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Fluid Transition by mark lam, Phd, aia


University of Houston Clear Lake Student Services –

Classroom Building, Clear Lake client

University of Houston System


Hellmuth, Obata + Kassabaum

design team

Roger Soto, AIA; Dallas E. Felder; Clyde A. Twine, AIA;

Jim Smith, AIA; Jody Henry, AIA; Don Smith, AIA contractor consultants

Lyda-Swinerton Builders Haynes Whaley Associates (structural); Nathelyne

A. Kennedy & Associates (civil); Shah Smith & Associates (MEP) photographers

Aker/Zvonkovic; Drew Donovan

The architects split the program into two parts and imparted distinctly different textural qualities to both of the new buildings. The classroom building, shown at far left, modulates the transition from the campus’ box-like structures. The transition culminates with the student services wing, shown at far right, that is expected to change the character of the campus.


t e x a s

a r c h i t e c t

When the University of Houston commissioned HOK Architects to design a new student services building, the campus lacked a clearly defined organizational concept and was more of a loose conglomeration of disparate buildings without a clear master plan. The architects’ solution attempts to establish an order by continuing the use of the form, materials, and rhythm of the neighboring Miesian-style Bayou Building while also introducing a fresher, more visually appealing character. By this approach, the design concept became one of juxtaposition and transition. The program was divided into two parts. The classroom building required spaces for classrooms, faculty offices, student registration, student counseling, career counseling, and recreational and fitness area. Then the student services building required dining facilities, an outside café, offices, meeting rooms for various student run organizations, a student lounge, multiple labs, and additional faculty offices. Thus, the architects split the parti into two distinct portions – a classic box-like classroom side and a more relaxed and fluid student-services side – with both joined by a three-story atrium and lobby. Laid out as a simple three-story block with punched windows, the classroom building’s exterior combines dark-bronze-colored metal elements (wall panels, sun screens, and entry canopy) with pre-cast concrete panels integrating a primary and secondary grid. Each of its four faces responds uniquely to sun angles and adjacencies, and each exhibits handsome proportions, rhythm, and material composition. The building’s location and orientation are set in perfect alignment with the west face of the adjacent Bayou Building. On the west approach this building is a complementary continuation of the Bayou Building in terms of size, shape, and massing, yet it introduces a more playful mix of grid and materials. Still, this bar-shaped building serves as a backdrop for its much more open and free-form counterpart on the east side of the complex.

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Texas Architect Jan/Feb 2007: Spaces for Learning  
Texas Architect Jan/Feb 2007: Spaces for Learning  

Texas Architect is the official publication of the Texas Society of Architects, each edition features recently completed projects and other...