The Eastern Glades at Memorial Park

The Eastern Glades is the first major project to be implemented from the 2015 Memorial Park Master Plan developed by the Landscape Architect. Including the introduction of a formal entrance to the park, miles of recreational trails, and a lake that captures stormwater and supports surrounding ecology, the Eastern Glades reclaims 100 acres of previously inaccessible land at Memorial Park’s eastern edge. The Eastern Glades beautifully embodies the principles that guided the Master Plan—to reconnect and restore the natural environment, strengthen ecological health and resiliency, and offer a place of respite and gathering for the people of Houston.

As the new formal entrance to Memorial Park, the pedestrian plaza at Blossom Street creates a welcoming entry to the Eastern Glades. The design of the plaza traces the site’s history as the WWI-era training camp – Camp Logan: new stone pillars mark the location of its original entrance; and the architectural detailing of the plaza walls and built-in stone benches are inspired by Houston’s civic architecture in the era in which Memorial Park was established. Surrounded by native plantings and set against a forested backdrop, this gateway conveys a ceremonial threshold to Memorial Park, inviting all to enter and explore.

From the new entrance, formal landscape elements—an allée of trees and subtly lit limestone markers—define an axis that extends into the park for more than a third of a mile. It follows the alignment of an original roadway through Camp Logan that was erased with the passing of time. An unbroken sightline from the entrance to the farthest edge of Hines Lake draws visitors into the heart of Eastern Glades, along a path where they can experience both the history and natural beauty of the park.

At the center of the Glades is a nine-acre oval with open lawns and native plantings, encircled by a pedestrian promenade—a design inspired by elements of the original 1930s park plan. Scattered with trees and islands of native grasses that wind their way through turf grass, this area is ideal for picnicking, gathering, play, and relaxation.

Covering 5.5 acres, Hines Lake is a significant feature of the Eastern Glades. More than an aesthetic highlight, the lake serves essential infrastructural functions. Together with surrounding wetlands, Hines Lake creates a new habitat for wildlife, helps to mitigate flooding, and contributes to the reclamation and reuse of stormwater. A system of bioswales is designed to filter rainwater that flows into the lake, creating a cleaner and higher quality habitat for turtles, fish, frogs, and water birds, as well as a beautiful amenity for park visitors to enjoy.

Terraces and pathways surround the lake, providing ample opportunities for nature-watching, recreation, and contemplation along the water’s edge. The expansive East Terrace provides an elegant overlook along the pedestrian promenade, with a lower level offering seating near the water. The architectural details of the terrace’s pillars and stone walls correspond with the Blossom Street Plaza, bookending the historic pathway along the Camp Logan road.

Directly across the water, the West Terrace is nestled into the curve of the lakeshore, with bench seating that offers grand views in a peaceful setting. A boardwalk meanders along this more secluded side of the lake, providing an immersive experience in nature. Here, visitors can enjoy watching the resident wildlife that already inhabits the area, such as dragonflies, red-eared turtles, green tree frogs, least grebes, and black-bellied whistling ducks.

These paths connect to another boardwalk that passes through the forested wetlands. Inspired by the geometry of trees that had fallen during drought, the angular wetland boardwalks allow visitors to explore this ecosystem up close. Interpretive signage highlights the function of the wetlands within the dynamic ecology of the park. As one of the best areas for bird-watching in Memorial Park—a home to white egrets, great blue herons, red-tailed hawks, and yellow-crowned night herons – seating areas are provided at various points along the boardwalk to give space for wildlife sightings and quiet reflection in the urban wilderness.

Additional new amenities include shaded places for groups to gather. Two pavilions are situated on the southern edge of the promenade with dedicated picnic areas nearby. The design of the pavilion structures, as well as two new rest stations, recalls the WWI-era architecture of the former training camp. Fireplaces in the pavilions incorporate black brick that references another local building tradition—the clinker brick of kilns that could be found along nearby Buffalo Bayou in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Since opening to the public, Eastern Glades has already become a favored outdoor destination. This once degraded and inaccessible landscape is now a jewel within Memorial Park—and it sets the tone for future projects of the Ten-Year Plan.

Other landscape architecture offices involved in the design of landscape: Lauren Griffith Associates
Architecture offices involved in the design: English + Associates Architects, Inc.

Project Location: Washington Ave, Houston, Texas 77007

Design year: 2018/2019

Year Built: 2020

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