Columbia Square is a harbinger of things to come in Downtown East. It is a Texas-sized building, commissioned by Texan developer Gerald D. Hines. A self-styled “collector of buildings,” Hines hired Henry N. Cobb of I. M. Pei and Partners to design this large, rose and gray granite structure embellished with geometric motifs of a white square within a square below each window. Each of the entrances is indicated by a sharp vertical recess rising the full height of the facade. The whole is topped with an ornamental balustrade. An arcade at the ground floor level shelters pedestrians as well as the entrance to the retail shops. The huge atrium is created by a structural steel frame.
Columbia Square represents the minimalist modern forms closely identified with the Pei firm's work elsewhere, here in a building occupying an entire half block. With its size and repetitive design, the building is impressive rather than endearing.