Gerald D. Hines  ·  1925–2020

Our Founder's Story

Gerald D. Hines, founder and chairman of the international real estate firm Hines, who brought architectural excellence, superior engineering and peerless integrity to international real estate development, passed away peacefully at home on Sunday, August 23, 2020, surrounded by family. Born in Gary, Indiana on August 15, 1925, he had recently celebrated his 95th birthday. Hines was laid to rest in a private family ceremony in Aspen, Colorado.

Widely regarded as a leading visionary in the commercial real estate industry, Hines founded his namesake firm in Houston in 1957. He grew the business from a one-man operation into today’s international real estate investment powerhouse, renowned for developing, owning and managing some of the world’s most recognizable architectural landmarks across five continents. With more than 4,800 employees, Hines today is active in 225 cities in 25 countries.

The Early Years

Gerald D. Hines was born in Gary, Indiana, on August 15, 1925. The eldest child of (Robert) Gordon and Myrtle Hines, Gerald was a modest man with a big heart, and touched many lives with his signature humility, generosity, humor and grace. Although he achieved great acclaim and success, Hines never forgot his humble beginnings or lost sight of his core values. His father was an electrician in a steel mill and Gerald grew up during the Great Depression within sight of the Chicago skyline. Upon seeing the Windy City’s iconic Wrigley Building on a childhood trip, Hines recalled saying to himself, “Someday I’d like to build one of those.”

After serving as a lieutenant in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers—stationed in Fort Lewis, Washington between 1943 and 1946—Hines graduated with a degree in mechanical engineering from Purdue University in 1948. He accepted a job with American Blower Corporation, a manufacturer of HVAC equipment. Given a choice of four cities, he chose Houston where he saw opportunities in the growing market of air-conditioned buildings. Starting out, he lived with fraternity brothers from Purdue at the YMCA. Hines then became a partner of Texas Engineering Co., designing mechanical systems for commercial/industrial buildings, and it was during these years that he got to know buildings inside and out.

Cultivating an Entrepreneurial Spirit

Hines’ entrepreneurial instincts soon led him to start his own venture. He founded his namesake firm in Houston in 1957. The early 1960s were marked by the development of 12 mid-century-inspired office projects completed on Richmond Avenue in Houston, some of which still stand today. Hines’ reputation grew with his first two high-profile projects: downtown Houston’s One Shell Plaza, the tallest building in Texas when completed in 1971 and still the world’s tallest lightweight concrete structure; and The Galleria, the landmark shopping center that catalyzed Houston’s booming Uptown district.

Starting a trend of working with internationally known designers that would anchor his professional legacy and reshape skylines around the world, Hines hired the celebrated architect Bruce Graham of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill (SOM), and the legendary structural engineer Fazlur Khan for the Shell headquarters project, One Shell Plaza. After an inspirational visit to the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II in Milan, Hines tapped Gyo Obata of HOK to design The Galleria in Houston which is also distinguished by its light-filled, barrel-vault atrium, and its innovative, mixed-use amenities. With superior aesthetics and a center court ice rink serving as kinetic art, Hines was able to lure luxury tenants, including the first Neiman Marcus outside of Dallas, and set a new bar for shopping center design.

Following the critical and financial success of these flagship projects, Hines embarked on another tower in downtown Houston, Pennzoil Place, in collaboration with Philip Johnson and John Burgee—design partners with whom he would complete 15 projects over two decades. With its twin trapezoids in stunning counterpoint, Pennzoil Place was architecturally significant as well as commercially strategic in allowing leases to two major anchor tenants, Pennzoil and Zapata. The achievement put Hines on the map, crowned by acclaim from architectural critic and historian Ada Louise Huxtable who, writing for The New York Times declared Pennzoil Place the “building of the decade.”

Huxtable praised Hines for his focus on creating superb art and architecture. His determination to prove that great design by prominent architects could be commercially successful, revolutionized the real estate industry as well as serving to improve the quality of commercial buildings in major U.S. cities by raising the bar ever higher. Throughout his career, Hines teamed with such renowned architects as Frank Gehry; Jean Nouvel; Sir Norman Foster; I.M. Pei and Henry N. Cobb; Philip Johnson and John Burgee; Cesar Pelli and Fred Clarke; Kevin Roche and John Dinkeloo; Robert A.M. Stern; A. Eugene Kohn and William E. Pedersen; Charles Moore; Jon Pickard and William Chilton; Arthur Gensler; and Richard Meier, among many others.

In 2007, David Childs, chairman emeritus of SOM, said, “Hines’ attention to architecture has been good not only for the profession but also for urbanism, as his unwavering concern for the quality of his buildings extends—beyond the plot of land and the frame of the site—to the community.”

Paul Goldberger, noted architectural critic writing for The New York Times, commented, “For me, architecture will be Gerald Hines’ greatest legacy, since few people have done as much as he has to make architecture a truly public, and genuinely popular, art in our time.”

