The McGovern Centennial Gardens opened to the public early this year in Hermann Park, Houston’s most popular and historically-significant public green space. At 15 acres, the new addition is Houston’s largest public garden and invites visitors into an array of garden experiences.
Firm partner, Douglas Hoerr, led the design of the project. “There really isn’t anywhere else in Houston where someone can go to experience so many different styles of garden in one place unless you have access to quite a few private gardens. It is a very diverse horticultural experience within a concentrated space,” he said.
Bold physical elements, like a massive 30-foot high mount with rushing waterfall and the expansive centennial green, are civic gestures that connect the garden to the rest of Hermann Park and the city in their scale and drama. From these flow a series of more intimate garden rooms with meandering pathways that invite people to explore different gardening styles. Together, the gardens offer spaces for community gatherings, for education, for beautification, gardening and growing food.
The Cherie Flores Entry Pavilion, designed by architect Peter Bohlin, is a new home for the Park’s garden-focused programming. As a garden structure, it functions as the garden’s primary gateway from the parking lot. Its ‘pinched’ portal into the garden narrows views and creates a forced perspective of the linear lawn and the spiral mount ahead. Combined with the rush of fountains, pools, lush plantings and pergolas, crossing the threshold is an experience of discovery and surprise. “I wanted elements of the Centennial Gardens to re-create the sense of ‘wow’ that a child feels when they are delighted,” says Hoerr.