Big Name Architects Vie to Design Houston’s METRO Station

Jan 27, 2012
culturemap, Houston
Tyler Rudick

Two stops originally planned for the 600 and 800 blocks of Main were consolidated to create Central Station, which will sit at the center of a busy new transfer area at the heart of METRO’s light rail system. For such a prominent location, architects plan to give the new station a landmark treatment.

A panel of Houston leaders including deans Patricia Oliver and Sarah Whiting of the University of Houston and Rice University architecture schools, respectively, pared down a list of nearly 70 internationally-recognized firms to five high-profile candidates:

Mark Wamble of Interloop Architecture, Houston
Paul Lewis of Lewis.Tsurumaki.Lewis Architects, New York
Neil Denari of Neil M. Denari Architects, Los Angeles
Chris Sharples of SHoP Architects, New York
Craig Dykers of Snøhetta, New York and Oslo

Some of the names might already sound familiar to Houston design aficionados. Interloop principles Mark Wamble and Dawn Finley are professors at Rice. Denari received his undergraduate architecture degree from UH. Snøhetta is a finalist for the upcoming contemporary galleries at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston and SHoP Architects are behind the current renovations for the Blaffer Art Museum.

“This will be more than just a rail platform,” METRO president and CEO George Greanias told CultureMap during a presentation at the JPMorgan Chase Bank building.

“Central Station will be the centerpiece of an area where people in the city collect,” he said, referencing London’s Trafalgar Square and New York’s Washington Square Park. “Areas like this are often marked with an architectural element, something that celebrates the space.”

“It is truly exciting to know that downtown Houston will be home to an iconic, world-class station that will be used by Houstonians and visitors for years to come,” Downtown District executive director Bob Eury said in a statement.

Plans from the architectural finalists, each with their own unique vision of the rail stop and transfer area, have been posted online for public comments to help guide the selection committee this February.

According to Eury and Downtown District planning director Lonnie Hoogeboom, the five-member selection panel includes Houston Mayor Annise Parker’s assistant for cultural affairs Minnette Boesel, New York City design and construction commissioner David Burney, architectural designer Carlos Jimenez, transportation specialist Carol Lewis of Texas Southern University and graphic designer Michael Rock.