DRAGONFLY PARK: FROM CLASSIC INSPIRATIONS COME UNPARALLELED AMENITIES
CLIENT: Howard Hughes
PROJECT: Dragonfly Park
Dragonfly Park, located in Parkland Village, one of four villages within the Bridgeland residential community, is the central recreation space for the village.
Bridgeland, located in Cypress, Texas just northwest of Houston, is an 11,000-acre master planned community. The development is segmented into four residential villages, each with a unique aesthetic composition and character that is articulated through the landscape, streetscape, village monumentation, and built environment. One of these villages, Parkland Village, is home to Dragonfly Park, a central 25-acre recreation destination where residents can play, gather, exercise, and take part in private or community-hosted events. Parkland Village derives its character by melding the experience, movement, and spatial composition of Olmstedian design principles with the strong visual lines, materiality, and landscape integration of Prairie School Architecture. Two timeless approaches converge to create a framework for an unparalleled amenity experience.
Prior to development, the lands around Dragonfly Park were historically used for cattle ranching, oil extraction and the cultivation of various agricultural crops. These activities left almost 1,700+ acres of Parkland Village void of any significant tree growth. The site of the park itself is located within the levee system of an old, long abandoned irrigation stock tank. Water was pumped from various locations through the levee into diversion canals that fed the adjacent fields. In contrast to the surrounding areas, the levee and land encompassed within it was ripe with mature growth of bottomland hardwood and volunteer species trees. These existing trees serve to embrace the park and offer a dramatic entry sequence as the sweeping entry drives pierce the canopied levee to reveal the expansive park within. At the terminus of the entry drives, users have a full view of a grove of 100 trees. Each tree has a dedication plaque to commemorate the first 100 homeowners and families in Parkland Village.
The park is centrally anchored by a series of buildings, an activity center, fitness center, and pool building, which are sited to provide central access and support to the multitude of programming the park has to offer. Additionally, they afford users picturesque views through recreated native meadows to the backdrop of a naturalistically contoured lake. Modeled in the Prairie School style, the buildings establish a strong presence in the landscape. Utilizing Norman style brick, color variation, and precise course detailing, the linear nature of the buildings is expressed from one end to the other. Furthering the horizontal statement of the buildings, the gently pitched roofs extend far beyond the building footprints creating ample canopy space while mimicking the graceful tilt of dragonfly wings.
The activity center houses a 2,800 SF event space with state-of-the-art A/V infrastructure as well as restrooms, catering, and demonstration kitchens. A 30’ roll-up glass curtain wall provides additional venue space to a terrace and event lawn. Welcoming visitors, and connecting the activity center to the fitness center, is an extended canopy dogtrot that utilizes 3Form resin panels and custom metal work to create an overhead, stained-glass experience. Carefully detailed paver fields and banding project the dogtrot expression to the ground plane and create an impressive arrival sequence that pierces the buildings from the vehicular drop-off to the lake edge.
The fitness center has a 2,000 SF gym that contains the full complement of equipment one would expect to see at any “big box” establishment. The facility also includes a childcare room, restrooms and two flex rooms that can be reserved for personal training sessions. Directly outside of the fitness center, via controlled access, residents have the use of a two-lane, heated lap pool and a 2,000 SF artificial turf yoga lawn.
The pool building is constructed in the same architectural style and materiality as the activity and fitness center. The building contains restrooms, a pool equipment room, chemical rooms, a staff support room, and storage. A similar dogtrot to the activity and fitness center separates the utility side of the building from the user side. Beyond the dogtrot, residents are immersed in a luxurious, resort-like, leisure pool environment. The pool boasts a zero-entry, sunning shelves, a lazy river, vortex pool, and rope swing with plunge pool. The centerpiece of the pool experience is a custom 20’ plus tall concrete treehouse play structure. The treehouse has multiple accessible levels and incorporates a variety of interactive spray features. Custom pavilions and tensile shade structures surround the SUNDEK coated pool deck to provide users a respite from the beating Texas sun. A variety of furnishings are provided along with hammocks and natural gas grilling stations to provide residents with every opportunity to enjoy this exceptional amenity.
The playground is located to the west of the activity center to support private and community-hosted events while still having direct access from the parking lot. The playground has multiple custom-made structures which were hand carved from sustainably sourced Robinia wood (black locust). The playground is punctuated by a larger-than-life dragonfly play sculpture whose design was inspired by the park’s namesake. The dragonfly is a climbing structure with multiple points of access allowing children to dictate how they interact with the piece. A log jam, spring toys, belt and basket swings, various balancing events and an embankment slide round out the playground’s equipment. Seatwalls and generously bermed planting areas encircle the perimeter of the playground to corral wayward toddlers and provide parents peace of mind.
Directly adjacent to the playground is a multilevel splashpad with a multitude of interactive features. Preprogrammed sequences vary in location, volume, and flow of water drawing users through the entirety of the feature. Adventurous types can start at the top and follow a rivulet of water, by scrambling down boulders, as it cascades down several vertical falls to the more traditional features at the bottom. To facilitate the recirculating system, a small pump house was constructed to store necessary equipment and chemicals.
Nestled within the existing trees, that were able to be preserved, are several other program elements. A basketball court, four tennis courts, and a lighted flex field, sized to accommodate rugby, round out the scripted recreation. Tucked within an area of towering oak trees is the dog park, which is segregated into large and small dog areas. Much of the existing levee is still intact on the site. Informal paths were cleared atop the levee and stone steps were provided at key trail intersections allowing people to clamber up and immerse themselves in a cavernous, vegetated canopy.