Big Red Dog Project Waller Creek Design Competition Winning Team

Client:
Waller Creek Conservancy
Location:
Austin, TX
Architect:
Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates

Project Description

BIG RED DOG is providing services for the ambitious Waller Creek project which will transform a dilapidated and lifeless creek into a vibrant urban waterway complemented by dynamic parks, bridges, and open and interactive spaces that engage the public. Once finished, it will be a world-class destination. The Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates design features a chain of parks linking the outlet of the tunnel to the inlet.

From the MVVA website:

Waller Creek is a narrow urban riparian corridor that meanders for 1.5 miles through downtown Austin, TX. Over the years, the creek has suffered from erosion, invasive species, and flash flooding, and has been physically and culturally isolated from the city around it. In 2011, construction began on a new tunnel beneath the creek that will effectively remove 28 acres of the city from the floodplain, maintain constant water flow, and prevent further erosion. The winning MVVA-led submission to the Waller Creek Competition reframes the newly engineered creek as an ecological system that can celebrate Austin’s distinctive local culture and connect the city’s downtown core to traditionally underserved East Austin.

Waller Creek is too long, and its condition too varied, to be resolved with a single sweeping design gesture. What was called for, rather, was a sensitivity to the particulars of the remarkably heterogeneous site. The MVVA team allowed the City of Austin, its citizens, and the creek itself to suggest a series of highly context-sensitive interventions. The resulting design concept expands a rejuvenated Waller Creek into a linear chain of parks, embedded in five connected neighborhood districts: The Lattice, The Grove, The Narrows, The Refuge, and The Confluence. Each district has a distinctive character, and together they give Austin a network of pedestrian bridges, new opportunities for sustainable development, an outdoor laboratory of urban ecology, and an iconic new music venue, the Poppy, at the creek’s tunnel inlet.

Connecting each link of this chain is Waller Creek, an unignorable piece of urban infrastructural history. To both preserve its historical character and better sustain regional ecologies, the MVVA proposal employs durable bioengineering techniques and a native plant palette along the banks of the creek. At places where the old masonry creek walls have dignity and durability, the plan conserves them as embodiments of local history.