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Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Architecture of Discovery Green, Houston, United States

New civic park is completed in Houston
Discovery Green is a new 12-acre park in downtown Houston. The park houses a range of architectural elements which includes two restaurants, a park administration building, underground parking for 600 vehicles and numerous site features such as a bandstand, a small performance space for children and shade structures of various sizes and configurations. The buildings were designed by PageSoutherlandPage in association with Hargreaves Associates, the prime consultant, park planner and landscape architect for Discovery Green.

The three primary buildings on the site, the café, the park building and the restaurant, parallel two powerful preexisting rows of live oaks and reinforce their linear character. Each building is composed of long, thin volumes that draw activity from the major north/south promenade deep into the park on either side.

The park building and the café have deep, shady porches that dominate their south faces. Carefully designed to create a shield from hot south and west sun, the porch roofs pitch up to the north to achieve balanced daylight for the outdoor spaces below as well as to induce air movement, drawing warm air up and out. The south-facing roofs of the café and park building porches house an array of photovoltaic collectors that provide a substantial portion of the power needed for the park.

The restaurant at the south end of the promenade provides a strong visual presence for the park. Its lower floor is dominated by a long, thin dining room that nestles under the boughs of the live oak alley. Tall glass walls toward the trees and at each end open the room generously to the park, while a richly textured brick volume housing kitchen and service functions anchors the room on the street side. The upper level of the restaurant is predominantly a shaded outdoor dining terrace accessed by broad staircases at the east and west ends. A green roof over the single-story portion of the restaurant extends a park-like feeling up to the terrace level.

During its first year of operation over 700,000 people have visited the park, bookings for the convention center across the street have improved and development of residential and commercial buildings surrounding the park has increased dramatically. The park is planned to receive a LEED Gold
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