Discovery Green

, Houston Downtown Park Conservancy

Houston, TX


The architecture of Discovery Green elegantly complements the 11.7-acre urban park, a lush greenspace that attracts droves of visitors to a downtown district once dominated by asphalt parking lots. Set in the heart of Houston’s central business district, Discovery Green spreads luxuriantly across four city blocks in front of the George R. Brown Convention Center and encompasses several significant architectural components, most notably a restaurant, café, and park administration headquarters. In addition, a parking garage hidden beneath the park accommodates 600 vehicles. Recognized for its sustainable design with LEED Gold certification, the architecture embodies the ideals of urban placemaking that led to the creation of this highly popular inner-city oasis. The three principal buildings parallel the rows of 100-year-old trees, known as the Oak Alley, and reinforce their linear character. Each building comprises long, thin volumes and draws activity via ancillary trails that extend out into the park from both sides of the central north/south promenade. Their geometry is simple – glass boxes enclosing and intersecting with masonry boxes, allowing park visitors to quickly understand each facility’s function and easily reach their destination. The landscape-oriented buildings blend seamlessly with the outdoor environment and respect natural forces and phenomena. As a result, the buildings provide as much outdoor space as indoor space. The park, designed in association with Hargreaves Associates, has transformed the perception and experience of downtown while seeding the revitalization of the surrounding urban district. The Grove, a 17,180-square-foot restaurant, is a series of long thin bars that run parallel to a magnificent double row of live oak trees. The first bar contains dining spaces above and below in a steel frame with large fixed and operable glass panels. The view under the tree canopy connects diners to the primary lawn of Discovery Green and to glimpses of intensely colorful, commissioned artwork by Austin artist Margo Sawyer. Private decks 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. 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.

Building Facts

  • 11.7-acre Park
  • 600 Car Garage
  • LEED Gold