More about the venue
Medical Towers was designed by Gordon Bunshaft of the acclaimed architecture firm Skidmore, Owings and Merrill (SOM) and served as their introduction to Houston’s architectural landscape. SOM partnered with Houston architectural firm, Goleman & Rolfe. Pritzker Architecture Prize-winner Gordon Bunshaft drew inspiration from his famed Lever House in New York City.
The historic Medical Towers Building in the Texas Medical Center has been redeveloped into a 273-room Westin hotel, breathing new life into one of the first modern glass-and-steel buildings in Houston. Pearl Hospitality, a Houston developer with a track record of preserving historic landmarks, successfully converted this midcentury modern office building into an 18-story luxury hotel. Ringed with perimeter street-level restaurants, the renovation was completed in early 2020.
Medical Towers was constructed in 1956 to meet the burgeoning demand for medical office and retail in the nascent medical campus following World War II. The building — estimated at the time to cost $4 million, or $37.5 million in today’s dollars — was one of the first office buildings in the Medical Center, drawing 175 doctors from downtown Houston and helping to propel the district into the largest of its kind in the world.
It was also an architecturally significant building for Houston. Until it went up, most of the high-rises in the neighborhood were traditional masonry, such as the Prudential Building; Spanish style, such as Hermann Hospital; or Art Deco-style, such as the Shamrock Hotel.
Compositionally, the building includes three distinct elements: ground floor retail, an elevated parking garage, and a setback tower. Each element required different attention during the redevelopment with the tower interior being completely converted from an office building to a hotel. The parking garage was returned to public use and its exterior panels were restored to their original design and color.
Preservation efforts also included sensitive cleaning and restoration of the building’s exterior masonry and curtain wall. More than 4,000 individual bricks were repaired and gently washed along the east and west end walls. The curtain wall’s rectilinear turquoise-
colored exterior spandrel panels and aluminum frames were also carefully cleaned and appropriately treated.
On the interior, a challenge of the project involved the retention of the tower’s historic curtain wall. Creative interior design integrated the proportions of the windows (which sit four feet off the ground—a higher than normal level for contemporary hotel standards) and take advantage of the abundance of natural light. Selective mid-century modern furniture designs combine the new and old into a hotel experience that meets the modern expectations of today’s guests.
Due to the historic nature of the building, all modernization and upgrades were delicately balanced with preservation best practices in mind. Many design and construction challenges were addressed through the help of numerous consultants in order to meet the requirements of the Texas Historical Commission (THC) and the National Park Service (NPS). As a result, visitors can enjoy the building’s historic elements, modern technology, and amenities.