Landscape as a catalyst for student engagement at the University of Houston.


LocationHouston, Texas, United States
ClientUniversity of Houston
Size165,000 sf

Located in Southeast Houston, the University of Houston Law Center is home to three top-ten law programs since its establishment in 1947. Like nearly two-thirds of properties across the city, it’s also vulnerable to flooding—most viscerally in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Allison in 2001, Hurricane Ike in 2008, and Hurricane Harvey in 2017, a trend only exacerbated by climate change.

For the new LEED Silver-certified John M. O’Quinn Law Building, SWA collaborated with the school and Shepley Bulfinch to design a flood-resilient landscape that can store up to 400 thousand gallons of stormwater runoff, filtering water through a lush detention basin planted with native species. Crucially, the design also preserves the existing oak canopy—providing shade for students relaxing on the elevated deck, named “The Grove,” between classes, and maintaining the campus’ character.

On a day-to-day level, the new facility also carves out a wide variety of flexible spaces for collaboration, strengthening the sense of community within the school, breaking down the boundaries between the building, landscape, and campus, and better connecting the next generation of legal professionals with their surroundings.

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