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35 years of TBG: education & parks


Parks and education play a huge role in the development of children. The park is where a child first socializes and learns to play with others, and school is where a child begins grows emotionally and intellectually. Supporting and encouraging children through thoughtful design is something TBG strives to do in our work of these sectors, and below are eight examples we’re proud of.

The Parish School — Houston, Texas
TBG worked with the nationally recognized special needs school to create a series of Outdoor Learning Environments (OLE), resulting in the Margaret Noecker Nature Center and Little Acorn Park. The team collected input from school staff to form the master plan and create play environments rooted in imagination – an integral part of the school’s curiculum. Little Acorn Park – the first constructed OLE – is designed for the youngest users of up to three years old, which has been extremely popular amongst children of all ages at play. The park’s design is based on OLE guidelines and features approximately 10 rooms with features focused on climbing, digging, affordance and play value, among others.

Riverstone Wetland Park — Sugar Land, Texas
Created alongside a biologist, Wetland Park connects children and visitors to nature. The park is home to a thriving ecosystem of aquatic plants, bald cypress domes, as well as animals like turtles, fish, and frogs. Bird watchers enjoy the site and have spotted green herons, blue herons, egrets, and more. This atypical park destination speaks to its authenticity while fulfilling the required elements to replace wetlands lost to development.

Willow Fork Park — Katy, Texas
Willow Fork Park is 32 acres of Willow Fork Drainage District Parks Master Plan — also developed by TBG. What was once flat land, the park’s environment is full of variety with rolling hills, multipurpose lawns, trails, disc golf, playground, and a lake. There are over 15 tree species throughout the park, bio swales, dog waste stations, and a popular pavilion spot with public restrooms, picnic tables, and grills. Its educational signage teaches visitors about the park’s elements, like the blue catfish that are Texas’s largest freshwater sport fish and can be found in the strean at Willow Fork Park.

Exploration Park — Katy, Texas
“How do you know you’ve designed a special park? When mom chat groups arrange for buses to bring kids to play! True story!” says Principal-in-Charge Matt Klein on Exploration Park. The park had a strong concept around the water cycle which helped to tie together its design, from site layout to color selections and educational opportunities. It’s full of thoughtful design elements to create play for all ages, like interpretive signage that presents key concepts in a lucid manner to aid comprehension.

PlayGrand Adventures, The Epic — Grand Prairie, Texas
A free, all-inclusive playground that draws in residents as well as regional users; this was the big idea for PlayGrand Adventures. The play is laid out in pods to make each area a unique play experience that is tied not only to the types of play, but colors of the play equipment and surfacing. Project Manager Jodi House says, “I love that I can see a child get off the wheelchair swing with the biggest smile and his mom comes up and tells me that is the first time he has gotten to feel the motion of a swing.” Tranquil Adventures just opened at the site, which is a new zone for children to go and re-center if they’re having a hard time in the active areas.

Alliance Children’s Garden — Austin, Texas
When funding didn’t include the plans for this park, a group of private citizens, “the alliance,” organized to raise the money. The different rooms of the park nod to different aspects of Austin, like the hill country mounds, rock and slide valley, and skyline tower. A fun fact from Project Manager Matt Dawson is that the seven fire ant play sculptures represent the seven members of the aforementioned “alliance” that rallied with the City to eventually make the park a reality.

Town Lake Park — Austin, Texas
TBG started work on a park master plan in the late 1990s and has been focused on individual projects over a four-phase implementation since then. Town Lake Park is an extremely prominent park in Austin and can almost always be found bursting with visitors and their furry friends. TBG’s efforts throughout the years have included numerous public charrettes that aided in the development of the 10-mile Butler Trail, Auditorium Shores, Alliance Children’s Garden, and iconic spiral hill with panoramic skyline views.

Airline Community Park — Baton Rouge, Louisiana
For this park, BREC, wanted to provide the Baton Rouge community a park with a sustainability focus that also helps mitigate water and activate the space. A main goal of Phase I is to rebuild forestry along the banks of Bayou Manchac and Ward Creek to allow the flora and fauna to flourish. With so much space, the design team is able to explore programming and include various park types for different types of people including a play ground, sports courts, natural trails and heritage path, and air gun range among others.