January 11 2013

Establishing Connectivity, Sustainability, and Energy with Landscape Architecture: The Revitalization of Waller Creek in Austin, TX

There is the opportunity to imagine a different Waller Creek, one that is a vital component of urban infrastructure, an open stage for social interaction, and a restored source of natural beauty.”

Map of Waller Creek Austin, TX

Waller Creek is an urban riparian ecosystem that meanders for seven miles from the northern part of Austin, TX, southward through The University of Texas campus and along the eastern edge of the downtown area before it meets Lady Bird Lake (part of the Colorado River). This natural resource is severely undervalued and has suffered years of neglect. However, in the new Imagine Austin city plan it has been recognized as an opportunity to prioritize environmental sustainability and to create a link throughout the larger urban fabric.

The City’s Goals are as follows:

  1. Create a healthy ecosystem;
  2. Inspire cohesion amongst diverse interests;
  3. Bridge the two parts of the city divided by Interstate Highway 35;
  4. Create a tourist destination for locals and visitors.

Design Vision:

The revitalization efforts are focused on the section of the creek between 15th Street and Lady Bird Lake. Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates and Thomas Phifer & Partners (New York City), the firms selected for the project, envision a landscape design concept that features a chain of parks aimed at healing and reconnecting the east and west of Austin.

Waller Creek at 15th Street and Trinity Street: Demonstrates the current state of parts of the creek and the incredible potential of this natural resource.

The design team identified four solutions to the perplexing challenges of the project:

  • Open up the creek to the city;
  • Connect spaces with bridges;
  • Energize the area with distinct and site-specific activities;
  • Honor Austin’s past.

In any design it is vital to consider the impacts, both positive and negative, on the existing landscape, infrastructure, programs, etc. The questions prompted by this consideration are: what concerns do the citizens have about the Waller Creek Project? Have alternatives been identified, and what might these alternatives be?

Credits: Images and data linked to sources.

Bonnie Rodd

Originally from the North-Central area of California, Bonnie Rodd found herself at home amongst the creative, participatory, and sometimes off beat Austinites. She holds a B.A. in Urban Studies with a minor in Architecture from the University of Texas at Austin. Her primary interest is sustainable urban development, focusing on alternative transportation and pedestrianism. Believing that the human element in design is invaluable, she dabbled in some social studies as well. This past spring she explored the three legs of sustainability in her thesis titled “Making a Case for Affordable Housing in Transit-Oriented Developments: Austin,TX” and developed a model for single-family affordable housing delivery in such neighborhoods. Bonnie currently resides in Austin, Texas, and will be exposing readers to environmental design issues present in both Austin and Central Texas.

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This entry was posted on Friday, January 11th, 2013 at 9:00 am and is filed under Environmental Design, History/Preservation, Landscape Architecture, Urban Planning and Design. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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