RDA’s first national design competition was held in 1985 for Sesquicentennial Park, along Buffalo Bayou on the north side of downtown. Until then, an open competition for a major civic project was unprecedented in Houston. The project is now largely completed.
Next came the Heart of Park Design Competition in 1992, co-sponsored with the fledgling Friends of Hermann Park and the city’s parks and recreation department. Entrants were asked to design a center around a reflecting pool in Houston’s Hermann Park, from the Sam Houston Monument to the Grand Basin. The competition led to a new master plan for the entire park by noted landscape architect Laurie Olin. The Heart of the Park improvements were completed in spring 2004.
More recently, RDA and AIA Houston launched the 99K House Competition in October 2007, which has resulted in a winning design for an affordable, energy-efficient house. The house was completed in June 2009 on a lot in Houston’s Fifth Ward that was donated by the City of Houston through the Land Assemblage Redevelopment (LARA) program. It is hoped that the house will serve as a prototype and be replicated.