Houston gets a refresher from SWA Group
Buffalo Bayou Promenade is a large-scale project designed to revitalize the community and natural habitat along the 1.2 mile reach of Buffalo Bayou in downtown Houston. The resulting 23-acre recreation area has transformed a derelict urban wasteland, passed over by entangled freeways, into a thriving urban waterfront.
This inner-city parkland provides a critical pedestrian and bicycle link from Sesquicentennial Park to the upstream reach and to new entertainment venues. The improvements also include pathways, a pedestrian bridge that allows citizens to make a complete loop without traversing city streets, artistic safety lighting on the trails that mirrors the lunar cycle, and frequent stairway connections to the city streets above.
SWA designers balanced the existing stark, urban infrastructure with the bayou’s sinuous forms. Exposed concrete, recycled crushed concrete, and galvanized steel were all employed for their durability, cost effectiveness, and contextual relevance. Stone-filled gabions were also placed along the water’s edge as an ecologically friendly way to control bank erosion. The Corps of Engineer’s existing HEC model was used to ensure that floodwater conveyance would not be compromised by the improvements.
Plant materials, as well as light fixtures and signage, were specially chosen to thrive in the midst of periodic flooding conditions along the bayou. The planting design also involved removing invasive monocultures and installing a large variety of native, flood-resistant riparian vegetation and trees, which significantly improved the area’s wildlife habitat.
What was once unusable land now provides an aesthetically stunning and prominent gateway to downtown Houston, illustrating how urban development and progress can go hand-in-hand with natural conservation and sustainability.