The site of Houston’s original city hall and market building, Market Square Park occupies a square block in the downtown historic district. The park contained significant works of art created in the early 1990’s but was underused. Our team created a plan integrating the historic components and art pieces with active program elements to provide neighborhood amenities and stimulate economic development of the district. Widely acclaimed as a success, Market Square Park received the International Downtown Association’s Downtown Pinnacle Award for Public Space, the Greater Houston Preservation Alliance’s Good Brick Award and a Houston-Galveston Area Council Parks and Natural Areas Award in 2011 and was a ULI-Houston Development of Distinction Finalist in 2012. It received a Merit Award from the Texas Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects in 2015.
The park has been re-graded to create sightlines from surrounding sidewalks for visibility and safety. All existing trees have been preserved, and all art has been relocated or re-purposed by the original artists. A granite band running through the park traces the outline of the city hall foundation. A fragment of a column capital salvaged from the fire of 1960 lies along the outline, and plaques and photographs on columns at the northeast corner document the site’s rich history.
This vibrant urban park also features a beautifully detailed kiosk housing Niko Niko’s, a Greek restaurant with outdoor dining under the shade of a sleek trellis and Mexican Sycamores; a lush central lawn surrounded by mature Live Oaks; shady, terraced dog runs with water features and climbing boulders; fountains and contemporary public art; beds of colorful flowers and plantings to attract butterflies, dragonflies, hummingbirds and songbirds; a large play sculpture of a dog carved from a hundred year-old Galveston Live Oak felled by Hurricane Ike; and a commemorative garden.
The dining terrace doubles as a stage for small performances. Audience members lounge on the lawn or sit at café tables and benches throughout the park. Dark skies, energy efficient lighting creates a mellow ambience at night and keeps the urban park safe.
Lauren’s Garden is dedicated to the victims of the attacks of 9/11. It was funded in memory of Lauren Catuzzi Grandcolas, a native Houstonian and the only Texan on United Flight 93. Three low, black granite walls with falling water represent the three crash sites: New York, Pennsylvania and Washington, DC. Each smooth stone in the fountain symbolizes a life lost. Water flows over a textured black plane around 40 stones for those who died on United Flight 93 and falls into a trough lined with 2,752 small stones for those who died at the World Trade Center and 184 larger stones for those who died at the Pentagon. Mist rising in the center of the fountain creates an ethereal foreground for the borrowed scenery of the tower rising in the distance, evoking both our vulnerability and our strength. Ketria Bastien Scott’s bronze sculptures of bristlecone pines, an organism that can survive 5,000 years, symbolize endurance. A bronze vine in a granite plaque on the groundplane represents resilience. Sharon Connally Ammann’s bronze bust of Lauren is nestled beneath Crape Myrtles in the garden.
Additional art in the park includes works by Paul Hester, Douglas Hollis, James Phillips, James Surls and Richard Turner.
The park has been credited with contributing to the revitalization of the historic district. Nearby bars and restaurants are thriving, two residential towers are under construction on adjacent parcels, and an office tower is planned for the block across Preston.
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