10/16/17 1:15pm

Workers last week removed a few trees in the way of a new partition of Fountain Green, the plaza that stretches between Buildings 9 and 11 in Greenway Plaza just west of Edloe. Included in the scheme: A new separate lawn space on the green’s southern end, separated from the fountain by a covered walkway stretching between the 2 buildings; a separate canopy structure on the new lawn’s east side; and a new patio just behind that and in front of Building 9 — where a new restaurant designed by Austin architect Michael Hsu is planned. The aerial and ground-level views above shows the path being cleared for the walkway. Looking onto the green from the south across City Club Dr. is the former Houston City Club building, currently on its way to being refurbished for its new life as a location of Lifetime Fitness.

Renderings of the space shown by Greenway Plaza owner Parkway in March of this year, before it was announced that the Houston REIT was being bought by the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, show the general contours of the plan:

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Fountain Green Green
10/10/17 2:00pm

Skanska is touting the green roof it’s planning atop the 11-story parking-garage portion of the Capitol Tower as a “Sky Park”: It’ll be the “first and largest green roof in Downtown Houston to be open to all building tenants,” the development company says. The 24,000-sq.-ft. roofscape will feature pathways surrounded by plants, grasses, and a few decorative trees; arbors with roofs modeled after the pipe-assembly structure seen at Rice’s Brochstein Pavilion, and “an infinity edge that makes it appear as though the park is floating in the sky.” Plus: an automated irrigation system that’ll pull water from the building’s 50,000-gallon rainwater cistern. Looming neighbors will include the Esperson Building, 712 Main, and Pennzoil Place.

Access to the roofscape, which was designed by OJB Landscape Architecture, will be through west-facing doors on the building’s 12th floor, the 35-story building’s lowest office level:

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Green Roofs Downtown
10/10/17 12:00pm

Here’s a timelapse video showing workers creating a plaza in front of the lone extant office building in Generation Park’s Redemption Square development just inside the northeast corner of Beltway 8. The pavers were laid a little more carefully than shown here late last month in front of the brand-new 5-story, 86,523-sq.-ft. building at 250 Assay St.

Other than the 5-level parking garage structure now behind it — and the landscape improvements now going in — there’s not a whole lot crowding the building so far, as the earlier aerial photo above shows. The Beltway is in the foreground of that image; here’s a closer-in view of the east side of 250 Assay St. shortly before the trees and pavers went in:

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Generating Generation Park
10/05/17 12:45pm

ALL THE DAMS AND MAGIC WETLANDS CAN DO Big, fat, cleared floodplains are the best way to handle a very large storm, explains wetlands scientist John Jacob — because nothing else is going to: “An average rainfall of 35 inches over all of Harris County (Harvey) is just over 1 trillion gallons. At most, there are about 50 billion gallons of stormwater detention capacity in Harris County wetlands (no one has measured this — I had to make some very broad assumptions). So that means that the wetlands at best could handle about 5% of the total volume of Harvey rainfall. In the large scheme of things, it’s not much. And the scheme of things in Harvey is indeed very large. So much for the magic wetlands. But what about our engineered drainage system? I calculate a somewhat larger detention capacity — between our large US Army Corps of Engineers Katy Prairie reservoirs (~400,000 acre-ft) and Harris County Flood Control District detention (about 34,000 acre-feet), we have about 130 billion gallons of detention volume. More than what we have for wetlands, but still only about 14% of Harvey. As we painfully saw, also overwhelmed. And what of green stormwater infrastructure — rain gardens, bioswales, green roofs, etc.? We don’t have any good numbers here, but you can be sure that even if these practices were widespread, the volume would be very small relative to wetlands and detention basins. These practices are designed to capture at best a 2 inch storm.” [Watershed Texas] Photo of Willow Waterhole Greenspace: Luz (license)

09/18/17 11:15am

The retreat of floodwaters has revealed the extent of the silt that Harvey-triggered flooding deposited along Buffalo Bayou. A beachgoing reader sends Swamplot these pics of the new dust-colored landscapes that have taken shape along Buffalo Bayou Park and adjacent former green spaces.

