Establishing Connectivity, Sustainability, and Energy with Landscape Architecture: The Revitalization of Waller Creek in 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:
- Create a healthy ecosystem;
- Inspire cohesion amongst diverse interests;
- Bridge the two parts of the city divided by Interstate Highway 35;
- Create a tourist destination for locals and visitors.
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.
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?
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