Pennzoil Place

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Architect Johnson/Burgee
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Location Houston, Texas   map
Date 1976   timeline
Building Type skyscraper, commercial office tower, corporate headquarters
 Construction System steel frame, conc cores, glass curtain wall
Climate hot temperate
Context urban
Style Corporate Modern
Notes Sleek twin towers nearly touching at the inner edge of each, joined by space frame lobby roof.
Images

 


Photo, exterior overview, evening.

More Images
Aerial view of Pennzoil Place

Available on The GBC CD-ROM.   Contributions appreciated

Drawings Available on The GBC CD-ROM.
Discussion Pennzoil Place Commentary

"...Pennzoil Plaza in Houston by Johnson & Burgee is...a geometrically manipulative, modernist approach. Here a simple geometric idea, prompted also by not wanting to design a straight-up and unbroken tower, affords total visual clarity to the design. Twin 36-story towers, mirror images of each other and trapezoidal in plan, are related at the ground level by triangular shaped plazas that are 8-story spaces enclosed by a 45-degree glass slope. This slope repeats at the top of the towers where executive suites are housed when, rising straight upward to the twenty-ninth floor, they are then similarly angled-off to repeat the 45-degree theme. The 'twins' are in dramatic tension since they are separated only by a narrow 10-foot vertical slot, making them a changing visual presence in the urban landscape. The geometry of the idea is absolutely clear, especially since the towers are unbroken, neutral masses clad in bronze-tinted glass and a dark brown anodized aluminum curtain wall. This in the interior contrasts with the white painted steel trusses that roof the courtyards in more animating filigree patterns of lines and shadows."

— from Paul Heyer. American Architecture: Ideas and Ideologies in the Late Twentieth Century. p128.

The Creator's Words

"I never really had an interest in structure, and neither has Mies, inside him. It always amused me that he started to design the Seagram Building with a perfectly rational bay system of 27 feet 9 inches, derived from the lot size and the office divisibility module. Then, we arrived at the design of the big double-height rooms in the back (the Four Seasons Restaurant now) and we needed to double the size of the bay. All right, but what happens about the column that would have been in the middle of the bay—well, take it out. We had to double the span without deepening the beam, wrenching the cost and also the logic. If you start with a bay, you have a repeatable and economic beam. If you take out a column, just like that, you quadruple everything; and yet we had to keep the beams within the same depth as the 27 foot 9 inch span because the building had to read the same on every floor. That is what I mean when I say that Mies does not pay attention to what he says.

"He took the column out for what purpose? To create space. There you come back to the theme that goes through all architecture: to make spaces, to make interior spaces—all architecture is interior spaces. The Seagram is interior space because it is on one side of a plaza. It is not a facade because the plaza is the feeling that you get and that, in a funny way, is interior space. Of course the skyscraper as such has no interior spaces other than the entrance. The skyscraper is death to architecture—no interest at all, just a beehive...."

— Philip Johnson. from Paul Heyer. Architects on Architecture: New Directions in America. p289-290.

Details

36 stories, 495 feet high, filling a site 250 feet to a side in plan (62,500 sq feet).

1.4 million square feet of leasable space.

Two triangular plazas under space frame roofs total 36,000 sq feet.

Resources Sources on Pennzoil Place

Jeanne M. Davern. Architecture 1970-1980: A Decade of Change. New York: McGraw Hill, 1980. ISBN 0-07-002352-2. LC 80-11465. NA2542.35A72. exterior photos, p150, 151. interior photos, p151. plan and section, p150.

Paul Heyer. Architects on Architecture: New Directions in America. New York: Walker and Company, 1966. LC 66-22504. discussion p289-290.

Paul Heyer. American Architecture: Ideas and Ideologies in the Late Twentieth Century. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1993. ISBN 0-442-01328-0. LC 92-18415. NA2750.H48 1993. discussion p128.

Leland M. Roth. A Concise History of American Architecture. New York: Harper and Row, Publishers, 1979. ISBN 0-06-430086-2. NA705.R67 1979. discussion, p340-341. exterior photo, p340.

Kevin Matthews. The Great Buildings Collection on CD-ROM. Artifice, 2001. ISBN 0-9667098-4-5.— Available at Amazon.com

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