Houston’s humid subtropical climate might be attractive in January, but with temperatures frequently hitting triple digits in summer months, it’s hard to hide the fact that Houston gets hot. Yet instead of shying away from the heat, city leaders have decided to own it. The city’s largest current construction project is the 1,000-room Marriott Marquis hotel, led by Houston-based RIDA Development Corporation. The addition of the hotel is designed to help book the 26-year-old George R. Brown Convention Center, but just as important, its architecture and location offer new and better ideas on how visitors and cities interact.
Hotels in Houston and elsewhere often turn their backs on the outdoors, with windowless conference areas and inward-looking lobbies, pre-function areas, and circulation spaces. This building instead goes inside-out. “The interior space will be outward looking, with lots of glass,” says Jim Looney of Looney & Associates, a Dallas firm charged with the project’s interior design. Morris Architects, which designed the structure, put the lobby on a public plaza that faces Discovery Green, Houston’s 12-acre public park completed in 2008, a notable departure from car drop-off lobbies that often are in parking garages or on hotel backsides.
Looney will be incorporating interior elements that can tolerate what nature throws at Houston, such as perforated vinyl wall coverings that “breathe” in higher humidity and meetings rooms that take advantage of natural daylighting. The structure is aiming for a LEED Silver certification. Laura Paletz, senior associate of construction for RIDA, says that sustainable components are attractive to meeting planners but “the whole world is looking for green now.” That includes families, and a 63,348-square-foot recreation deck that sits atop the hotel ballroom will provide activities to the extended-stay conventioneer as well as any visitor who wants an active Lone Star State experience.