Houston’s Urban Architectural Gem: Gerald D. Hines Waterwall Park

Gerald D. Hines Waterwall Park is an oasis of peace, tranquility and architectural vision in the bustling Galleria area of uptown Houston. Popular amongst Houstonians as ‘The Waterwall’, the majestic fountain is a stunning work of art in the Bayou City.

What and where is the Waterwall?

Gerald D. Hines Waterwall is a dramatic, towering semi-circular fountain. Water cascades down both the interior and exterior sides of the Waterwall in visually pleasing ripples. The fountain and 3 acres surrounding it together form the Waterwall Park. 

Gerald D. Hines Waterwall Park photo from the side
Water cascades down both the interior and exterior sides of the Waterwall in visually pleasing ripples

The Waterwall Park is located in Uptown Houston, few blocks away from the famous Galleria Mall. The Waterwall faces south side of Williams Tower in Post Oak Blvd area.  Physical address of the Waterwall Park is 2800 Post Oak Boulevard. The fountain operates from 8 am to 9 pm everyday; so plan your trip accordingly.

History of Gerald D. Hines Waterwall Park

The fountain and surrounding park were initially planned as an accompanying architectural feature for the adjacent Williams Tower. Both the Waterwall and Williams Tower were designed by internationally renowned architectural team of Philip Johnson and John Burgee; construction of the Waterwall was completed in 1985. The once private park was purchased by the City of Houston in December 2008 and today, is one of Houston’s iconic public parks.

5 Best things to do at the Waterwall

1. Take in the beauty of the majestic Waterwall

I am a frequent visitor to the Park and each time I am newly awed by the surreal beauty of the Waterwall. Watching the water cascade down the sides of the fountain is a beautiful and soothing experience. I always feel as if I’m within an optical illusion when standing inside the U-shaped wall and looking up at the rushing water ripples. I feel as if I’m floating upwards to meet the cascading water even when I’m standing utterly still. Most of the people I have taken to the Waterwall have experienced similar effects and have been equally awed by the stunning fountain.

Gerald D. Hines Waterwall Park picture
View from inside the U-shaped Gerald D. Hines Waterwall

2. Take a walk around the Waterwall

Many people stand inside the semi-circular wall and look up at the fountain but few take a walk around the exterior of the Waterwall. Water cascades down both sides of the fountain and the convex side feels vastly different than the concave side. The convex/exterior face of the fountain faces the Hidalgo Street and observing the fountain from here is a great experience. The fountain is beautifully framed by live oak trees and Williams Tower rises splendidly over the Waterwall to meet the clouds in the background.

Gerald D. Hines Waterwall Park picture
The Waterwall as seen from Hidalgo St with Williams Tower in the background

3. Relax in the Park

A beautiful lawn spans the distance between the Waterwall and Williams Tower. The grass is bordered by pathways and benches on all sides. More than 100 live oak trees are planted in avenues adjacent to the lawn; strolling along these avenues is a popular activity. Visitors can also have a picnic on the lawn or play a game of Frisbee. (Official park rules disallow use of balls or Frisbees; however I haven’t seen this particular rule being enforced.) Children love running and rolling on the grass and playing tag. I enjoy sitting on the lawn and taking in the sights and sounds of this 3-acre large urban amenity. The Waterwall Park is a great place to people-watch and understand Houston’s diversity. 

Gerald D. Hines Waterwall Park picture of live oak trees
Live oak tree avenues at the Waterwall Park

4. Marvel at the engineering behind the Waterwall

The Waterwall boasts of incredible engineering statistics. The wall is 64 feet tall and each foot symbolizes one floor of the 64 storied Williams Tower. The wall is designed to be a horseshoe-shaped wall of cascading water that is visible from the many buildings in the busy area. The fountain re-circulates 11,000 gallons of water per minute and the water cascades from top rim on both sides of the fountain. 3 Romanesque arches frame the Waterwall to resemble an ancient Roman amphitheatre.

Gerald D. Hines Waterwall Park plaque
Plaque describing and commemorating Gerald D. Hines Waterwall fountain

5. Gaze at the Williams Tower

The Waterwall was originally built as an architectural amenity for Williams Tower, then called the Transco Tower. Williams Tower, also designed by Johnson/Burgee architects, is a beautiful Modernist skyscraper and 3rd tallest building in Houston.  It is a 64 story tall building with commercial office space.

Gerald D. Hines Waterwall Park picture of Williams Tower
Williams Tower is a beautiful Modernist skyscraper and 3rd tallest building in Houston

Williams Tower is amongst Houston’s most visible buildings and I love lying on the grass in Waterwall Park and looking at the skyscraper meet the sky. The dark blue glass façade of the building beautifully reflects the clouds and the sky. Here’s a rather cool fact, Williams Tower has been structurally designed by C’s boss and C also designs towering skyscrapers on a daily basis!

Gerald D. Hines Waterwall Park picture
Dark blue glass façade of Williams Tower beautifully reflects the clouds and the sky

Other things to do while visiting Gerald D. Hines Waterwall Park

The Waterwall is Houston’s most photographed site and is popular for all kinds of photo-shoots. I have seen graduation pictures, wedding shoots, maternity shoots, and more take place here. Visitors love taking Instagram-worthy pictures at the fountain and it makes a great photo op. Weekends can be crowded, so if you are planning a photo-shoot then try weekday morning for better opportunities. Any kind of commercial/tripod photography needs an advance permit.

Waterwall Park is also a great place for date night. The fountain is surreal and stunning; it also looks pretty when lit up at night. The wide lawn, live oak trees and benches provide many opportunities for a cozy, romantic date night. The Waterwall is also a rather popular place to propose in Houston.

The Waterwall is located in Uptown Houston in Galleria District and is very close to the nearby Galleria Mall. Galleria Mall has more than 400 of big-chain, anchor and boutique stores for shopping aficionados. The Mall is 7th largest in the country and also boasts of excellent fine-dining and casual restaurants. The Galleria Mall also has an indoor skating ring and large children’s play area. Finish your visit to the Waterwall with shopping and a delicious meal at the Galleria Mall.

Gerald D. Hines Waterwall Park waterwall houston at night
C & I at the Waterwall Park

Parking Tips to make the most of your Waterwall visit

Visitors can park in the official Williams Tower paid parking lot garage. Street parking near the Waterwall Park is hard to find; several tow-zones are present near the park. Visitors looking for free options can park in the Dillard’s/Nordstrom parking lot a few blocks away and walk over to the Waterwall Park. C & I always do this and have never taken time to find a vacant spot.


I most recently visited Gerald D. Hines Waterwall Park in Uptown Houston in July 2017.


 

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