OG Gold Mine Series: Who is Gerald Hines

We’re all about celebrating legends, learning from the original rebels who thought differently. Who didn’t balk at risk. Who changed history. 

And this one has a legacy that lives on to this day most prominently through the skylines that he outlined and the university college of architecture named after him.

Learning From the Visionary of Urban Development 

"The basic intention is to establish an identity for the building which is individualistic, that makes the tenants say, 'that's my building, and I'm proud of it.’”

The University of Houston Gerald D. Hines College of Architecture and Design lost their namesake in 2020, a man who set himself apart from the rest by believing that exceptional architecture would create viable investments. He transformed cities across the globe by elevating commercial real estate to an art, and is renowned for developing, owning and managing some of the most recognizable architectural landmarks across the globe.

The driving philosophy Hines strived to impress upon the College’s students was that top-notch architecture and design had an incredible power to improve quality of life. He dedicated himself to fostering the next wave of innovative and critical thinkers in the real estate industry, which he accomplished by his College ranking in the top 7% of United States architecture schools.

The Story Behind the One-of-a-Kind Landmarks

Hines grew up in Chicago during the Great Depression, though his dreams extended far past his geography and circumstances. Seeing the statuesque Wrigley Building in downtown Chicago for the first time inspired in him a dream to build beautiful things himself one day. He graduated college with a degree in mechanical engineering and moved to Houston, where he learned the ins and outs of buildings. Ten years later he founded his namesake company, Hines, and began his empire.

“We say it's very easy to build a cheap building, and very easy to build an expensive building. It's very hard to build an outstanding building at a reasonable cost, and that's what we try to do. It's a working relationship."

Hines believed in elevating architecture to a level of creativity rarely seen, and he worked with internationally known designers who could accomplish just that. With light-filled atriums and ice rinks serving as kinetic art, he lured luxury clients into the Houston Galleria and set the bar for shopping center design. With twin 36-story trapezoidal towers, he changed the idea of commercial real estate design with Houston’s Pennzoil Place. 

Creating Something that Mattered 

His determination to deliver landmark, one-of-a-kind buildings by partnering with prominent architects was not only successful; it revolutionized the real estate industry. What Hines calls the “point of difference” - what makes a building strange and unique - becomes the selling point where buyers pay more for quality and keep the property as a point of pride. He has perfected the delicate balance between delivering incredible buildings by renown architects and keeping costs down by embracing compromise. Hines believes that development should enhance the environment and that a building with an identity and good architecture will most definitely increase in value and drive demand for tenants. Why should an office tower be dull and unassuming, when it could be special and make a lasting impact? 

 “I have never believed in status quo. I believe we can always improve—either by rethinking existing ways of doing things or by thinking outside the box. This is innovation—it is a state of mind.”

The Legacy Lives On

Gerald Hines will long be remembered as the modest billionaire who studiously shaped some of the most notable skylines around the world. His belief in excellence and integrity in architectural design propelled him to deliver positive impact to communities, and he is esteemed as a visionary in the commercial real estate industry. Some of Hines most notable achievements include:

  • More than 900 projects around the globe, including more than 100 buildings over 25 stories
  • The tallest office towers in Texas, San Francisco, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Kentucky, and Italy
  • Transforming the Houston skyline with the Pennzoil Place, the JPMorgan Chase tower, and the former Bank of America building
  • The ‘Lipstick Building’ in Manhattan
  • The Salesforce Tower in San Francisco
  • Tour EDF in Paris, and 
  • Diagonal Mar in Barcelona

Hines passed away at the age of 95, but he will be forever remembered as the humble, reserved man who beautified the world through its skylines. Read about his journey in the book Raising The Bar: The Life and Work of Gerald D. Hines, written by his Mark Seal, who commented this about the legendary, simple man:

“I’ll never forget flying with him from Milan to London — cramped almost in the very last (row) of the (commercial) plane, which didn’t bother him one bit. There we sat amid everyone else — this mega developer who had shaped both the skyline of the city we had left as well as the city where we were landing — and he was excited and happy and content. His enthusiasm was boundless.” 

Here’s to the inspiration to carve out our own legacies in each of our own, unique, simple ways.