The Cherie Flores Garden Pavilion and the McGovern Centennial Gardens celebrate the Hermann family’s gift of the park to the citizens of Houston, Texas in 1914. The Pavilion marks the entry to the new 15-acre Gardens and sits on an axis that runs from the public approach to the great spiral mount at the far end of the Gardens.
The project’s genesis lies in the 1995 Hermann Park Master Plan by Laurie Olin. The Park was in dire need of an overhaul and the non-profit Hermann Park Conservancy methodically raised the funds, implemented improvements, and reinvigorated one of Houston’s signature public parks, following the 1995 Master Plan as a guide. One of the final pieces in the Master Plan was the 15 acres along Hermann Drive adjacent to the Houston Science Museum. After an initial public input process, the Conservancy brought in a design team to engage with the community in order to fine-tune the program and develop a multi-purpose, adaptable, enduring space for events. Thus, this project was realized through a true collaborative effort that benefited from the Conservancy’s commitment to produce an extraordinary building of lasting value.
Visitors approach through a grove of Crepe Myrtle trees toward the chiseled granite wall of the Pavilion and a measured opening marked by a low roof overhang and lantern-like volumes on either side. With the primary objective of providing screening against the harsh Houston sun in order to address both indoor and outdoor thermal comfort issues, the design team created a gateway of angled shimmering stainless steel walls under a metal ceiling that tilts up towards the Gardens and mount. This covered, welcoming enclosure not only provides shade, but funnels and echoes the water feature directly ahead, drawing one forward into the garden.
The entrance is flanked by a zinc clad meeting room to the north and a small contemplative garden to the south, spaces which provide indoor and outdoor amenities for Houstonians to enjoy and reinforce the connection to the landscape with broad views of the garden. A light metal trellis serves as a front porch for the Pavilion and mitigates direct sun exposure while allowing the Pavilion’s garden side to remain open and transparent. Movable café seating and tables line the trellis area and provide visitors with spaces to meet up, eat, or just relax in a park like setting.
The 2,400 SF Meeting Room space has highly insulated opaque walls on the north and south elevations and the glazing on the eats is insulated and fritted to reduce morning heat gain. The western glazed wall that opens to the water feature and garden spaces beyond has deep vertical fins projecting outward to reduce solar gain.
Bohlin Cywinski Jackson, founded in 1965, has offices in Wilkes-Barre, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Seattle, and San Francisco. The firm’s work is known for exceptional design, for its commitment to the particularity of place and user, and for an extraordinary aesthetic which is both intellectual and intuitive. The firm’s 12 principals, and staff of nearly 200, practice architecture with great depth of skills and experience that enable the practice to address a wide range of design challenges. The firm is noted for elegant, humane, and sustainable design, ranging from modest houses to larger academic, cultural, civic, and corporate buildings. The firm has received more than 675 regional, national, and international awards for design, including three AIA Top Ten Green Project Awards, and is the recipient of the American Institute of Architects’ Architecture Firm Award. In 2010, founding principal Peter Bohlin, was awarded the Institute’s highest honor for an individual, the Gold Medal.