Glulam Timbers Enhance Hermann Park

By Donald Jaenicke | September 28, 2010

Special attention is being paid to the train station and paddle boat pavilion due to their glued laminated timber columns and graceful curved glulam roof framing that are exposed on the outside and inside.

The past and future are coming together at a historic city park in downtown Houston as planners, architects and contractors work to tie the many features of the park together. Hermann Park Plaza is within walking distance of the Texas Medical Center, Rice University, the Museum District, and the Third Ward.

Prominent designer George Kessler's original concept for Hermann Park was never fully implemented. The integrity of the original plan has been eroded by development and the loss of available park land.

The Hermann Park Lake Plaza will gather several cultural institutions together within the park itself, including the Houston Zoo, Garden Center, Miller Outdoor Theatre, Museum of Natural Science, McGovern Lake, and the Hermann Park Golf Course, which was the first desegregated golf facility in the United States.

The Lake Plaza is located on 8 acres and will be a heavily traveled pedestrian zone for visitors bound for the miniature train, children's playground, McGovern Lake, the boathouse, Japanese Garden, and Reflection Pool. It will function as a threshold to the park.

Five new buildings are being erected in the Lake Plaza. These include the Park Train Station, Public Restroom, Cafe and terrace, Paddle Boat Pavilion, and Park Service Building.

Special attention is being paid to the Train Station and Paddle Boat Pavilion due to their glued laminated timber columns and graceful curved glulam roof framing that are exposed on the outside and inside. Overland Partners Architects notes that the natural aesthetics of the timber were appropriate for a park location and convey a warm, rustic appearance and present a seamless integration of nature and building. Also, the glulam timbers have the strength to withstand high winds. The longest glulam timbers span 24 feet.

The new plaza will be a facility that reflects Houston's multicultural diversity and provides a family-friendly location for celebrations, performances and catered functions. The project is designed to become LEED certified. All mature trees have been saved and incorporated into the new Lake Plaza. Shed roofs will produce positive airflow through breezeways to cool pedestrians in Houston's hot climate. Three local artists were chosen to provide public art for the plaza.

Engineered Wood Designers notes that the furring, sheathing and finishing often required with steel framing can be eliminated with laminated timber construction. Unlike steel, concrete or other materials that deplete natural resources, wood is a renewable resource with 6 million trees planted daily in the U.S.

Engineered wood structures are also gaining in popularity because glulam timber arrives at the job site as a finished product. Other types of framing arrive on site in raw form, requiring additional cladding to create the final product.


Project Team

Architects: Overland Partners Architects

Contractor: Vaughn Construction

Glulam beam supplier: Unit Structures

Engineers: Walter P. Moore

For more information on designing with laminated timbers, visit