The silt-covered bench shown above sits across Buffalo Bayou from the Houston Police Officers Memorial, near Glenwood Cemetery. Here’s a view from further back:

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Silt Deposits
08/23/17 4:15pm

HOW TO BUILD A ‘SPONGE CITY’ Meanwhile, in Berlin: Landscape architects and designers in the German capital have identified a strategy designed to keep water where it lands, to imitate the natural water cycle otherwise absent from built-up areas. The goal: To cool environments otherwise dominated by hard and reflective surfaces by deploying green roofs and façades on buildings and urban wetlands and swales at ground level. [Bloomberg Businessweek] Video: Bloomberg Businessweek

08/18/17 12:30pm

The folks fighting a longstanding battle to prevent the reconfiguration of a section of Buffalo Bayou fronting the southeast corner of Memorial Park and the River Oaks Country Club have posted a remarkable series of images showing how a section of the bayou’s bank at the Hogg Bird Sanctuary responded on its own over the course of 2 years to a soil collapse suffered during the 2015 Memorial Day flood. The geologists behind Save Buffalo Bayou claim that the promoters of the Harris County Flood Control District’s proposed $12 million Memorial Park Demonstration Project they’re trying to stop have mistaken a natural bayou-bank process called vertical slumping (or sloughing) for erosion, and that attempting to stabilize the bayou banks to fix the supposed erosion will leave the area “a wasteland of denuded and weakened banks.”

But you don’t have to buy or even follow the riverine logic the organization steps through in a lengthy article posted to its website earlier this week to appreciate one of the examples of waterway-bank adaptation exhibited there. The first image (at top) shows the immediate aftermath of the Memorial Day storm or 2 years ago on the high bluff facing the bayou at the Hogg Bird Sanctuary in Memorial Park, which stands at the downstream end of the proposed project area. According to the organization, an HCFCD consultant claims that this is one of 4 spots within the bayou area that suffers from severe lateral erosion. But to Save Buffalo Bayou, this isn’t erosion; it’s just a slump, which is what bayous do naturally, and which on their own create the distinctive bluffs on the bayou’s banks. There’s no way to fix a slump, the organization’s geologists say — if left alone it’ll restore itself.

Here’s their photo evidence. The second photo, also from June 2015, shows the slumping — and downed trees:

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A Bayou Demonstration Project
08/14/17 12:15pm

The new mini-doc We Are the Fire (above) describes the rationale behind recent efforts to rip out the Houston Arboretum & Nature Center’s invasive understory of non-native plants. Like watching short films like this about Houston-area wildlife and semi-wildlife? Here’s another one, from the Texas Parks and Wildlife department, on urban pocket parks. 13 more movies — on topics ranging from red-cockaded woodpeckers and sea turtles to area tidal wetlands — will be included in the first annual Wild About Houston mini film festival, being put on by a collection of local wildlife and conservation organizations for 2 hours on the evening of August 23rd, at the Cherie Flores Garden Pavilion at the McGovern Gardens at Hermann Park.

Wild About Houston
08/03/17 12:30pm

The current state of the Lockwood Business Park, just inside the northeast corner of Beltway 8, is made evident in the photo above, which was just tweeted out this morning by McCord Development. The Lockwood in the name comes from Lockwood Rd. (not to be confused with another north-south street with industrial cred, Lockwood Dr., which is further to the south and west), visible in the background of the photo. The complex on the other side of that road is the TechnicFMC campus.

