Lake Houston Wilderness Park is the City of Houston’s newest regional park. The park is distinctive in three significant ways. First, it is an urban park that is largely an undisturbed and forested wilderness. In the foreseeable future, the park will be completely surrounded by Houston’s urban fabric. Second, the park is extremely large, comprising almost 5,000 acres. Third, the park is situated at the confluence of two tributaries to Lake Houston, a major source of municipal drinking water. Because the land serves as a filter for runoff from surrounding urban development before it enters the
lake, the health of the ecology is especially critical.
The architectural challenge is to find a minimally invasive way to make the park accessible to the public and raise revenue for the stewardship of its ecology. Camping and event facilities are confined to a relatively small section of the park closest to the main entrance to reduce the required clearing for access roads and utilities. Heavy timber that is cleared will be the primary material for construction of the rugged structures which combine traditional log building techniques with 21st century design and technology. Log and rammed earth enclosures are covered with standing seam metal roofs in a variety of iconic shapes that complement the landscape and serve as effective rainwater catchment surfaces. Use of rainwater for toilet flushing and aerobic wastewater treatment systems minimizes reliance on outside resources and infrastructure costs.
entrance gatehouse: Upon entering the park, visitors encounter a small structure based on the image of a butterfly perching on a stem of grass. It is a 175 sq ft shelter and toilet for parks department personnel at controlled access park entrance. The walls are made of solid timber logs.
visitor center: The visitor center is a 5,200 sq ft glass pavilion conceived as a dry leaf falling on a lake surface. The visitor center, or Leaf Center, is a multi purpose hall. It serves as the information/nature center of the park, park office, space for educational programs, camp shop, café, and can be rented for special events.
tent structures: covered wood platforms will be provided for campers to rent. These are constructed from a varied series of wooden scissor trusses. Screened partitions can be removed during off-seasons for safekeeping.
eco cabins: 500 sq ft and 1000 sq ft rustic cabins with solid log walls provide rental accommodations for visitors. The cabin plans are oriented around their generous screened porches. Sloped roofs maximize openness to the outdoors at the porches and facilitate the collection of rainwater in cisterns at the rear of the cabins.
bath pavilion: The bath pavilion is a 1,600 sq ft facility designed for campers. At its center are large, shared lavatories. Toilets and showers are enclosed by a low slung rammed earth privacy walls that extend into the forest, providing a semi-private outdoor shower experience. The facilities are covered by a high curved roof that collects rainwater for toilet flushing.