George R. Brown Convention Center

HoustonFirst Corporation

Houston, TX


This transformational project creates a dynamic venue worthy of the capital of the oil and gas industry. Driven by the client’s vision of creating a significant downtown public space, “a front door for the city," the reimagined GRB now supports the commercial, retail, and residential development of downtown Houston. 

The five-block-long building presented challenges: it had no main entry; and it was impossible to move between sections of the GRB once you had entered the facility. Three glass volumes now function as windows into the GRB, their transparency enabling a dialogue between the building and the city. Expansive glazing allows the park and skyline to unfold before the eyes of guests. A spacious, airy concourse now runs the full length of the facility, enhancing visitors’ sense of arrival and improving wayfinding and circulation. Lobby doors align with park entrances, connecting built and natural environments, with each functioning as a backdrop for the other.

Four large restaurants, public art and fountains enliven the plaza experience by day and night. Roof terraces above the entrances extend the outdoor experience. Removing traffic lanes from a car-centric city was a definite challenge. After complex negotiations, six of the eight lanes of the ADLA were closed to create a “front lawn” for the GRB and the City. The remaining two lanes can easily be closed to form a pedestrian plaza for major events. SWA developed a Houstonian landscape narrative exemplified by “the Wharf,” an elevated timber platform.

The adjacent office building/garage, the genesis of the project, now houses organizations such as HoustonFirst Corporation, Greater Houston Partnership, Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau, and the Houston Sports Authority, which all promote the City. The structure is designed to function as the pad for a future hotel.

We partnered with landscape architects SWA to create a new town square along the Avenida de las Americas. 

Building Facts

  • 1,150,000 GSF modernization
  • 650,000 GSF new
  • 7 Exhibit halls
  • 88 Meeting rooms
  • 6 Balconies
  • Office building
  • 4 Restaurants
  • Theatre
  • Ballroom
  • Outdoor event space
  • Garage

Awards & Honors

  1. Renovation/Restoration

    AIA Houston

Great effort from all. The transformation of the GRB has changed downtown Houston dramatically. Our future is bright.

Dave Osterhout Director of Operations, GRB