Shedding More Light on a Non-Profit’s Work Spaces


Southwest view Houston Endowment Headquarters – Photo Ivan Baan, courtesy Kevin Daly


Houston Endowment’s New Headquarters on the Bayou


Following in the footsteps of other major non-profits—The Ford Foundation and LA’s California Endowment Center in particular—the Houston Endowment’s new headquarters, located on a grassy knoll just above the Buffalo Bayou in the city’s outskirts, has also made a strong architectural statement. Similar to the California Endowment, this project was also the result of a design competition, won by the California firm, Kevin Daly Architects.


   Houston is no stranger to competitions, especially when the projects are located in close proximity to the Buffalo Bayou. Going back to 1986, the first competition dealing with the Buffalo Bayou (Sesquicentennial Park) was initiated by the Rice Design Alliance, a non-profit supported by the Rice School of Architecture. The Alliance was subsequently involved in the Hermann Park competition (1993)—also on the Bayou—and this marks the third competition bordering on that body of water. Here one had to note that Maria Nicanor, Executive Director of the Rice Design Alliance, was on the Technical Review Panel. So the Rice Design Alliance was either the initiator or closely connected with all three of these projects.



The Process
Located in a downtown highrise, the Endowment never had a pubic face; so it was only logical that the non-profit with an endowment capacity of $2.5B to draw on, would search for a location where its mission would visually establish its connection to the community and send a message of transparency. So a competition was certainly one instrument that could launch a new phase of the organization’s relationship to potential grant recipients.


To administer the competition, the endowment turned to Malcolm Reading Consultants of London, a firm with worldwide experience, from Sydney to Mumbai to Baltimore. The competition was launched in February 2019 with a Request for Qualifications and attracted 121 teams comprising 343 individual firms from around the world. From those portfolios, four teams were shortlisted for a competition stage, with each team to receive $50,000 after submission of their proposals. The four teams were:


  • Deborah Berke Partners with DAVID RUBIN Land Collective and Atelier Ten
  • Kevin Daly Architects with TLS Landscape Architecture, Productora and Transsolar
  • Olson Kundig with Surfacedesign, Inc.
  • Schaum/Shieh Architects HKS and Andrea Cochran Landscape Architecture

All of the teams, regardless of their size, were required to include a Texas-based firm as part of their team. The new building itself is to be approximately 40,000 square feet and have a construction budget of $20M. (See:


Aerial view Houston Endowment Headquarters – Photo Ivan Baan, courtesy Kevin Daly


Much has already been said about the new building, not only its welcoming aura to the outside world, but the use of the canopy supported by what may appear to some like a series of giant pickup sticks, a classical motif with a light modern touch. Some say adding the canopy even suggests a “porch” theme, so relevant to Houston. Addressing the impact of the brutal humid summers, more often than not in the 100-degree range, is not only by the shade provided by the canopy, but the use of geothermal and even fans as intended measures to provide a manageable working environment. And working in a building, where the interior was an extension of a park, rather than in an office located high atop a downtown skyscraper, was described in the following terms by one employee: “To get to the old office, you had to drive into downtown, park in the garage, and take three escalators and two elevators to get there. But now I find myself looking forward to coming into work every day. I really enjoy the sense of light and space, and it feels like the teams and our organizations all know each other much better now.”*


KDA Competition rendering (2019) ©Kevin Daly Architects


In examining the original competition entry vs. the completed project, it would seem the most notable adjustment made in design development was in the height of the building: instead of three stories, there now are two. The effect this reduction has on the front side looking out on the park appears to be negligible; but in the back, where parking exists, the building would appear smaller. Now that the project is complete, we know that the $20M estimate was pretty optimistic. The construction/design costs finally came in at $30.8M . Overruns or not, the client certainly got their money’s worth.


*The Guardian, 5 December 2022


South facade                                                               East facade


North facade


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More than a Promenade: Atlantic Beach (NC) Boardwalk Design Competition


KUTONOTUK Announced as Winner


Boardwalk photo: Courtesy Atlantic Beach


Boardwalks, especially on oceanfront locations, have a pretty universal look. But how they fit into their local context is another matter. Topography, real estate and commerce all play a role in their function, and to some extent, design. In the case of Miami Beach, it’s primarily a promenade; Brooklyn’s 2.7 mile Coney Island boardwalk stretching all the way to Brighton Beach is a mixture of promenade and commerce, with the latter at both ends. In the case of Atlantic City, it’s mostly about retail.


Atlantic City, North Carolina, located on North Carolina’s Bogue (outer) Bank, decided to stage an open, two-phase competition for an upgrade of its waterside boardwalk. As a small coastal town of less than 2,000 permanent inhabitants, the town’s boardwalk had deteriorated over the years and was badly need of repair.


The Mayor of Atlantic Beach, Trace Cooper, whose grandfather had been the principal developer of the town dating back to the 40s and 50s, wanted to go beyond the simple repair of the .2 mile boardwalk, but take recreational and commercial factors into consideration. A new pavilion to anchor the project was regarded as one of the main additions; but to attract more visitors, other enhancements were certainly in order. According to Mayor Cooper, residents wanted more shaded areas, places for illustrating the town’s history, and also the circle area called “The Point,” which was located at the major entrance to the site.


The Competition


The initial stage of the competition, which drew over 50 entries, was anonymous. The competition, which consisted of design professionals and stakeholders consisted of:

• Patrick Hobgood, Hobgood Architects, Raleigh, NC
• MA Allen. MA Allen Interiors, Raleigh, NC
• Marjorie Hodges. Art Consultant, Artsuiite, Raleigh, NC
• Fred Bunn, Real Estate Developer, Wilson, NC/Atlantic Beach

• Danny Navey, DJ and Atlantic Beach Town Council member
• Trace Cooper, Mayor of Atlantic Beach


The three shortlisted finalists in their final ranking are::
KUTONOTUK, Charlottesville, VA (winner)
• Forma Design, New York, NY (second place)
• Lewis Williams, London, U.K. (third place)




Charlottesville, VA
Matthew Jull and Leena Cho
Cameron Fullmer, Patrick Sardo, Collette Block


Above created during design development ©KUTONOTUK


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