WHR Architects’ Stadium Garage Provides More Than Parking at the University of Houston
On September 19, the University of Houston (UH) held a grand opening for its newest parking garage. Although the celebration, complete with special offers, games and giveaways, might seem unusual for a parking structure, the Stadium Parking Garage is far more than just a place to park. Designed by WHR Architects, the 2,300 car parking facility contains a Barnes & Nobel Fan Shop, Cougar Express Mini Market, Taco Cabana restaurant, offices for UH Parking and Transportation and UH Parking Customer Services. With 85% of the university’s nearly 40,000 students commuting from around the sprawling City of Houston and its suburbs, reimagining the garage as an amenity project made sense for several reasons.
“The parking garage is strategically located at the heart of the new Stadium Precinct on the western edge of the campus walking distance from Robertson Stadium, Hofheinz Pavilion and, soon, the new METRORail Southeast Line,” said Marie Hoke, AIA, the director of the Studio for Education and the Arts and project architect on the new building. “Its high visibility location called for an architectural solution that would serve as a new gateway to the campus and, at the same time, reinforce a sense of campus identity.” With frontage along Cougar Walk, the new pedestrian walkway that connects the stadium to various buildings in the district, the garage offered the design team an opportunity to create a lively ground level with shops and food service amenities for students and the many loyal alumni who return regularly for games and campus events. Cougar Walk will become a focus for campus activities as well as game day functions. “It’s already becoming a real campus gathering spot with seating, lighting and even electrical outlets for students to use,” Hoke added.
The design employs cost-effective buff color precast panels in two shades; the lighter of the two recalling the color and texture of the limestone used extensively throughout the historic areas of campus. The landmark stair tower incorporates the university’s logo and the distinctive UH red provides bright accents across the façade. The pavilion-like structure that houses the Taco Cabana stands out from the garage with pewter-colored metal panels and glass storefront windows, enlivening the garage exterior.
“The Stadium Parking Garage really demonstrates that every building contributes to the sense of place on an academic campus,” said David H. Watkins, FAIA, chairman and founding principal of WHR Architects. “Whether it’s a residence hall, classroom building or a garage, the architecture of the building is part of the fabric of the campus and communicates the values of the institution to the students and to the community.”
WHR Architects recent and current academic projects include: University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston School of Dentistry in Houston, Texas; Sam Houston State University’s The Woodlands Center at The Woodlands, Texas; The University of Texas Health Science Center at Tyler, Texas; The University of North Texas Concert Hall in Denton, Texas; The Center of Urban & Structural Entomology at Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas; The University of St. Thomas Center for Science and Health Professions in Houston, Texas; The University of Houston, University Center Transformation in Houston, Texas; and The Wharton County Junior College Health Occupations Center Addition and Renovation, Wharton, Texas.
WHR Architects is a full service architecture, interior design and technology planning firm. The firm’s commitment to critical thinking is balanced by an ingrained empathy that results in both improved project outcomes and positive working experiences for their clients. With over 100 people in Houston and Dallas, Texas, Washington DC and New Jersey, the 33-year-old firm is working on projects throughout the US for top–tier public and private education and medical institutions. WHR was named the 2008 AIA Houston Firm of the Year and 2010 IIDA Texas/Oklahoma Pinnacle Firm of the Year. For more information about WHR Architects, visit www.whrarchitects.com and follow @whrarchitects on Twitter.