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George R. Brown Convention Center Renovation

Convention Center revamp brings Houston’s public events home

Project Facts

Location Houston, Texas
Owner Houston First Corporation
Size 186,000 SF convention center
Cost $176 million
Status Completed 2016


Houston’s bid to host Super Bowl LI revived the shuttering GRB, prompting much-needed renovations. After years of struggling to keep pace with the newer venues springing up in nearby cities, renovations to the GRB were completed in 2017. The 1987 building façade received a modern facelift, and the dated interior space and outdoor plaza underwent a functional, energetic redesign. The updates were lauded by the owner as a huge success, and the GRB has since reclaimed its place as a popular public event space.

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About the project

Originally completed in the fall of 1987, the convention center’s distinctive design is meant to reflect the city’s oil and gas-based economy. Despite two major space expansions and the construction of a connected Hilton hotel, the convention business declined through the years as newer venues opened in competing cities. Super Bowl LI, slated for Houston in February 2017, served as a catalyst to help reshape downtown’s east end into a vibrant new focal point of the city.

A major project aspiration was to move the focus of the convention center from the second level to the ground level by adding three atrium lobbies and two restaurants to the front of the building. These elements are tied together by a large, cantilevered trellis that appears to hover effortlessly over the new lobbies. While it appears to be a solid canopy from afar, the trellis is actually made up of a series of 5-inch diameter pipes. In addition to serving as a signature architectural feature, the trellis functions as rigging support for concerts and events in the public space in front of the center.

Additional modifications included creating several column-free spaces inside the building and a pedestrian-friendly space along the front of the convention center. Key to the convention center’s sustained prominence is the vibrant outdoor plaza, which includes a water fountain with kinetic sculpture and a catenary “wharf” structure, along a pedestrian walkway connecting the convention center to the popular urban green space, Discovery Green.