The Glassell School of Art addition to the Museum of Fine Arts – Houston included an extensive landscape package, the Brown Plaza. Camarata Masonry Systems, Ltd. (CMS) was responsible for the stone scope of the project including shop drawings and the supply and installation of 26,500 sq. ft. of 1 ½” thick thermal Carnelian granite paving and 800 sq. ft. of 4” thick thermal Carnelian granite benches.
The vision for the plaza was to unify the components of the campus by accessibility. It was extremely important that the Brown Plaza portion of the museum expansion be visitor friendly and inviting to the general public. The nearly one-acre plaza captures this through with the inclusion of a seating area in the center, along with granite plinth benches for both the museum visitors and local pedestrians. The focal point of the plaza is the architectural fountain located near the center. While it can be enjoyed as artwork, the pulsating jets of the fountain both animate and cool the space. Our goal was to create the inviting plaza that was envisioned while maintaining our core goals of productivity and safety.
The general construction of the plaza area was challenging due to the fact that much of the plaza is over occupied space. The structure was in a very vulnerable state in August 2017 when Hurricane Harvey arrived. The areas under the plaza were flooded; some below grade portions of the project took on as much as 18 feet of water. The impact of Hurricane Harvey delayed the project approximately six months. This, coupled with the fact that the plaza was a major point of access to the Glassell School of Arts Building, created schedule, sequence and coordination issues for all trades. At the request of the general contractor our installation schedule was compressed from 4 ½ months to 3 months. In order to minimize the delay to the project, the plan to start the stone installation from the north end of the plaza and move in an orderly and methodical southward manner was scrapped. As such, we started installation in the middle of the east edge of the project and continued simultaneously to the north, west and south with separate paving crews; a very risky approach when considering the overall design of the plaza. The presence of a fountain, planting areas with sprinkler systems and the general water shed for an area this size, required extreme quality control of the waterproofing. Additionally, the coordination of the correct location for the 54 fountain water heads within the stone pavers was critical to achieve the design appearance. The directional changes of the running bond paving pattern coupled with the slope changes required extra attention to avoid lippage. With precise layout and tight quality control by our field supervisors, we were successful in the revised plan of installation; and did indeed complete the installation in the reduced timeframe.