Bright and shiny renderings from the recently-released master plan for the Houston Botanic Garden show that design firm West 8 is aware of the challenges involved in straddling a world-class park across Sims Bayou, on the site of Glenbrook Park Golf Course just across I-45 north of Hobby Airport. The Dutch firm, known internationally for unusual bridges and unconventional landscape design, has planned for many of the Garden’s displays to flood at will; the shores of Sims Bayou on the Garden’s property will also be resculpted. And to combat Houston’s just-shy-of-year-round heat, shade trees would be preserved or planted throughout the park, including the towering cypresses depicted in the bayou-side wetland gardens shown above (parts of which will be explorable by kayak).
Meanwhile, the more formal garden spaces planned for the park are shown with their own built-in shade (complete with custom ceiling fans): Colonnade structures (like the ones picture below) will ring each of the major collection gardens, which are designed to be “entered, enjoyed, and contemplated from the comfort of the shaded perimeter”:
The park, much of which is on an island created by a meandering side channel of Sims Bayou, will embrace Houston’s frequent rising water. Areas along the meander will be excavated to form a series of freshwater ponds and wetland gardens designed to flood. Before-and-after cross sections of the bank show the degree of excavation planned for the existing bank, and the formal collections gardens to the south of the waterway are shown raised out of the 100-year floodplain:
The stretch of Sims Bayou running between the Island and South Gardens sections of the area will evidently be open to kayak use as well, and areas on either shore will be regraded and prettied up.
The master plan calls for plants from Houston-esque latitudes around the world to appear at the park, as climate tolerance allows. Plants that aren’t prepared to deal with the subtropical setting could be housed in the veiny glass Conservatory, modeled after the apparently toddler-supporting Amazonian lily pads that will be on display inside:
Other toddler-supporting elements are shown incorporated into an interactive playground area, which appears to include a series of climbable structures winding from the water to canopy:
The garden will house amenities including research laboratories, classrooms, lecture halls, and a cafe. It will also be prepared to host a range of public and private events: The master plan shows images suggesting bayou-side movie screenings (shown below on the Events Lawn planned for south of Sims Bayou, with I-45 visible on the left below).
The City of Houston will be allowed to reserve facilities at the Garden for up to 6 events per year, as part of a standing agreement. The park could also host events such as weddings, receptions, and holiday markets (pictured below):
The Island and South Gardens sections are shown linked by several bridges, including the tree-dotted Botanical Mile, which appears to span Sims Bayou beneath an arch of potted trees:
The master plan also depicts the garden’s colorful collections in place among the Houston landscape, stretching southeast from a distant downtown skyline to the southern parking lots in the foreground of rendering below:
Here’s the overall site plan:
- Master Plan [Houston Botanic Garden]
- Previously on Swamplot: West 8’s Botanical Mile To Fly High Over Sims Bayou, Funnel Visitors into Garden Parking Lots
Renderings: West 8
Ok. Now I see where they have a “possible” kayak/canoe boat launch site.
HO-LEEE COW this looks awesome. Where are they getting the funds? Looks v. ‘spensive.
Now, look at that beautiful idea for a garden, keep that in your head, and then imagine it was in a location that people would actually visit, like Gus Wortham. FWIW I don’t think the HGA are actually going to meet their funding targets you you may not actually have to imagine it there.
There is a psychoactive flavor to these renderings. Most of the activities portrayed are unsafe, some of the objects, alien. I am a great party-pooper.
Yeah those “towering” cypress trees will be awesome – in about 150 years when they finally achieve the size depicted. And hate to be ‘technical,’ but Hobby Airport is a good 2 miles away, not “just across I-45.” And in that part of town, 2 miles can make a big difference.
I am glad to see some attention being thrown towards the east side of town. The area is chronically underserved and underappreciated. However, I just don’t see the amount of money required for something this transformative going east of I-45 and outside of 610. At least not until the next oil boom.
Agree with SuperDave. That’s why I say the bridge O’ potted trees is more an interesting idea that something that is likely to come about in the end.
I should also be added that if and when this ever gets up and going, the choice of who will be the director will be critical. A good director can make or break a garden by getting the right kind of people and volunteers ( in this case, ladies with spare time and money) to be interested in and invest in the gardens. The Dallas Botanic Garden was decidedly middle of the road before Jimmy Turner was hired about a decade ago. He increased paid memberships, donations, and attendance by several orders of magnitude during his tenure. Alas, he is now far away heading up the Sydney Royal Botanic Garden.