Willow Waterhole – Site Enhancements

Following our work on a successful Public Access Plan in 2015, Asakura Robinson returned to the Prairie Management Area (PMA) at the Willow Waterhole Stormwater Detention Complex in 2016 to create a plan for a set of strategic Site Enhancements. Willow Waterhole  is a Harris County Flood Control District (HCFCD) facility in southwest Houston that helps to mitigate stormwater impacts within the Brays Bayou watershed. Our work on the Site Enhancements serves as a companion to the Public Access Plan, by providing more specific information about the amenities and furnishings proposed for the site. Whereas the intent of the earlier document was to provide an overview and guideline for site as a public natural area, the intent of this document is to provide a vision for the specific components needed to formalize the site and allow it to better accommodate visitors.

The Willow Waterhole PMA is not a conventional park or natural area. While it provides diverse opportunities for recreation and access to nature, it is best distinguished as a place that allows visitors to experience an evolving landscape- historically, seasonally, and even day to day. The site has had many forms and provided many ecological functions over time, including coastal prairie, rangeland, forest, and many variations of these. Today, the site is an active and ongoing restoration project in which its native condition as a coastal prairie is becoming more  and more visible, but retains remnants of earlier times  through visual cues in the landscape including clusters of trees, extensive grasslands and an undulating topography. Given these conditions, our approach to the Site Enhancements focused on channeling the evolving landscape as a signature feature of this emerging public place and destination. Virtually all of the proposed architectural interventions onto the site to facilitate access and program have been conceived as a means of reinforcing an appreciation and interest in this evolving landscape. Our site strategies ranged in scale from the detailing of site furnishings to the landscape design of the transitional zone between Willow Waterhole’s Prairie Management Area and the detention basin. The site furnishings have been conceived as a series of education stations, a strategy for creating a network of stopping points for visitors throughout the site that offer places to rest, site-specific educational and interpretive information, program options, and unique views of the site. The stations utilize variations of a minimal site furnishing module to create a sense of place while insuring that the stations do not overwhelm the landscape. The stations are also strategically dispersed across the landscape of the PMA to not only leverage specific site features but also to create constellation of program features that helps visitors to appreciate the full extent of the site. Throughout, an effort has been made to intervene on this site in ways which are minimal, educational, respectful of habitat and views, and extremely durable.

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