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Pennzoil Place photograph.
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz/Artefaqs Corporation
This image is available as a print or poster.

Pennzoil Place photograph.
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz/Artefaqs Corporation
This image is available as a print or poster.

Pennzoil Place photograph.
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz/Artefaqs Corporation
This image is available as a print or poster.

Pennzoil Place photograph.
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz/Artefaqs Corporation
This image is available as a print or poster.

Pennzoil Place photograph.
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz/Artefaqs Corporation
This image is available as a print or poster.

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Pennzoil Place

Built: 1976
Designed by: Johnson/Burgee Architects and S.I. Morris Associates
Type: Skyscraper
Stories: 36
Maximum Height: 523 feet / 159 meters
Location: 711 Louisiana Street, Houston, United States
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T he only thing more difficult than looking at this building is photographing it. Deliberately designed as an optical illusion, Pennzoil Place presents a different face from whatever vantage point you chose. In some skyline shots it appears as a long, low barn. In others it reveals itself as two towering spires. It can also appear as a single sloping tower, a pair of complimentary blocks, and probably a hundred other shapes. In this photo, we're looking down on the building to illustrate how even its roof line doesn't make a lot of sense from a structural or visual sense. The confusion is intentional. In the 1970's, when Houston was just becoming the energy capital of the world, Shell Oil moved its headquarters to the city. When Pennzoil followed suit, it did not want to imitate Shell's boring gray tower. Instead, Pennzoil went with two towers, which is ironic because Shell eventually built a second tower of its own. The distance between the two Pennzoil buildings is just ten feet. And evocative of its roof line, the entire street-level plaza is enclosed in a glass pyramid, the only thing spanning the ten-foot gap between the two buildings. Some question the wisdom of wasting materials and space on aesthetics in office buildings. Pennzoil Place, however proves that attractive buildings attract tenants. Before it was even completed, two additional stories were added to meet demand; this while the rest of the country suffered through a recession and an energy crisis.

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