05/11/16 11:00am

The Cistern, Buffalo Bayou Park near Sabine St. at Memorial Dr., Houston, 77007

Friday’s tours of the 1920s underground water reservoir buried along Buffalo Bayou are already booked up, but the space will be open to the public Thursdays through Sundays from here on out. A 30-minute tour of the Cistern is $2 (except on Thursdays, when access is free), but reservations are required either way.

Can’t wait for the next open timeslots to scope out the space? Artist Donald Lipski’s Down Periscope is already up and running on the lawn above the reservoir, allowing digital spelunkers access to a light, a camera, and a microphone permanently installed in the space below. Off-site viewers can also queue up on the contraption’s website to take remote control of the installation for 5-minute intervals and swivel around in the underground chamber at will:


What’s Down Below
03/24/16 4:00pm

Rendering of Buffalo Bayou Cistern Converted to Bathhouse
Rendering of Buffalo Bayou Cistern Converted to BathhouseAs Buffalo Bayou Partnership continues to seek out tour guides for the cavernous 1927 city water reservoir and maybe-future-art-space buried in Buffalo Bayou Park, University of Houston architecture grad Sheridan Staats sends over her design for turning the structure into a split-level public bath house, complete with pools, saunas, gardens, a bike trail connection, and a cafe. Renderings and schematics are showcased in Staats’s undergraduate thesis, which also dives into global bath house and infrastructure history and the case for reusing the site in a way that nods to its utilitarian aquatic past.

The kelley green box on the map above shows the cistern’s buried footprint on the north shore of Buffalo Bayou (in blue), just west of Sabine St. and south of Memorial Dr.; the darker green line passing through the southwest edge of the cistern shows a plan to run the bayou’s bike trail into the cistern and onto a suspended causeway:


Underwater Underground
03/10/16 10:45am

The Cistern, Buffalo Bayou Park near Sabine St. at Memorial Dr., Houston, 77007

Update, 3/24: BBP has updated the link to and language of the job posting; this story has been updated.

Wanted: Buffalo Bayou Partnership is seeking some college types folks to show people around the long-empty city drinking water reservoir near the intersection of Sabine St. and Memorial Dr., which the group also hopes to turn into a temporary art space some day. The “accidental cathedral” was only accessible by a set of hatches and 14-foot ladders back when BBP first examined it; a $1.2-million grant is being used to bring the 87,200-sq.-ft. underground space up to code for visitors.

The cistern, nicknamed after the 6th-century reservoir beneath Istanbul, lies just north of the Lee and Joe Jamail Skate Park beneath what will become a raised outdoor lawn intended for concerts and events at Buffalo Bayou Park. The 1927 reservoir was drained and decommissioned decades ago after it started leaking uncontrollably; the structure was planned for demolition and fill-in by the city around the time the park’s planners took an interest in the space, initially imagining uses like parking and mulch storage.


Work in the Underground
03/08/16 2:30pm

Renovation of Sunset Coffee Building at Allen's Landing, Downtown, Houston, 77002

A shiny new cistern is now in place at the former Sunset Coffee building at Allen’s Landing, which Buffalo Bayou Partnership and Houston First have been redeveloping into an office-topped boat-and-bike-rental spot.  The 1910 coffee roasting facility has once again donned walls after moving past a Summer 2014 minimalist phase, and is currently decked out in a muted Café du Monde orange.

The no-longer-see-through structure is back to limiting the view from the Harris County Jail across the bayou (visible on the far right, above). A set of stairs are in place alongside the new cistern, along with railings around what appears to be the planned rooftop terrace.


Nearing Launch at Allen’s Landing
10/23/13 4:30pm

Here’s a rendering that shows how that informal dog bowl along Buffalo Bayou near Montrose Blvd. will be formalized and capitalized into a Dog Park. Construction, says a PR rep for the Buffalo Bayou Partnership, will begin the first of the year; the park should be open next winter.

