The multidisciplinary design team led by Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates and Thomas Phifer & Associates was recently named winner of Design Waller Creek: A Competition. Organized by the Austin, TX-based Waller Creek Conservancy, this international design competition called for ideas to revitalize a 7-mile stretch of Waller Creek, a neglected Austin urban ecosystem, and thus turning a "currently fragmented and undervalued section of the city into a vibrant, livable, and workable district."
From the winner's design concept summary: "The Waller Creek project presents designers with an urbanist’s dream: a diverse and complex city fabric is the starting point for a process of discovering how to reach the peak of this city’s potential for fostering a high quality of life. We begin with what is given to us by Waller Creek now – all its messy and difficult constraints. Utilizing no cookie cutter ideas, we simply let the city, the citizens, and the creek itself implicitly suggest each intricate and site-specific design move while we designers listen closely.
What does the hidden, enclosed, unsafe channel of Waller Creek say it needs? What does the Brackenridge/ Waterloo Park area, with its hulking Waller Creek Tunnel infrastructure, cry out for? What does the Red River club scene ask of the new park? What would animate and make most pleasurable the Convention Center and nearby hotels? What does the beloved Lady Bird Lake wish the creek to become? What kinds of park places best meet the needs and wants of the unique people who reside in this hot, humid, funky, outdoor-living, multi-cultural, football- and partyloving town?"
"We believe that there are four basic answers to these questions: open up, connect, energize, and honor.
Open Up: Open up the creek to the city. Widen its path and shoreline wherever possible. Make entry easy. Create gradual slopes down to it often. Make its waters, structures, and trees a spectacle in the city and wonderful to occupy. Make the whole park a seamlessly felt, seen, and alluring central destination.
Connect: Assemble the complex mosaic of contiguous city areas from UT all the way to Lady Bird Lake and from East to West Austin, not only with the central Waller walkway and Parks but also with ten beautiful new bridges. Build up urbanity itself—the coming together of diverse and stimulating activities and people in a thick, condensed geography. Make concert-goers aware that a shady grove is just downstream; inform parents that just upstream of their child’s school is a great place to kick a soccer ball; and so on."
"Energize: Use every opportunity to create larger singular landscape places, each with its distinctive, citysite- specific pleasurable activities: the five parks of Waller Creek. These areas—for activities such as concerts, public events, resting in the shade, and learning about the creek’s flora and fauna—will be places where people linger before being lured along to the next destination. Each will have its own spectacular quality — its “wow” — complementing the otherwise understated beauty of Waller Creek as we reimagine it. In each, that archetypal urban experience — people-watching — will stimulate civic participation and unity.
Honor: Honor the past of Austin, of Waller Creek, and of the many generations of engineers and builders who erected a stone wall here and an elegant bridge there. Preserve and renovate these marks of the past so that history is present, not erased and forgotten. Similarly, honor and expand the previously established social spaces along the creek, for example the concert lawn of Waterloo Park.
The design concept expands a renewed Waller Creek into a Chain of Parks embedded in five connected districts: The Lattice, The Grove, The Narrows, The Refuge, and The Confluence."
The fully integrated winning design team includes:
The winning entry was selected from submissions from 31 design teams throughout the world which the jury had narrowed down to four finalists. The other three finalist teams are:
All images courtesy of Design Waller Creek: A Competition.