Gerald Douglas Hines, real estate developer, mechanical engineer, and architectural patron, was born on August 15, 1925, in Gary, Indiana, to Gordon Hines and Myrtle (McConnell) Hines. His father was an electrician in a steel mill, and his mother was a schoolteacher. Hines attended Emerson High School in Gary, Indiana, and subsequently studied at Purdue University in 1943 before he served as a lieutenant in the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers at Fort Lewis, Washington, during World War II. Upon his discharge in 1946, he returned to Purdue University and graduated with a mechanical engineering degree in 1948. Hines took a job with American Blower Corporation and moved to Houston later that year. After two years of employment, he became a partner at Texas Engineering Company where he designed air-conditioning systems.
During the 1950s Hines began a sideline business as a real estate developer and built a 5,000-square-foot building for a neighbor. His interest in construction and architecture grew, and he left his engineering position to focus on development full-time. In 1957 he founded the Hines firm and began developing office buildings around Houston. By 1967 Hines Interests had worked on almost 100 projects in the Houston area, and the firm broke ground for Neiman Marcus, designed to be the anchor store for a new and dynamic shopping complex—the Galleria. The 600,000-square-foot center, located at the intersection of Westheimer Road and Post Oak Boulevard in west Houston, opened in 1970. The three-story, enclosed, climate-controlled shopping center, was built around an ice rink, a novelty in Houston’s humid climate. Inspired by the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele during a trip to Milan, Italy, Hines commented about his Galleria, “A shopping center it is not. It will be a new downtown.” The Galleria continued to draw shoppers and visitors from around the world in the 2020s.
In the late 1960s Hines took on a larger, more ambitious project in creating One Shell Plaza. Working with architect Bruce Graham, Hines built a fifty-story skyscraper for Shell Oil Company on Louisiana Street in downtown Houston. At the time that it opened in 1971, the building was the tallest in Texas and, as of 2021, was still the “world’s tallest lightweight concrete structure.” Impressed by One Shell Plaza, Pennzoil approached Hines to construct their own building. Hines worked with designers Philip Johnson and John Burgee in what became the beginning of a longtime collaboration on a number of construction projects. The resulting Pennzoil Place (completed in 1975) comprised a pair of thirty-six-story buildings, which were not only less expensive than one building but had better parking. New York Times architectural critic Ada Louise Huxtable pronounced Pennzoil Place the “building of the decade.” One Shell Plaza and Pennzoil Place became prominent downtown icons of a growing Houston skyline defined by Hines’s firm and his attention to architectural detail.
The firm’s interests expanded. In 1973 Hines, with the Ford Foundation, purchased 7,500 acres in nearby Sugarland for the development of the planned community, First Colony. At that time the purchase was the largest land value transaction in Texas. The Hines firm also organized Hines Banking Group to target banks for partnerships in construction and building occupancy. In 1977 the company began its first international project with the construction of a twenty-four-unit condominium in Mexico City. Other signature buildings in Houston that Hines developed include the seventy-five-story Texas Commerce Tower (opened in 1982; today called the Chase Tower), the tallest building in Houston, and the sixty-four-story Transco Tower (opened in 1983; today called the Williams Tower), the tallest tower outside of downtown and known for its revolving beacon searchlight atop the building.
Hines did not limit his vision just to Houston. He and his real estate development company, which became Hines Interests Limited Partnership in 1990, took on real estate development projects in cities on five continents. Hines established offices in San Francisco, New York, Chicago, Atlanta, and abroad, and he worked with internationally-respected engineers and architects, including I. M. Pei, Cesar Pelli, Frank Gehry, Arthur Gensler, Fred Clarke, and many others. Notable construction projects included Southeast Financial Center (1984; now Wachovia Financial Center) in Miami; the Lipstick Building (1986) in Manhattan; Norwest Center (1989; now Wells Fargo Center) in Minneapolis; Diagonal Mar (2001) in Barcelona, Spain; and Salesforce Tower (2018) in San Francisco.
