The Park Where Houston Architecture Critics Go To Sharpen Their Chops

THE PARK WHERE HOUSTON ARCHITECTURE CRITICS GO TO SHARPEN THEIR CHOPS From Ben Koush’s new building-by-building history of the Texas Medical Center (which now apparently has more square footage than Downtown): “In 1991 the Gus S. and Lyndall F. Wortham Park was dedicated on part of the site of Shamrock Hotel. (The rest of the site is a giant parking lot.) It was designed by Philip Johnson’s ex-partner John Burgee and features water jets, columns that appear to be taken from a freeway overpass and vine covered pergolas. It makes a nice, very secluded place to take a nap during the afternoon since it is always deserted.” [OffCite; previously on Swamplot]

18 Comment

  • Just proves the theory that historic buildings need to be torn down in order for newer, better things to be built. Imagine if we had kept the Shamrock… we wouldn’t have this.

  • When they first built this I thought it was so odd. But now that the vines and greenery have grown, it looks quite delightful.

  • I did a 3D studio animation of this park many years ago for a fountain company. I think they were bidding on modifying or installing new fountains. I’ve actually never been there. It’s weird to see a photo of what to me only existed in a CAD model until today.

  • I work right across the street from that park and take a walk there every afternoon. A nice, shady respite from the bustle of the TMC. It’s very popular for photo shoots.

  • Fortunately, I do not pass by this disappointment very often. However, each time I do I am reminded of the old grand dame, The Shamrock Hotel, that was reduced to rubble to be replaced by perhaps the ugliest park not only in Houston but perhaps all of Texas. To think money was spent designing it building it and currently maintaining it only reinforces my hopes that someone will come along and say – let’s reinvent this space as a plus to the area instead of the useless eyesore it is.

  • eyesore it is…the Shamrock would now be a restored beauty like the Rice Lofts.

  • They should have kept the Shamrock pool AND built this park around it. But all said, I don’t hate it.

  • I remember going to the Quilt Festival in one of the meeting rooms of the Shamrock back in the 80s. Yes, that Quilt Festival that is now held in the GRB. In ALL of the GRB.

    True, it was the early days for the quilt phenomenon, everything has to start somewhere. But the main thing I remember about that experience was the low ceilings and stumbly loose carpet in the room.

    Sure, I still bought things but it was not the magnificent “wonder” that I had been led to believe all those years since I was in high school (yeah, a long time ago).

    What I’m saying is that the Shamrock had it’s heyday but it was probably at the point where it would have required a huge amount of renovation and updating.

    But, I agree, the pool could have been retained but to what end?

  • I grew up down the street from the Shamrock and spent every summer in the pool until 1986 when they shut it down. I LOVED that place.

    The park is fine. I work in the Med Center and walk there for a quiet lunch when the weather is nice. It’s the parking lot that makes me sad.

  • As Frank Lloyd Wright is reported to have said upon visiting the Shamock Hotel “I see the sham but where’s the rock”. It wasn’t the greatest building. Neither is the fountain that great.

  • Wasn’t the greatest building, because Frank Lloyd Wright said so? The same guy who hated every skyscraper in New York City?

    This was Houston’s most famous landmark before the Astrodome. It was what people around the country thought of when they thought of the city. The point of the Frank Lloyd Wright story should be that the nation’s most famous architect HAD to make a visit there and give his opinion, it was that renowned. It captured a whole era of the city’s history – its rollicking, mid-century, oil-rich extravagance – better than any other building.

    But it made sense to tear it down because, gosh, it would have required renovating and updating. Oh, and the ceiling heights were low! With that reasoning, any historic building in the world would be torn down at some point.


    I also attended the Quilt Fest there, can’t remember when exactly. Early to mid 80s. And you are right about the condition.

  • @Mike,

    Where were you and your money when it came down?

  • don’t it always seem to go
    that you don’t know
    what you’ve got
    til it’s gone?

  • McCarthy, a legend in his own right, with a dream in his mind built the Shamrock Hotel, it was one of a kind, and promoted the grand openening like no other. That opening was so popular,that it became chaos.
    Honor the man, that chased the dream, put everything on the line, and eventually lost the property, but he put his heart into it, and along the way lived the American dream.

    That’s the American’s chose. The Houstonian spirit to reach for the stars.

  • There is a great section of the Texas oil fortune book “The Big Rich” devoted to McCarthy and his building, maintaining, and ultimately losing the Shamrock- a great read.

  • To hell with Remember the Alamo. Remember the Shamrock!

  • FLLW visited the Shamrock to receive a gold medal from the American Institute of Architects. Leaving a boring cocktail party Wright gave future architect E. Fay Jones and a fellow student from Rice a private tour of the hotel with its 67 different shades of green. Great pity the community lost the fantastic pool but it is good to see the Burgee park improve with the growth of the vegetation.