Parking was a hike for those of us not willing to pony up $10 to use the underground garage. It’s like the future civilization described in H.G. Wells’ Time Machine: a race of subterranean masters subsidize an indolent, park-like existence for us surface dwellers, until we are slaughtered.
The architecture parts of the park were very good. The sloping lawn in front of the stage was partially shaded from the late afternoon sun by Lawrence Speck’s boat rental /restaurant building. The air was warm, the sun was shining (but not on me directly), and I began to feel an unaccustomed sensation that living in Houston wasn’t so bad after all. I began to consider the bike routes from my house to downtown, and to feel lucky that I bought a house inside the loop before it became too expensive.
The Lake House restaurant even has reasonable prices- I had feared the same gouging that you find at Reliant park, but $5.95 for a burger and $2 for a coke puts it in the category of "might have lunch there someday." The staff was swamped by the modest turnout for the evening concert, with lines out the door. It’s as if they hadn’t planned for people to actually attend.
Likewise, there’s a tentative fragility to the park’s unweathered teak decking and litter-free lawns, baby trees and un-slept-on benches. Suzanne Theis, the new park’s program director, hovered near the new mirrored gazebo by junk architect Dan Phillips watching over the event like one watches a kid who’s just taken off his training wheels.
The re-siting of the splendid Dubuffet sculpture that used to be on Louisiana Street is unfortunate. It’s as if the park’s designers were going out of their way to camouflage the colorful piece against a colorful building, lowering the impact of both, in order to prove that Dubuffet and Mario Bolullo, the Brown Convention Center’s chief designer, were both part of the same modernist color conspiracy.
Margo Sawyer’s Synchronicity of Color (aka "the stairwell") keeps the same childlike block-stacking aesthetic of the convention center, but with new colors. The rustic redwood enclosure (dumpster corral?) attached to the side messes it up, though.
It was the music that made me feel as if I was participating in a painfully manufactured version of the urban experience. The eighties cover band was lame, bearing the same relationship to real music that the water-play feature has to real art. There I was, sitting on a blanket, on a lawn, in front of a stage, and I couldn’t help comparing it to the long, long, Max Roach drum solo I heard sitting on a similar lawn at the University of Massachusetts, or Billie Joe of Green Day scorching a ridiculous cover of Survivor’s "Eye of the Tiger" at Lollapalooza ’94.
This is not my beautiful park! This is not my beautiful life!