SWA and the architect’s narrative of nature and industry united underscores the design of the new 140,000-square-foot (3-1/2 acre) Avenida Houston plaza, adjacent to the freshly renovated George R. Brown Convention Center in downtown Houston. Key to the theme of nature as it plays out in this new events space is the famous central flyway that offers hundreds of species of birds a safe haven along their annual transcontinental journey. Their flight is echoed in the pavement and lighting that directs pedestrians through the plaza. Safe migration also serves as a significant metaphor for the city that boasts the country’s most diverse population. Houston’s industrial history is interpreted in the plaza as well, where vertical features include crane-like catenary lighting systems and an event space designed to recall the massive wooden crane mats used in oil fields across southeast Texas. The Plaza will also feature food and beverage outlets, flexible community space, native gardens, and towering shade trees. Among ten artworks continuing the theme of nature and industry commissioned for the space is the captivating “Wings Over Water,” a massive mechanical sculpture that joins the city’s industrial artifacts with the enormous natural systems Houston has embraced as its new identity. The sculpture depicts an migratory bird covering 60 by 20 feet and rising 25 feet into the sky. Artist Joe O’Donnell, of Tucson-based Creative Machines, worked in close collaboration with SWA Group to realize this ultimate tribute to man and nature working in harmony.
Uniting Industry and Nature to Reflect Houston’s Bounty