Party salutes Gerald Hines on his 90th birthday

Part Las Vegas-glitz, part Broadway-up-in-lights, the transformation of the Gerald D. Hines College of Architecture building on the University of Houston campus on Saturday was a glamorous repurposing of the education facility into magical party palace.


How could it be anything less for the celebration of Gerald Hines’ 90th birthday, a milestone for the renowned developer who has made a lasting mark on commercial real estate design throughout the world. With his namesake firm, Hines, at work and a generous budget at play, the evening soared in every aspect.


The 440 guests’ arrival at the Philip Johnson-designed building was heralded by klieg lights with Hines’ initials emblazoned above each side of the entrance. Stepping through the college doors was not unlike stepping through Alice’s looking glass as partygoers were greeted by a sea of pink, lavender and yellow lighting, speckled with bubbles of white light.


The party began at ground level in the college atrium where Staging Solutions created a chic lounge affair with the focal point being a dramatic stage set comprised of soaring models of some of Hines' iconic buildings, the structures glimmering in fantastical lighting. Here, Sara Niemietz sang with several back-up musicians, before catching the red-eye back to Los Angeles where she performed at one of the Emmy parties Sunday night.


Heavy hitter crowd


Cocktail-attired leaders of architecture, education and business quickly filled the atrium as Hines and his wife, Barbara, circulated through greeting UH president Renu Khator and husband Suresh Khator; famed architectsRobert A.M. Stern, John Burgee and Cesar Pelli; former Houston MayorBill White and wife Andrea; and Central Houston Inc. president Bob Euryand Gayle, among the numerous notables from Houston and around the world. (These starchitects and several others had been featured the day before at the Hines Architectural Forum at the Hobby Center.)

Act two of the spectacular evening took place on the college’s fourth floor where desks, storage bins and detritus of student life were removed to make way for a spectacular dinner setting where again lavender and rose-hued lighting set the stage. It was a transformation that Architecture Dean and Hines friend Patricia Oliver could hardly believe. More than a dozen flat screen TVs assured that guests from any vantage point could see the program of video tributes and the welcome led by Hines’ son Jeff Hines, who now heads the company, and by Barbara and Gerald Hines’ daughter, Serena.


Frank Gehry dessert


One particular tribute came from world-renowned architect Frank Gehry, who was supposed to have attended but doctor’s orders following a recent back surgery prevented him from boarding an airplane. Via video he sent words of praise and congratulations and in artistic spirit he created the sculptural chocolate shavings that topped the Indiana Hoosier pie dessert.


That pie, saluting Hines’s birthplace, was the finale of a stunning five-course meal overseen by Tony Vallone. Each course represented some aspect of Hines’ life ranging from the “Nova Scotia Salmon Tower” to the “Colorado Short Rib of Beef/Texas Gulf Snapper” entree. The food, service and staff excelled on every level as would be expected of both Hines and Vallone.


The party continued after dinner, kicking into high gear back in the atrium where Leslie Uggams sang “Happy Birthday” before she and jazz singer Peter Cincotti revved up the dance tunes.


The heavy-hitter crowd, almost half of whom were from out of town, includedYvonne and Scott Zeigler, Brenda and John Duncan, Anne and Dr. John Mendelsohn, Eleanor and Dan Gilbane, Sis and Hasty Johnson, Diane and Charles Ofner, Anne and Charles Duncan, Carolyn Farb, Charles Ward, Marley Lott, Jo and Jim Furr, Dee Osborne and Joan Schnitzer-Levy.