The Grove Houston, Discovery Green Park, Texan Landscape Architecture, Architect
The Grove – Discovery Green Park, Houston, Texas
Texan Landscape, USA – design by PageSoutherlandPage
13 Dec 2010
The Grove – Discovery Green Park Houston
Architect: Lawrence W. Speck, FAIA, PageSoutherlandPage
Photos: Eric Laignel
The Grove revels in being an extension of its memorable site, Discovery Green park, a lush, green, 12-acre oasis in the heart of a downtown Houston. Open since January 2008, the 486-seat restaurant features architecture by Lawrence W. Speck, FAIA, a preeminent Texas architect and design principal in the Austin office of PageSoutherlandPage.
The building takes its inspiration from a magnificent double row of live oak trees that have long inhabited this site. All of the dining spaces in The Grove are strung long and thin, just to the south of the oak alley. Each room has a slightly different vista into the complex web of trunks and branches, through huge expanses of glass that also admit soft north light. The view under the tree canopy connects diners to the primary lawn of Discovery Green park and to glimpses of an intensely colorful, commissioned art work by Austin artist Margo Sawyer.
The whole building, in fact, is a series of long, thin bars that parallel the trees. The first bar, which contains the dining spaces, is made of a steel frame with various levels of enclosure created by glass. The second is made of a rich, ruddy Gulf Coast brick and houses two grand exterior stairs as well as bathrooms, an elevator and interior circulation. The third, containing the kitchen, is made of sustainable ipe wood topped with a planted, green roof. The final bar, which faces Lamar Street, is brick again and houses delivery and administration. By breaking the restaurant into a series of smaller parts defined by function and by using a range of warm, tactile materials, the building becomes a natural extension of the park and the trees with a scale, texture and color palette that complements its surroundings. The one burst of color comes from Sawyer’s installation, which extends to The Grove’s façade.
The architecture, much like Schiller Del Grande’s cuisine, is authentic and rooted in the American Southwest. The dining experience is about enjoying the simple, natural pleasures of a place—beautiful daylight, a cooling breeze, inspiring vistas.
Downstairs, the main bar is located at the west end of the building, affording a view of the downtown skyline as well as the live oaks. A generous outdoor deck links the bar to the action on Walker Promenade, the primary pedestrian route through Discovery Green. More private decks on the building’s north side allow the main dining room to spill out under the trees in fine weather, giving a strong sense of connection to nature in all seasons. At the east end, two private dining spaces can be enclosed from the dining room or opened to it via massive, sliding glass walls.
Tall ceilings faced with wood match the rich, warm oak on the floors to create a natural sense of calm that is echoed in paint and fabric colors. The live oaks and the dappled light that comes through their canopies creates all of the pattern and complexity. The interior itself is simple and deferential.
Upstairs, the outdoor dining experience is dominant, with a skyline view to the west that is even more dramatic than below. The “treehouse,” shaded decks that nestle into the upper branches of the live oaks, offers informal spaces for a drink or light meal. In inclement weather, these rooms can be fully enclosed by sliding glass panels.
Every aspect of The Grove’s design—its relationship to its site, massing, orientation to sun and breezes, ecological consciousness, and use of local materials—rejects artifice in favor of an authentic sense of place.
The Grove – Discovery Green Park images / information from PageSoutherlandPage
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