Invited to participate in the 8th China International Garden Expo under the title “Better Garden, Better City”, the city of Houston appointed Morris Architects, along with SWA Group to design the Houston Pavilion. The design evokes the configuration of “bayous”, a network of slow-moving waterways dominating the cost of Gulf of Mexico.
The Houston pavilion is bounded by an embossed concrete wall that refers to the long Chinese tradition of walled gardens; the wall is inflected to allow entry and to retain an earthen hill that is intended to reference the topography of a Houston bayou. Visitors move along a path guided by a water course that winds between the perimeter wall and the hillside. The path is further defined by a trellised canopy to provide shade and to refer to the natural tree canopy of a typical bayou landscape. The trellised canopy is made up of plasma-cut plate steel, welded and painted white, covered by a perforated steel layer that will produce intricate patterns of shadows along the path. The hill is planted densely with indigenous grasses and wildflowers.
An orthogonal stone bayou guides visitors through the space, anchored by large steel cisterns that serve as the source and basin. The basin is flanked by limestone walks and steps, and surrounded by a tall grass and meadow flower prairie. At the top of the hill, visitors will exit down a stair attached to the bounding wall and return to the original grade.
The Houston garden is intended to speak to the ecology and climate of the city; a modern industrial city which is defined in large part by its dense tree canopy and its capacity to domesticate the heat and humidity of coastal Texas.