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Photo credit: 365 Houston

Take a closer look at the seven sculptures that comprise Tolerance, a permanent public art exhibit located by the Rosemont Bridge over Buffalo Bayou.

Perhaps better known as the “Statues at Allen Parkway and Montrose” the seven sculptures of kneeling men debuted in February 2011. Formally named Tolerance, this collection of ten-foot, stainless steel framed statues was designed by Jaume Plensa, an internationally renowned contemporary Spanish artist and sculptor.

Each of the sculptures is made of a thick stainless steel mesh comprised of characters and symbols from many different languages, a symbolic and trademark Plensa design technique.

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One of the Tolerance statues watches over the Rosemont Bridge | Photo: 365 Houston

Facing south and situated along an area named Harmony Walk, the seven statues are situated on the northeast corner of Allen Parkway and Montrose Boulevard and adjacent to the Rosemont Bridge.

Striking and imposing by day, they become “glowing beacons” by night, thanks to the lighting installed in their bases.

Significance Behind the Statues

Tolerance was intended to reflect Houston’s unity and diversity. In his official statements on the work, Plensa wrote, “Despite all of the many differences that make us unique, such as religion or language, we are all trying to achieve similar things, such as love, health, prosperity, and the success of our children.”

The seven figures of Tolerance represent the Earth’s seven continents, illustrating the commonality of the human experience. In fact, the primary difference between each of the seven identical statues is the unique boulder that each one rests upon. Plensa personally selected all seven boulders in Spain and they were shipped to Houston for the permanent art installation.

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Close-up of a Tolerance statue base reveals characters and symbols in the mesh | Photo: 365 Houston

The characters that make up the stainless steel mesh are Plensa’s signature alphanumeric pattern, containing letters, numbers and symbols from a number of languages including Latin, Hebrew, Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, English, Korean, Greek, Hindi and Cyrillic. The artist stated that the arrangement of characters is random and that there are no words or written statements contained within the mesh designs.

About Artist Jaume Plensa

The Catalan artist was born in Barcelona in 1955 and studied art there at the Llotja School and at the Escola Superior de Belles Arts de Sant Jordi.

Some of Plensa’s other notable public art works include the Crown Fountain in Chicago’s Millennium Park; Body of Knowledge in Frankfurt and Gläserner Seele Mr. Net in Brandenburg, Germany; Breathing in London; L’Anima della Musica in Cremona, Italy; Dröm in Gothenburg, Sweden; El Alma Del Ebro in Zaragoza, Spain; Awilda in Salzburg, Austria; and his more recent Mirror on the campus of Rice University right here in Houston.

Plensa currently splits his time between Barcelona and Paris.

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Three Tolerance statues at dusk | Photo: 365 Houston

Funding and Background

The creation and commissioning of the Tolerance project was begun by Mica Mosbacher and largely funded by the private sector. As reported at the time by CultureMap, Mosbacher said that the inspiration for the project came following the grave injustice of a brutal hate crime in 2006 against David Ritcheson, a 16-year-old Latino student who later committed suicide. Moscbacher also placed a great deal of credit with the spiritual leader of the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims, known as His Highness the Aga Khan. The Aga Khan Development Network owns the lot across Allen Parkway from Harmony Walk and at one time announced its intent to build an Aga Khan Foundation Center at some date in the future. The Houston Arts Alliance oversaw the overall project and its installation.

Tolerance Statues at Harmony Walk at Allen Parkway and Montrose Boulevard

  • Location: Between Buffalo Bayou and Allen Parkway at the northeast corner of Allen Pkwy and Montrose Blvd, Houston TX 77019
  • Parking: There is no designated parking nearby and most visitors access the area on foot from the Buffalo Bayou trails. However, you can typically parallel park along the westbound frontage road of Allen Parkway, just west of Montrose Boulveard, or the eastbound frontage road of Allen Parkway, starting a block or two east of Montrose.
  • Creator: Jaume Plensa