Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Hyatt Regency Houston: John Portman

The Hyatt Regency in Downtown Houston, a building I have hardly stepped out of on purpose other than for funeral related business, is a very interesting building. I've posted plenty of images on Facebook and will illustrate these blogs later, but for now:
When I first arrived I asked the cab driver 'is that the entrance?' When I got to the check in desk I asked 'Err...where are the lifts?' I hadn't thought to look directly above my head, where they very clearly whizz up and down the atrium. So, an entrance that doesn't look like a entrance, and navigation that demands a change of perception. OK. The atrium, that is surrounded by things that don't look like entrances, and include 'cool tunnels' (literally and metaphorically I assume) is the buzz of the place and thirty storeys high, indeed this building was the highest downtown for some time, so they put a revolving restaurant on top of it called 'the Spindletop' so we can probably date it to the seventies. The other very odd thing about this thirty storey high lump is that it is clad (presumably, but it looks solidly) in brick, about a zillion bricks, and those bricks are detailed at peculiar angles that run those thirty storeys up.
Meanwhile the plan makes poor conventional sense for a hotel, because the atrium is hugged by single loaded corridors. I keep hearing business men from New York in the lift, they think that space should be filled in of course. They probably want to fit condos, but in hotel terms single loaded corridors are not thought the best for maid service, since it makes the job slower.
So despite or perhaps that this building has the wrong plan, is made of the wrong material, and doesn't do anything conventional, and that if it were submitted for a diploma the jury would laugh out loud, especially at the revolving restaurant (in gold, of course) I think it's a classic. I suppose it would qualify as a classic 'duck' in Venturi terms, but good, wry, case study in the type. Stay here while you can if you're in Houston, nothing lasts long here, even if made to look like a fortress.
PS: Yes, it is by John Portman.

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