Shangri La Receives TCEQ Award for Excellence in Education 2012

On left, TCEQ staff with Shangri La’s Managing Director, Michael Hoke and Environmental Education Coordinator, Noelle Jordan with Texas Governor Rick Perry.)

Shangri La Botanical Gardens and Nature Center was awarded the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) Excellence in Educational Programming Award for 2012. The education staff led by Noelle Jordan, Environmental Education Coordinator, created programs to enhance the relationships between people, nature and the environment encouraging students of all ages to look, listen and learn about nature, the environment and what it takes “to be kind to your world”.

Shangri La staff – Wanda Woods, Sandra Langham, Michael Hoke, Marlene Cox, Mary Ann Smith, Holly Hanson and Noelle Jordan at Banquet on May 8, 2012.

In May, TCEQ hosted an awards banquet showcasing all of the TCEQ Environmental Excellence Awards.  The award “celebrates the bold efforts of Texans of all ages who preserve and protect Texas’ environment.” These winning organizations reflect the commitment to the environment shared by the staff at Shangri La. The award is a proud achievement for Shangri La. Michael Hoke and Noelle Jordan accepted the award on behalf of Shangri La, along with several enthusiastic staff members attending.

Mountain-Plains Museums Association Award 2009 – Excellence in Programming

In 2009, Shangri La began a partnership with the Stark Museum of Art to offer summer camps each year for children that combine art with science and nature. In 2011, these summer camps won the Excellence in Programming Award from the Mountain-Plains Museums Association, a regional division of American Association of Museums.

Award Winning Design

In 2012 Jeffrey Carbo Landscape Architects received the Honor Award in the General Design Category from the American Society of Landscape Architects for its planning and design of Shangri La Botanical Gardens and Nature Center.

In the early 2000s the Stark Foundation determined that H.J. Lutcher Stark’s original 252-acre site, with mixed tupelo, cypress, and pine trees, a bayou, migratory birds, gardens, and lake was a site of extraordinary ecological diversity and held great potential for redevelopment. The board of directors elected to renovate the gardens into a regional center for environmental awareness and education.

To that end, they assembled a design team led by Jeffrey Carbo Landscape Architects, Alexandria, LA to interpret, reinstate, and direct its existing mission to Mentor Children of All Ages to Be Kind to Their World. Over time, this mission evolved and expanded to “ignite curiosity, instill a sense of wonder, nurture creativity, spark excitement, encourage exploration, inspire respect, expand knowledge, and model stewardship.”

The landscape architects and Stark Foundation rigorously examined Shangri La’s three core strengths — its botanical garden, bayou, and birds — to expound on their environmental attributes, to make them visible, and to instill a sense of their importance among the public.

Today, the 252-acre site in Southeast Texas is a hub of gardening, environmental awareness, and education about regional landscapes and wildlife habitats. Shangri La’s design and programming make visible the life processes of many species of wildlife within the context of a native landscape, recreated botanical gardens, and an innovative center for environmental education.

Below is additional information about the firm and awards garnered as a result of this project:

  • Jeffrey Carbo Landscape Architects in association with William T. Arterburn, ASLA and MESA
  • Client: Nelda C. and H. J. Lutcher Stark Foundation


  • 2012 Honor Award
    General Design
    National Chapter ASLA
  • 2008 Honor Award
    Excellence in Waterfront
    The Waterfront Center
  • 2008 LEED Platinum

2009 COTE Top Ten Green Project

In 2009 the American Institute of Architects (AIA) and its Committee on the Environment (COTE) selected Shangri La Botanical Gardens and Nature Center as one of the world’s top 10 projects exhibiting sustainable architecture and green design solutions.

The 2009 COTE Top Ten Green Projects program celebrated projects that reduced environmental impacts through strategies including reuse of existing structures, energy and water conservation and use of sustainable or renewable construction materials.

Shangri La utilizes a number of green design and construction features that positively impact the project itself and the broader community. Among these features are: proper orientation of the buildings for passive solar heating and cooling, waterless urinals, ultra-low-flow toilets, low-flow sinks, optimized overhangs, soybean-based spray foam insulation in the walls and ceilings, and window placement that contributes to energy savings.

Many of the Shangri La structures were built with reused materials, including reclaimed brick material salvaged from an Arkansas warehouse, sinker cypress salvaged from rivers in Louisiana, reclaimed asphalt from the repaving of Green Avenue in Orange, Texas, and fallen trees from Hurricane Rita.

Shangri La was designed by San Antonio architects Lake|Flato in partnership with landscape architects Jeffrey Carbo Landscape Architects and MESA.

“Our goal from the very beginning of this project was to be as earth friendly as possible”, said Michael Hoke, Managing Director of Shangri La. “Through the vision and support of the Stark Foundation and the innovation of our architects and many others, we have achieved our goal. Now it is up to us to use the wonderful resources of Shangri La to meet our mission to Mentor Children of All Ages to Be Kind to Their World.”