Perkins & Will’s New Space in Historic Tower

HOUSTON – By Cynthia Lescalleet (for Realty News Report) – As it happened during their relocation hunt downtown, the best space to move Perkins & Will’s Houston architecture studio was in the same historic building it had long occupied – several floors lower.

But first, the firm’s new space in 1001 McKinney had a serious makeover. The recently completed project not only accommodates the firm’s growing staff and projects but also how the workplace itself has changed in use and design.

The new space, on the tower’s 19th floor, has a unique bonus: access to a private 2,200-square-foot roof terrace where the shoulders of the 24-floor Art Deco skyscraper stack back from its central tower.

Completed recently, the two-year project’s 15,300-square-foot footprint blends a core of open plan workstations with a materials library, glass-enclosed multi-media model shop, meeting rooms with adjustable walls, and a series of multi-function spaces. The walls display working drawings and conceptual designs of current projects in the works.

With changes in work practices brought about by Covid and post-Covid, such as hybrid workweeks and remote work, the new space manages to provide for the firm’s 70-plus workers without greatly expanding the space previously occupied on the 13th floor, said principal associate Martin Gollwitzer, operations director n a preview tour. The overlapping functions of the new studio’s varied spaces helped trim the firm’s space needs.


The light-flooded studio is a serene and modern workplace designed to highlight the process of the work conducted within it. It’s also a showcase of architectural services and resources for clients, said Jenny Segsworth, interior design director.

One of the design themes of the studio’s new home is choice, she said. That means there are varied spaces to address not only worker needs to collaboration or to focus, but also the neurodiversity of workers and clients.

That term refers to the different ways people process and share information, be it visual, acoustical, textural — or social. Examples include iconography for wayfinding as well as the range of work environments placed throughout the new space, not just clustered in sections. The environment can adjust to user needs, she said. Just pick your preference.

Regardless of where a worker chooses to land for a day or a meeting, the new studio has made sure the technology and Wi-Fi are consistent, Gollwitzer noted. And the seating is “appropriate” for work, he said, meaning it has body support (unlike most sofas at home).

Meanwhile, there’s an app for booking workspaces.

Rendering credit courtesy of Perkins & Will

As a signature visual element tying together the spaces below it, a massive light tube installation defying gravity above the work station formation resembles the construction lines on architectural drawings, Segsworth said. It stretches beneath the exposed ceiling, which has been buffered by paint and acoustic materials.

The installation represents how the firm ties together staff perspectives, be it professional function or point of view, she said.

Given design efforts to support employee well-being, the project will pursue WELL, Fitwel plus LEED Gold certifications, she said.


Every design project has its challenges. This one addressed the nuances of being in a historic property: 1001 McKinney at Main Street

Designed for City National Bank of Houston by Alfred C. Finn in 1936 it was not actually built for another decade. This 23-story tower was Houston’s first completed post-war skyscraper. Its tiered sides accommodated some small outdoor spaces, except on the 19th floor where there are larger terraces not previously accessible. Perkins & Wills plans to tackle its second terrace in the future.


With the building’s green and coral tones elements in its wowzer of an Art Deco entrance lobby, the Perkins & Will space incorporates both colors as a nod at its host building and to warm up the modern buildout featuring wood and glass.

The tower’s status on the National Register of Historic Properties meant accommodating the original windows, no longer operable, Gollwitzer explained. Beneath them, vintage radiator-looking mechanicals have been shrouded behind a sleek banquet to better match the interior’s moderne vibe

The redo also enclosed — rather than removed — the original walls in the elevator landing. Retooling the bathrooms, which had the short stalls of another era, ultimately found a tidy solution. The old ones are stored elsewhere in the building.

One feature of yore with a new use is the so-called focus space located in an old freight elevator shaft. Part of the pulley system revealed during demolition was left exposed for a peek at the past.

The project’s other challenge was designing architectural space for architects. Gollwitzer compared it to “cooking for chefs.” Toward that, the in-house design process included a lot of focus groups, where concerns could be aired and resolved early on.

The new space is working as designed, he said.

Perkins & Will’s Houston studio has a legacy in science and technology projects, has grown its healthcare and academic medical practice, and is expanding its workplace practice, he said. Among its completed projects are Texas Children’s Hospital’s Jan and Dan Duncan Neurological Research Institute, Emancipation Park, Lamar IB High School, WM headquarters and Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church.

April 27, 2024 Realty News Report Copyright 2024

Feature Photo: CALpix  Copyright 2024

Photo Caption. Downtown terrace at Perkins & Will’s Houston studio, 1001 McKinney, 1001 McKinney


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