DOW Elementary School

January 2020   Houston, TX

Client

  • Old Sixth Ward Redevelopment Authority

Team

  • MetaLab
  • EHRA
  • Insight
  • Dominion Green

A historic park renovation in the Sixth Ward focused on improving public accessibility and cultural relevance.

Key Points

The park design preserved beloved features while adding flexible spaces and interactive elements.

Preservation

We worked carefully to ensure both cultural and environmental preservation throughout this process. We maintained and improved certain spaces in the park for which the community expressed love, and we took special care to preserve the historic trees in the park.

Engagement

There were several community meetings held to figure out the community's needs around the park space. During the construction process, they were invited to put their handprints in the stepping stones around the park.

Interaction

The Longhouse pavilion is designed to be interactive with whoever is using it. There is a bring-your-own-hammock section, a specially designed community table, custom game tables that are meant to be drawn on with chalk, and bench swings that invite folks to sit and stay for awhile.


Historically, Dow Elementary School served the Hispanic and Latin(x) community in Houston until it was decomissioned in the early 90s. After this point, the school was given to MECA (Multi-Cultural Education and Counseling through the Arts), and the adjoining park was given to the City of Houston. Asakura Robinson has completed several projects around the neighborhood including The Parks for Humans and Dogs, Washington Avenue Pattern Book, Sawyer Pattern Book, and the Washington and Houston Avenue streetscape. We are passionate about creating a fluid, accessible, and magnetic environment for all of the pedestrians, cyclists, and residents of the community. Accordingly, when the opportunity arose, we knew that the Dow Elementary Park would be a perfect expression of these ideals.

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This is an intimate space, at about a quarter of an acre, so it calls for smart and transformable space to remain accessible and comfortable for the many different needs of the community. Coming into the design process, it was important to us to preserve and improve many of the elements that were already being embraced by the neighborhood while also adding new elements to help further activate the space. In partnership with MetaLab, a series of community meetings were held to determine what elements people loved, and what elements people were excited to transform for the future. We kept, but rehabilitated elements of the pre-existing playground and basketball court, and added new hardscaping across the park while paying special attention to using permeable paving. We also invited the surrounding community out for an afternoon of fun that included putting their handprints into some of the stepping stones around the park.


One of the central elements that we added was a longhouse pavilion to act as a gathering space. It has a transformable space where residents are encouraged to bring their own hammocks when they come to the park, but can be utilized different for various events. The pavilion was designed to reflect the specific architectural style of its historic surroundings, and we used locally-sourced reclaimed wood for the internal structure. One of the other concerns in the park re-design process was around preserving the perimeter of mature live oaks trees, which we worked carefully with the city, and other local arborists to ensure that they would continue to thrive during and after the construction.

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ABIA Parking Garage & Pedestrian Plaza December 2019   Austin, TX