Integrated LED steplights create a processional approach to the plaza and reinforce the bridge’s architectural rhythm.
What happens when a heavily worn piece of an urban park gets a little well-deserved attention? And what role does lighting play in all of this?
Newly renovated Lake Plaza is the crown jewel in Houston’s popular Hermann Park. Run by the Hermann Park Conservancy, a non-profit citizens’ organization, in partnership with the City, this project has attained LEED certification through energy efficiency and sensitive restoration of landscape, as well as comprehensive site water management.
New train, new station, open for business.
A new main station for the park’s miniature train railroad, a gift shop, pedestrian bridge, pedal-boat rental, café, and service buildings all support recreation and rejuvenation in the heart of the city. While the plaza is used often during the day as a staging area for school groups attending the zoo, until the renovation, it had languished at night, despite the plaza’s proximity to the Miller Outdoor Theatre and its quarter of a million annual visitors.
The existing train pavilion prior to renovation.
Lighting guides and invites movement, making visual and architectural connections. Existing pathway lighting in Hermann Park relied upon historic “acorn” metal halide post-top lanterns. While well-designed historic lanterns can work well, many of the park’s fixtures had been installed in a piecemeal fashion, and they’d been over-lamped in a well-intended attempt to increase the sense of security. The layout of the lanterns did not provide the necessary visual connection from the Miller Theatre to the plaza, and existing lanterns in the plaza were overly bright, dominating the landscape (the eye always goes to the brightest thing in the line of view). It actually created the perception of less light because distracting glare constricted visitors’ pupils.
The gift shop by day: an airy structure that relates nicely with the wooded surroundings.
The design team chose to rework the plaza without the existing lanterns, and relocated them along the winding paths, where trees could mitigate their brightness, restoring the visual connection of the pathways to the rest of the park.
At night, the illuminated pavilions take on a different character and anchor the park’s destination points.
Illuminated, not by lanterns, but by the landscape and buildings surrounding it, the plaza beckons. Transformed at night into a composition of glowing pavilions, these structures create a welcoming destination and backdrop for evening strolls. Exactingly integrated compact fluorescent uplight sconces give the structures a fixtureless appearance, revealing finely crafted architectural details that are shaded during the day.
Tree uplights highlight rhythm and textures, while LED steplights reinforce the stepped form of the water’s edge.
Photo Credits: Overland Partners, except #3 by Lam Partners