s zig-zag path through downtown and even a look at other buildings’ rooftop gardens instead of the usual boring rooftops and HVAC systems. On the back side, there’s a view of the progress on Lynn Wyatt Square, the park-like reinvention of Jones Plaza.

Munoz and Albin first met Hines founder Gerald D. Hines, who died in August 2020 at the age of 95, when they worked in Barcelona, ​​and have continuously worked on projects for Hines for 22 years, Munoz said. They designed the highly-acclaimed series of Diagonal Mar buildings in Barcelona, ​​as well as high rises in Moscow, Milan, Dublin, Denver, Dallas, Houston and Austin.

“Gerry Hines had such a good eye for architecture that in presentations you had to be meaningful in your explanations. He would challenge you,” Munoz said. “He would call and say ‘Jorge, we need to talk about the handle on the front door, what is it going to feel like?’ His attention to detail was remarkable.”

It was Gerald Hines who developed the first significant post-World War II high rises downtown, deciding that if potential tenants had to decide between an ordinary structure and an architecturally superior one, they’d choose the latter. He developed One Shell Plaza in 1971 and a few years later, Pennzoil Place, which in 1975 was hailed as the “Building of the Decade” by the New York Times. Today, nearly 30 buildings that shape the downtown Houston skyline were developed by Hines.

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Kelie Mayfield and Erick Ragni, principals of the architecture and design firm Mayfield and Ragni Studio (MaRS), handled Brava’s interesting interiors. The pair has worked with Munoz and Albin on another Hines project, The Southmore apartment building in the Museum District as well as The George hotel, developed by Midway in College Station.

Mayfield said the building’s interior takes its cues from the same inspiration, with a simple palette of black and white with bursts of red and other color in art – a clever take on the old riddle: What’s black and white and (read) all over? A newspaper.

The first floor, including a lobby and space that will someday hold restaurants, has columns embellished with Chronicle headlines from decades past, from presidential elections to man walking on the moon. Created by Mayfield, Ragni and artist Robynn Sanders of Maverick Murals Art and Design added the lettering to the columns in hand-troweled concrete.

Visitors will also see the first of a vast new collection of art, the first being Sergio Albiac’s generative digital collage, “You have not changed,” featuring a man’s face atop newspaper clippings and a light installation (“Libertas Perfundent Omnia Luce”) at MaRS and Meyda Lighting.

Dramatic pieces of modern art were commissioned for various places in the building, from a colorful mural by Houston artist Daniel Anguilu (untitled, aerosol spray paint) sprawling across the mail room to an oversized photograph of Gus, the stray dog ​​named 2019 Shelter Hero Dog in the American Humane Hero Dog Awards in the tenants’ dog grooming room.

At the lobby coffee bar, elevators and elsewhere in the building visitors will find unique wallpaper made from newsprint that’s been dyed gray and woven together. Although they may not initially recognize it as newsprint, its unusual texture begs to be touched.

Public spaces on other floors such as the fitness center and lounge are filled with modern furnishings; the 10th floor swimming pool might make residents never want to go to work.

Even the rent-able Sky Lounge – will likely become a sought after party space with its brise soleil, a canopy-like structure meant to provide shade while letting air breeze through. This isn’t something you’ll spot many other places in the city.

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