Houston’s High-Rise Ship Comes in With Unique New Hines’ Super Tower
Surprising, Unexpected Design Invokes Visions of New York and Barcelona — Inside The Preston's Daring Diagonal WorldBY Chris Baldwin // 02.04.19
Hines Preston tower's unique design will give it unexpected views. (Rendering courtesy of Munoz+Albin.)
Hines' newest downtown high-rise, The Preston, will be the tallest residential building downtown, coming in at 46 stories. (Rendering courtesy of Munoz+Albin.)
Jorge Munoz and Enrique Albin knew they had to come up with a unique, show-stopping design for The Preston tower.
Aris Market Square stretches into the sky, but it's facade also fits into the neighborhood. (Photo by Jenny Antill.)
The Southmore pool deck with views of the downtown skyline
The Southmore conference room
The Southmore screening room
The Southmore sports lounge
The Southmore living room lounge with fireplace
Standing out in the sea of Houston high-rises is becoming more and more difficult. It takes a truly special tower to transcend the wave of new buildings. Otherwise, you’re as ordinary as a Maroon 5 halftime show.
Hines’ new 46-story high-rise dubbed The Preston does not have to worry about that. Its ultra unique design (and its status as the tallest residential building downtown) will make it a head turner.
“If you can imagine the building being in the shape of a ship, a boat, a sailboat at a diagonal on the side,” architect Jorge Munoz tells PaperCity.
This isn’t just an ordinary high-rise. The Preston is a tower with the ambitions and daring of a high-rise in Barcelona or New York City. In many ways, it may be the next level of Houston high-rises.
“We’ve seen things like this in condominiums in New York City and places like that,” Munoz says. “Doing this level of design and finishes, we’re excited about that.”
The new tower will rise (and rise) on a half city block at the corner of Preston and Milam, the site of the old Houston Chronicle parking garage. It is coming into a hot area where tall buildings will soon rule. From the beginning, Hines left no doubt that it looked at this tower on this site as a very special project, one where the ordinary or status quo simply would not do.
The storied real estate firm, still driven by the ethos of its founder and chairman Gerald D. Hines, held something of a design competition for The Preston, inviting some of the world’s leading architecture firms to submit their vision for the site. In a field that included KPF architects and SCB, the smallest and most local firm emerged in Houston-based Munoz + Albin.
“When we saw the program from Hines, we knew this was something we wanted to do,” Munoz says in our exclusive interview. “Hines said very clearly, it wanted to get to the leading edge of what design could offer in vertical multi-family living.
“I think you can see that in the geometry of the tower itself.”
The unique skinny, diagonal tower will almost look like its tilted to passersby gawking up at it from the street. The all-glass side of The Preston facing Market Square Park allows the glass to be stretched out on one edge, creating a vertical diagonal.
“When you’re on the street looking up, you’ll see this building coming out of its volume and coming back in,” Munoz says. The rotating balconies will extend farther out as the tower rises.
“It’s a building that doesn’t have tilted structures per se,” Munoz says. “But it will appear to be tilting in the direction of the sailboat. We thought that was very striking.”
Going Daring for High-Level Perks
The unique look of The Preston is as practical as it is distinctive. The diagonal positioning of the new Hines tower opens a world of views that would not be available if one simply plopped a standard facing high-rise on the site. By being diagonal to all the other tall buildings around it, The Preston’s views are not blocked in.
“What happens with a skinny tower placed at a diagonal is the views are through the gaps of the neighboring buildings,” Munoz notes. “Our view corridors would be open to all directions of the tower because we’re kind of stepping away from the other towers.”
After all a luxury residential tower with rents will average around $3,900 a month, and go up to $13,700 a month for a few of the 10 showcase penthouses on the 45th and 46th floors, needs to offer stunning views. The Preston’s views will include looks over nearby Market Square Park, Jones Plaza, Sesquicentennial Park and the Buffalo Bayou.
Life inside the units has just as carefully been considered. Hines and Munoz + Albin principals went to Europe on something of scouting missions as the plans for the interiors of the 373 units came together.
“We worked very, very hard, long hours, to design residential units themselves that are very, very unique to this market,” Munoz says. “We went to Europe, took a number of weeks, to examine cutting edge residential ideas.”
This went as far as visiting the Italian factories where the cabinets in the bathrooms of The Preston will be manufactured. Hines officials worked to negotiate exclusive deals, all to ensure this Houston high-rise is like no other Houston high-rise.
“We look forward to delivering our most impressive residential community to date in this new urban hub,” says Hines senior managing director Kevin Batchelor.
Hines is becoming more and more known for producing distinctive residential buildings, having unveiled Aris Market Square (which will be a short walk from The Preston) and The Southmore in the Museum District in recent years. But, in some ways, The Preston marks another level in the evolution of its best practices, innovation and ambition in the residential market.
With an all glass side facing the direction of Market Square Park and a parking garage made up of boxes that seemingly slide out of each other, similar to the eye-catching, colorful Lyric Garage that Munoz + Albin designed, this new high-rise is destined to be noticed. If Ryan Gosling happens to be walking down the street, you’ll stop and take heed (not to mention several selfies). Jorge Munoz hopes that people strolling through downtown Houston will similarly stop and stare up when they come by Hines’ new tower when it debuts in 2022.
“We think people are going to want to live there, which will make our clients happy,” Munoz tells PaperCity. “That’s always good. But more importantly, at on the community level, I think we’re contributing a piece of architecture that will be read as a very unique piece of architecture that services a function in a special way.”
It is a skinny stunner with major plans. You certainly haven’t seen anything like it in Houston yet. Welcome to a new diagonal future?