Why, you might wonder, would it take that long to build a place for dogs to romp and run and bark and stuff? Part of it will be creating the pond you can see in the rendering. The pond, which will be treated with a “bio-filter” and native vegetation, is meant to keep said dogs 1) safe and 2) away from the bayou, so they don’t muddy up the banks scrambling in and out of the water and contribute to erosion. Other additions? A purty fence that will separate the pups from the joggers and 2 pavilions, at the top of the hill, that will provide a bit more shade.

Rendering: SWA Group

09/24/13 12:05pm

Now have at it: SmartGeometrics has made available for free on a website launched yesterday the data from 3D scans of the allegedly leaky, 87,500-sq.-ft. 1927 underground water reservoir near Sabine St. along Buffalo Bayou. Though the Buffalo Bayou Partnership would like to do something cool with the “accidental cathedral,” as Houston Chronicle columnist and cistern sympathizer Lisa Gray has called it, there’s no more funding available. Thus, the partnership is hoping some smart cookie who knows her way around AutoCAD (and programs like it) will use this free data to come up with an idea that woos someone or something else — like, say, Bud Light — to pay to make it happen.

Image: Buffalo Bayou Park

09/03/13 10:00am

Dude! Got a snazzy idea for that 1927 underground water reservoir near Sabine St. on Buffalo Bayou, but you just can’t picture what’s down there? Well, grab the potato chips and crank up Pink Floyd, because now you can. The Buffalo Bayou Partnership is reaching out in the hope that entrepreneurs, artists, and visionaries the city over will use the above video, created by SmartGeometrics, for inspiration. (And more 3D images are forthcoming on the partnership’s website.)


08/07/13 5:00pm

Thanks to $2 million from Silver Eagle Distributors, which is also putting up that new beer dispensary in Pasadena, the Buffalo Bayou Partnership might to be able to afford to turn Eleanor Tinsley Park into something as purty as what you see in the rendering above. That means the existing “event meadow” down below there along Allen Pkwy. will be scooped out and rid of the volleyball court, playground equipment, picnic shelters, and some of the pine trees, then re-landscaped and rechristened the Bud Light Amphitheater; more parking and stairs will be introduced; and a new “Skyline Overlook” pavilion will be built and named in honor of Silver Eagle prez and CEO John Nau.

The dirty work began earlier this month, says the BBP, part of the overall project to install new swag like pedestrian bridges and remove invasive species, transforming the 2.3-mile stretch, BBP prez Anne Olson explained a few months ago to Free Press Houston, into an “11 acre urban prairie.”

Rendering: SWA Group

05/31/13 11:00am

FIGHTING THE INVADERS OF BUFFALO BAYOU Though much of the Buffalo Bayou Partnership’s (BBP) plans for that eponymous waterway involve adding things — kayak rental shops, pedestrian bridges, etc. — there seems to be the need for subtraction, too: “‘People look at the park and see that it’s filled with trees and grass, what most people don’t realize is that most of those plants shouldn’t be there,'” BBP’s prez Anne Olson tells Alex Wukman of Free Press Houston. “A study of the park’s vegetation, which the Partnership filed with the Texas Forest Service, found Buffalo Bayou to be overrun with invasive species — primarily White Cedar and Chinese Tallow. . . . Olson explained that the Partnership plans to combat the invasive species problem by removing 50 percent of the park’s lawn, which is mostly made up of easily-maintained but non-native Bermuda grass, and replacing it with native grasses.” Adds Olson: “‘We’re going to create an 11 acre urban prairie.'” [Free Press Houston; previously on Swamplot] Photo: Flickr user barryDphotography

02/20/13 11:00am

The same architecture firm that transformed Wilshire Village into the H-E-B Montrose Market across town has been pegged to redo 1910 International Coffee Company Building (aka Sunset Coffee Building), resuscitating the derelict shell on Allen’s Landing into use as a Downtown tourist attraction and kayak rental shop. San Antonio firm Lake Flato submitted this drawing of the building at the coffee-with-cream-colored confluence of White Oak and Buffalo Bayou underneath Main and Fannin to Buffalo Bayou Partnership, which plans to begin the project in April.

Rendering: Buffalo Bayou Partnership