Four big buildings are planned for the site at 13300 Lockwood Rd., which was previously covered by trees and other foliage. Three will line Lockwood Rd. and one will sit behind: a 143,500-sq.-ft. warehouse, shop, and office structure that’s already been leased to gasket-and-hose-maker GHX Industrial. Two of the tilt-up structures fronting Lockwood will be flex-warehouse space, and the third (labeled Building C in the illustration below) is intended to be an office building. An expanse of concrete for truck turnarounds will link the other 3 buildings, according to drawings McCord is showing of the site:

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Unlocking Lockwood
07/28/17 12:30pm

BUFFALO BAYOU PARTNERSHIP NOW LOOKING EAST OF DOWNTOWN, MAKING PLANS The landscape architecture firm that rejiggered the grounds of the Menil Collection and has put forward a new plan for Hermann Park will now be turning its attention to Buffalo Bayou east of Downtown, where the waterway widens ahead of the Houston Ship Channel and Galveston Bay. Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates will lead an effort to create a new master plan for the bayou’s “East Sector” — the section between Hwy. 59 and the Turning Basin — the Buffalo Bayou Partnership announced yesterday. Also on the team of consultants the nonprofit waterway overseers has selected to create the plan: the firm formerly known as Morris Architects, which a few months ago switched its name to that of its parent company, Huitt-Zollars. The partnership says it wants a plan that reflects the cultural and industrial background of the area, that will help connect surrounding neighborhoods to the bayou, and that creates green spaces that can help revitalize that part of Houston. [Buffalo Bayou Partnership] Photo: Buffalo Bayou Partnership

10/28/16 5:30pm

GRASSY KNOLLS, CHILDREN’S SWAMP PART OF POSSIBLE HERMANN PARK PARKING COVERUP Existing Hermann Park MapThis week landscape architect Michael Van Valkenburgh has been discussing some of his firm’s preliminary designs for the next 20-year master plan for Hermann Park, writes Molly Glentzer this afternoon — including the possibility of turning the park’s central parking area, between Miller Outdoor Theatre and the Houston Zoo, into “a place where children could scamper up a knoll to a creature forest, swings and a marsh,” with parking spaces underneath. Van Valkenburgh says that a few hundred of the 1,300 spaces in the main lots may also be moved to the corner of MacGregor and Cambridge streets, and would also be covered over by ecological and built attractions. Glentzer writes that “along with the forest and marsh, the preliminary drawings for the central knoll include a sensory maze, a desert ruin and a slide bluff. The smaller knoll would have a water play dell.” [Houston Chronicle; previously on Swamplot] Map of existing Hermann Park layout: Hermann Park Conservancy

12/17/15 12:30pm

Sure, drone footage is great. But how often do you get to see 3 flying laboratories survey the breadth of Houston’s sprawl from this high up?

The trio of WB-57s shown surveying a hazy Houston in the video above are based at Ellington Field. The fleet is part of NASA’s WB-57 High Altitude Research Program, which regularly conducts scientific research and testing. Among its missions: mapping, collection of cosmic dust, support of rocket launches, and flights over hurricanes, including recent storms Joaquin and Patricia. Eerie faded-Emerald-City scenes of Downtown, the Galleria, the Med Center, and other vertical standouts unfold beneath the wingtips. The flight, which took place before Thanksgiving (but for which footage was only posted to YouTube this week) marks the first time since the early 1970s that 3 WB-57s have flown together.

Video: Johnson Space Center via Eric Berger

JSC Fleet in Flight
12/04/15 4:45pm

DUTCH MUSEUM EMBRACED BY ITS SWAMPY SURROUNDINGS Meanwhile, in Werkendam: The Biesbosch Museum in the Netherlands now appears to have merged with the extensive wetlands of the surrounding national park, following renovations this summer that blanketed the building’s sloping exterior with grass and herbs. The new vegetation flows directly into the landscape of the Museum’s created island (developed as part of the extensive “Room for the River” initiative, meant to address severe flooding in areas of the low-lying nation).  The Museum’s new exterior creates the illusion that sections of the landscape have been peeled up to form the building’s wedge-shaped exhibition spaces. [Dezeen]