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A Lyrical Performance
Landscape Architecture by Clark Condon


In Sugar Land, Texas, located 20 minutes southwest of downtown Houston, landscape architecture firm Clark Condon was the lead designer of a three-acre public park and plaza surrounding the Smart Financial Centre, a new 6,500-seat performing arts center. Curved patterns in the pavement extending outward from the building were meant to represent the graphics used to diagram musical sound waves. The plaza's features include a custom, highly programmable, interactive fountain, the center of which can pool water to extend to a 24' radius, creating a splash pad.



Landscape lighting and custom streetlights (inset) were designed to coordinate with dramatic lighting inside the venue. The complex fountain, which can be maintained and monitored from a smartphone, features 137 jets with varying functions.

Smart Financial Centre is a new 6,500-seat performing arts center with an adjacent urban park in Sugar Land, Texas. The performing arts center is the first completed project, and will serve as the focal point of what will be a walking-friendly, mixed-use entertainment district to include retail, office space, a hotel, and a convention center. Upon arrival at the venue, visitors are greeted by the stunning and spacious 3-acre public park/plaza designed for gatherings and events. Inspired by the graphics used to diagram musical sound waves, the design of the plaza features curved patterns extending outward from the building. A custom-built, interactive fountain is a signature element of the plaza and provides both dramatic performances and water play for the surrounding community to enjoy during events and hot summer days.

The water feature with its dancing jets is extremely distinct as there is not another one like it in the state of Texas. Highly programmable, this fountain has a multitude of functions from a dazzling light and water show to an interactive component available at the push of a button for bystanders.


An early concept study for the plaza/park development illustrates the theme of concentric rings to evoke sound waves. Clark Condon worked directly with the City of Sugar Land on the project and oversaw the design from the master plan through detailed design and construction administration services. The landscape architecture firm was also in charge of hiring and managing the design team, which included a fountain consultant, MEP and civil engineering.


Casual, movable seating is located in gravel paving areas underneath festoon lighting. The plaza/park also includes a multi-purpose open lawn, cast stone benches from Siteworks Architectural Cast Stone, softscape elements, a public art program and a food truck zone.

Complex, yet can also be maintained and monitored from a smartphone, it features 137 jets with varying functions integrated with LED lights. While the jets are powerful, they are safe for those who dare to run through them. The center jet can shoot upwards of 30 feet making for quite the statement. Adding yet another component, the center of the fountain can pool water to extend to a 24' radius, creating a splash pool for kids.

Additionally, the park includes a multi-purpose lawn, custom district street lighting, moveable furniture, a public art program, tree groves, plantings, turf, festoon lighting, and a food truck zone to create a quintessential destination.

Plantings specified for the area included 11 Mexican sycamore (Platanus mexicana) trees, 49 cathedral live oak (Quercus virginiana 'Cathedral') trees and 28 Allee Elm (Ulmus parvifolia 'Emer II") trees - all in the 100-gallon size.


Here the fountain is in its "everyday mode" but the jets can shoot upwards in varying heights allowing different effects throughout the day. There is even an interactive water component available at the push of a button for bystanders. Plantings include Mexican sycamores, cathedral live oaks, Allee elms, a number of different types of shrubs, perennials and groundcover. The paver grates around the trees are from Ironsmith.


In "show mode" jets reach 30' tall and are accented with dramatic lighting from integrated LED lights that can illuminate the fountain in a multitude of colors.

Also on the plant schedule were foxtail ferns, butterfly iris, dwarf flax lily, blue daze, old orange day lily, purple sweet potato vine, gulf coast muhly, purple fountain grass and Asian jasmine.

As the lead designer, Clark Condon worked directly with the City of Sugar Land, hired and managed the design team, which included a fountain consultant, MEP and civil engineering, and oversaw the project from the master plan through detailed design and construction administration services.

According to principal and owner Sheila Condon, PLA, FASLA, once they were brought onboard, one of the first ideas was a fountain that served a civic role and was a showpiece.

"A performance fountain seems to go hand-in-hand with a performance space," she relates. "And on a day-to-day basis, it's an everyday sprayground for the community."

Clark Condon subcontracted engineering firm, GPSI, to help with the design. "Their expertise is the effects of water," says Scott Slagle, PLA, ASLA, another principal and owner of the landscape architect company. "If we want this, what does it take"


The customized interlocking pavers throughout the fountain were embedded with ground seashells and blue glass; more than what is usually offered by the manufacturer for extra sparkle - not only from the water and sun but from the lights at night as well. Pavers imprinted with wave patterns were also specified.. Water feature engineering firm, GPSI, modified some of the nozzles used in the project.


The fountain includes spray and mist features, and its drain grate is cast stone, which is a matrix of natural stone particles bound together by an advanced polymer.

Michael Webb, GPSI's director of engineering who really helped overcome resistance to the project from the city council with a fly-around 3D animation, says that the water feature was designed to the budget, which was established early on.

"We knew from the beginning what the park overall would cost," he recounts. "And Sheila and her crew came up with an idea of how much they wanted to put into the water feature, the mechanical/engineering/pluming portion, which was our primary task, and we maximized everything." Team List
Owner: City of Sugar Land
Developer: City of Sugar Land
Architect: Martinez & Johnson Architects
Landscape Architect: Clark Condon
Aquatics Consultant: Greenscape Pump
Structural: Huitt Zollars
Civil: Huitt Zollars
General Contractor: Linbeck

As seen in LASN magazine, July 2018.

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April 22, 2019, 3:58 am PDT

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