As 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:
If you think that shot along the causeway shows a lot more sunlight in the space than what currently makes its way into the buried space, you’re right. The design keeps much of the grassy events lawn currently above the reservoir, but also cuts a hole into the roof:
The depicted hole opens onto a pavilion level set about halfway down the length of 25-ft support columns, for use as cafe seating. The columns are shown still standing in place even where the roof has been removed, and the tops of some trees planted down below are visible behind the patio tables:
Cross-sections of the design show the upper level of the reservoir’s interior, including the bike trail causeway, hanging more or less at grade with the southwest side of the complex, all the way on the left in the drawing below:
Cross sections looking toward that southwest side show (from left to right) the causeway, another entrance, and the cafe space (shaded in gray), above some private bath spaces below. . .
The same cross-section also shows a communal pool on the upper level, hanging out above some smaller heated and unheated pools on the lower level:
Here’s an upper level pool, rendered with some greenery peeking up from below on the left:
Floorplans for the design also show 3 garden areas (in green below), growing up from the bottom level of the complex.
Here’s another look at what the reservoir looks like currently:
- Water-Works: Reclaiming a Public Infrastructure [Sheridan Staats]
- Previously on Swamplot: Now Hiring Tour Guides for That Abandoned 1927 Cistern Buried Along Buffalo Bayou; Buffalo Bayou’s Abandoned Basement Now Ready To Be the Subject of Your Experiments; Flying Underground: Buffalo Bayou’s Abandoned Basement Skeleton in Creepy 3D!; Using Pictures To Picture Uses for Buffalo Bayou’s Basement; Poking Around in Buffalo Bayou’s Abandoned Basement
Images: Sheridan Staats (renderings and maps), Buffalo Bayou Partnership (photo of reservoir)