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Jones Hall for the Performing Arts

Jones Hall, officially known as the Jesse H. Jones Hall for the Performing Arts, is a renowned performance venue located in Houston, Texas. It serves as the permanent home for the Houston Symphony Orchestra and the Society for the Performing Arts. Additionally, Jones Hall is frequently rented as a venue for contemporary pop musicians and other performers, attracting a yearly audience of over 400,000 individuals.

The construction of Jones Hall was completed on October 2, 1966, at a cost of $7.4 million. The venue is named in honor of Jesse H. Jones, a prominent Houstonian who served as the United States Secretary of Commerce. To mark the hall’s opening concert, a special piece called ‘Ode to the Temple of Sound’ was commissioned from the American composer Alan Hovhaness. Houston Endowment, Inc., a foundation established by Jesse and Mary Gibbs Jones, provided the funding for the construction. Following its completion, the hall was donated to the city and is currently operated by the Houston First Corporation.

Designed by the Houston-based architectural firm Caudill Rowlett Scott, Jones Hall occupies an entire city block. Its exterior features a striking white Italian marble façade adorned with imposing eight-story tall columns. Inside, the venue includes a basement and a sub-basement that houses a rehearsal room. The lobby showcases a magnificent 60-foot (18 m) high ceiling, dominated by a massive hanging bronze sculpture titled “Gemini II” created by Richard Lippold. Notably, the concert hall itself boasts a unique feature—its ceiling consists of 800 hexagonal segments that can be raised or lowered, allowing for adjustments to the hall’s acoustics. In fact, the segments can be lowered enough to close off the upper balcony, resulting in a seating capacity that ranges from approximately 2,300 with the balcony covered to 2,911 with the balcony open. The exceptional design of the building earned it the 1967 American Institute of Architects’ Honor Award, a prestigious recognition bestowed on only one building each year.

The acoustics of Jones Hall were designed by the firm Bolt, Beranek and Newman, who also worked on acclaimed venues such as New York City’s Avery Fisher Hall and San Francisco’s Louise M. Davies Symphony Hall, both of which have faced criticism for their sound quality. However, the only renovations conducted on Jones Hall since its construction were unrelated to the acoustics. In 1993, the hall underwent renovations to ensure compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Subsequently, from 2001 to 2003, a $28 million renovation was undertaken to address issues such as fallen marble panels from the exterior façade, damage caused by flooding during 2001’s Tropical Storm Allison, and the removal of asbestos from the interior.

Raul Sanchez
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