Post Houston delivers an architecturally marvelous cultural center to the city’s downtown
Many of us dread the idea of going to the post office, but a new cultural center in Houston has turned an old U.S. Postal Service distribution center into the Bayou City’s see-and-be-seen spot. Post Houston opened to the public in November, following more than two years of work on the massive yet staid building that was formerly the Barbara Jordan Post Office. The utilitarian original building was constructed in 1962 by the same architects that conceived the Astrodome, a mid-century engineering marvel that was itself perhaps somewhat aesthetically underwhelming.
No one could level such an accusation at the reimagined postal building, however. The architecture firm OMA has sliced into the structure to bring natural light into its 500,000-square-foot interior, creating three stunning atriums, each with a spectacular show-piece staircase. “The building’s scale and solidity offered potential but also posed the challenge of transforming it without dismantling the building,” says Jason Long, a partner at OMA. “By cutting into the building, our ambition was not only to draw people in and through it, but also to turn Houston to a view that reveals the development potential around the site and the city’s radical ambition.”
The people who have been drawn in—some 40,000 visitors attended the grand opening—have surely found much to recommend. Post Houston houses a market hall with more than 30 food concepts, including Nordic, South American, West African, and Mexican cuisines and restaurants from acclaimed Texas chefs such as Paul Qui and Thai Chanthong. The center also boasts a 5,500-capacity live music venue, which has hosted acts ranging from Olivia Rodrigo to Danzig. Perhaps the most impressive part of the redesigned building is the rooftop Sky-lawn, a five-acre garden space where visitors can take yoga classes or catch outdoor film screenings in a setting inspired by the landscapes of southeast Texas.
“Houston is known as one of the most diverse cities in the U.S., but that diversity is spread out, so it’s difficult to see the full range of what Houston has to offer in one place,” says Post Houston managing director Kirby Liu. “We imagined that it would be a place that would gather all of Houston’s best food and culture in one centrally located, iconic destination.”