It's doubtful that there has ever been a gathering of the world's leading architects more potent than the one that took place at the Hobby Center for the Performing Arts in honor of developer Gerald Hines' 90th birthday.
The Hines Architecture Forum brought together Robert A.M. Stern, John Burgee, Cesar Pelli, Gene Kohn, Henry Cobb and Jon Pickard, who discussed Hines' role in transforming the nature of commercial development worldwide. Led by architectural critic Paul Goldberger, the conversation focused on Hines' accomplishments and his passion for architectural greatness.
Famed architect Frank Gehry was supposed to have joined the conversation, but recent back surgery led his doctor to prohibit him from boarding an airplane.
Mingling with VIP guests and the architects backstage before the program Hines remarked, "Well, at 90 years of age, this is a great accolade in my history and so I look forward to hearing what these architects have to say about our activities."
"Does this man look like a man who is 90 years of age?," Stern quipped while visiting with the definitely youthful Hines. "I've already marked my calendar for his 100th."
The standing-room-only crowd in the 2,600-seat theater was welcomed by Patricia Oliver, dean of the Gerald D. Hines College of Architecture at the University of Houston, where the following night a birthday bash took place.
The 90-minute love song to Hines could best be summed up by Goldberger's introduction in which he quoted from an article that he wrote on Hines in 1976.
"Hines is a new breed of builder who appears determined to do what the real estate industry has always insisted was impossible, to make serious architecture pay," he wrote for the New York Times. "Hines is at once a money-making developer and a serious architectural patron."
Then Goldberger said, "Thirty-nine years later nothing has changed — except that Pennzoil Place is no longer the latest Hines project but a piece of architectural history . . . the building that more than any other has influenced real estate development going forward."
He praised Hines for his "enthusiasm and discipline in an almost perfect equilibrium."