In 1990 Hines’s son Jeffrey assumed daily operations as chief executive officer and president of the company. From 1996 to 2010 Gerald Hines spent much of his time living in London and expanding the firm’s interests overseas. By 2020 the company had more than 4,800 employees and was active in some twenty-five countries. Hines’s career encompassed more than 900 building projects, including more than 100 skyscrapers, yet, a modest person, he recalled the early days of his Houston projects with fondness. “My favorite buildings are the ones that we really had to struggle to complete: One Shell Plaza, the Galleria, Pennzoil Place. Those were very, very significant buildings in the chronology of our success because they were so early and we were learning so much.”
In the New York Times, architectural critic Paul Goldberger summarized Hines’s impact on Houston and beyond. “…few people have done as much as he has to make architecture a truly public, and genuinely popular, art in our time.” Hines said in a 2007 oral history, “I think that maybe we created a competition that elevated what others had to do, and I think the built-in environment is something that we have to live with for a long time.”
Gerald Hines remained active in his civic involvement throughout his career. In 1966 he cofounded the Harris County Hospital District Foundation and served on its board. He helped create the Houston Area Urban League in 1968. From 1981 to 1983 he chaired the Dallas Federal Reserve Bank. He engaged in many philanthropic endeavors, particularly for the University of Houston. Hines received many awards during his career, including honorary doctorates from Purdue University and the University of Houston, which named the Gerald D. Hines College of Architecture and Design in his honor. The American Institute of Architects named Hines an honorary fellow, and the North Texas Commercial Real Estate Hall of Fame inducted both Hines and his son Jeffrey. Other awards included the Lynn S. Beedle Award from the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitats; the Cornell Real Estate Industry Leader Award; the Good Design is Good Business Patron Award, given by Architectural Record and the American Architectural Foundation; the Harvard Design School’s inaugural Visionary Leadership in Real Estate Award; the History Making Texan Award, presented by the Texas State History Museum Foundation; MIPIM’s Man of the Year Award; the National Building Museum’s Honor Award; and the Urban Land Institute’s Prize for Visionary Urban Development. The Holocaust Museum of Houston recognized Hines and his wife Barbara with its Guardian of the Human Spirit Award.
Hines married Dorothy Marion “Dot” Schwartz in 1952. They had two children, Jeffrey and Jennifer, before they divorced in 1980. She died in 2017. He married Barbara Fritzsche in 1981. They had two children, Serena and Trevor. Hines was an avid outdoorsman and enjoyed travel. He sailed around the world on his self-designed sailboat Lady B.
Gerald D. Hines died on August 23, 2020, in Greenwich, Connecticut. He was ninety-five. His wife Barbara, his four children, and their families survived him. He was buried in Aspen, Colorado.
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Gerald Hines, Interview by Paul Hobby, December 13, 2007, Houston, Texas, Mayor Bill White Collection, Houston Oral History Project, Houston Public Library (https://cdm17006.contentdm.oclc.org/digital/collection/oralhistory/id/31/rec/2), accessed June 3, 2021. Hines: Our History (https://www.hines.com/about/history), accessed June 3, 2021. Houston Chronicle, August 26, 2020. John Lomax, “Secrets of the Galleria: ‘A Shopping Center It Is Not. It Will Be a New Downtown’,” Houstonia, December 2013 (https://www.houstoniamag.com/style-and-shopping/2013/12/secrets-to-the-galleria-intro-december-2013), accessed June 3, 2021. Patricia McConnico, “Gerald Hines,” Texas Monthly, September 2000. Tom Metcalf, “Gerald Hines, Houston’s Billionaire Master Builder, Dies at 95,” August 24, 2020, Bloomberg (https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-08-24/gerald-hines-houston-s-billionaire-master-builder-dies-at-95), accessed October 14, 2020. Jack Murphy, Gerald D. Hines, 1925–2020,” August 27, 2020, Rice Design Alliance (https://www.ricedesignalliance.org/hines-tribute), June 3, 2021.
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