An enthusiastic group of 33 designers came out on Saturday, August 4, for an intensive day of unifying, beautifying, and clarifying Houston’s iconic Museum Park Super Neighborhood – home to over 16 cultural centers, Hermann Park and hundreds of residences. According to Kathleen O’Reilly, the museum’s vice president, “The site is a top destination for Houston visitors, but not necessarily easy to navigate for pedestrians.”
Many of the teams participated in a site visit to the neighborhood a week earlier where they could see first-hand the challenges that the area faced, including broken sidewalks, a lack of a cohesive campus, overgrown medians, and poor pedestrian signage. These concerns were outlined in a comprehensive program, which was given to participants as they arrived to the charrette at the Rice School of Architecture. The programs also included background information, maps and judging criteria.
On Monday, August 6, an all-star jury consisting of Buffalo Bayou Partnership Project Manager Guy Hagstette, City Council member Ellen Cohen, Associate Director of Administration at The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston Willard Holmes, and Museum Park Super Neighborhood Vice President Kathleen O’Reilly deliberated among nine stellar entries. They assessed the designs based on which solution addressed as many of the program elements as possible in a manner that was at once creative and realistic.
Bayardo Selva, Neda Izadi, Laura Beth Mertz, Will Denman, and Ray Mora took home the “Best Overall” prize for their design called “EnLIVEn,” which plays on both meanings of the word “Live.” The judges deemed this entry the most nuanced scheme that addressed both cultural and residential elements. According to team member Laura Beth Mertz, “Enliven means to brighten or energize, to make vivacious, and that’s the character we think this neighborhood can have. Our North/South streets are meant to make the neighborhood LIVE to the city so that other people will want to visit and see the area as a hotspot. Our East/West streets are meant to address the people that LIVE in the neighborhood, building a sense of community.”
The Gensler team of Meredith Epley, Suvama Gupta, Al Deliallisi, Marissa Campos, and Ashley Griffin were awarded “Honorable Mention” for the simplicity and practicality of their design, and its focus on an armature. Paul Weathers, David Farber, Merileigh Williamson, Tyler Swanner, and Beth Clark of Clark Condon won for “Best Presentation” based on the beauty and clarity in the drawings. Asakura Robinson’s team, including Keiji Asakura, Margaret Robinson, Zakcq Lockrem, Kareeshma Ali, and Tara Mather, was awarded the “Best Design Idea” award for the bold aesthetics of their street-signage solution.
Moving forward, the Museum Park Super Neighborhood plans to hold a community meeting and begin fundraising in hopes of implementing these incredible design solutions.
Below are galleries of all of the entries:
Laura Beth Mertz