Expanding the Vision

Broad success in Hines’ adopted hometown of Houston led to growth across the U.S. by establishing large offices in major hubs including New York, San Francisco, Atlanta and Chicago, and expanding from there. The firm’s international expansion began in 1976 when Hines completed his first international project: an office tower called Les Terrasses in Montreal, developed in collaboration with the Paris-based firm Louis Dreyfus Property Group.

Hines made London his home base from 1996 to 2010, having previously transferred day-to-day operations to his son, Jeff, who became the firm’s president and CEO in 1990. While living abroad, Hines oversaw the opening and expansion of offices across Western and Eastern Europe, establishing a footprint that is still growing across the continent. Hines brought new standards of excellence to real estate in emerging markets such as Russia and China, where the firm has been active since the ‘90s.

Notable international developments include: Ducat Place in Moscow (1996); DZ Bank in Berlin (1999); EDF Tower in Paris (2001); Embassy House in Beijing (2002); 99 Queen Victoria Street in London (2004); Torre Almirante in Rio de Janeiro (2004); Pórtico in Madrid (2005); One Horizon Center in Gurgaon (2014); and Panamérica Park in São Paulo (2003). Other notable residential, retail and mixed-use international projects include Del Bosque in Mexico City (1997); Metropolitan in Warsaw (2003) and Porta Nuova in Milan (2015).

Focus on ESG

Sustainability has been at the heart of the firm since its foundation. Over the decades, the firm has continuously partnered with leading manufacturers, universities and engineers to pioneer new approaches and technologies that elevate the efficiency and value of every building, every investment. At Hines, sustainability is an ongoing practice that fosters communities and cities around the world.

Hines’ bold and pioneering leadership in sustainability has been recognized by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Green Building Council, Global Green USA and similar organizations in South America, Europe and Asia. His respect for the integrity of local architecture and native culture, and his ongoing efforts to add public spaces, parks, water features, art, music, opera and other open amenities to commercial projects continues to enhance the quality of life in communities around the world.

Both professionally and philanthropically, Hines’ inspiring legacy will touch people throughout the world for decades to come. His mother was a teacher in a one-room schoolhouse in Nova Scotia and instilled in him the importance of education. The College of Architecture and Design at the University of Houston is named in his honor, and he championed, taught at and supported real estate, architecture and urban planning programs at Yale, Harvard and Rice universities.

Hines valued sharing experience and knowledge with younger generations, so he created and permanently endowed the Urban Land Institute’s Gerald D. Hines Student Urban Design Competition and contributed to Purdue University, Yale University and The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, among many other institutions.

Hines was active in civic and charitable contributions that had significant impact. In 1966, he co-founded and served on the board of the Harris County Hospital District Foundation to provide greater health care access for underserved communities. In 1968, he was instrumental in creating the Houston Area Urban League, which helps minorities secure economic equality and civil rights. From 1981 to 1983, Hines served as chairman of the Dallas Federal Reserve Bank under Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker.

Adventure Seeker

In business and private life alike, Gerald Hines was driven by a powerful desire to always know and do more and to share his enthusiasm with others. An avid outdoorsman and adventurer, Hines was known among family members, friends and colleagues for leading spirited climbing expeditions, backcountry ski trips and cycling trips around the world. He was a passionate skier, skiing into his 90s, and developed the Aspen Highlands ski area as a co-owner of the Aspen Ski Company. With his wife Barbara, he sailed around the world on the Lady B, a sailboat he designed.

An Enduring Legacy

Gerald Hines brought architectural excellence, superior engineering and peerless integrity to international real estate development. He grew the business from a one-man operation into today’s international real estate investment powerhouse, renowned for developing, owning and managing some of the world’s most recognizable architectural landmarks across five continents.

Widely regarded as a leading visionary in the commercial real estate industry, he would develop more than 885 projects in the world’s greatest cities, including more than 100 buildings over 25 stories, and the tallest office towers in Texas, San Francisco and Italy, among others. Some of Hines’ most notable developments outside of Houston include the ‘Lipstick Building’ in Manhattan; Salesforce Tower in San Francisco; Tour EDF in Paris; and Diagonal Mar in Barcelona.

Gerald Hines passed away at the age of 95, just eight days after his birthday. He trusted his legacy of innovation and transformation in the built environment would be carried on through the contributions of a Hines team that is 4,800 strong.

“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.”

Throughout his career, Hines was recognized with numerous honors and industry awards. Here are just a few of his achievements:

  • Named Honorary Fellow of the American Institute of Architects
  • Awarded honorary doctorates from Purdue University and the University of Houston
  • Inducted into the North Texas Commercial Real Estate Hall of Fame along with his son, Jeff

Industry awards include:

  • Urban Land Institute’s Prize for Visionary Urban Development
  • National Building Museum’s Honor Award
  • MIPIM’s Man of the Year Award
  • Lynn S. Beedle Award from the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitats
  • Harvard Design School inaugural Visionary Leadership in Real Estate Award
  • The Good Design is Good Business Patron Award presented by Architectural Record and the American Architectural Foundation
  • Cornell Real Estate Industry Leader Award
  • History Making Texan Award from the Texas State History Museum Foundation