Houston’s Buffalo Bayou is an environment in transition. Upstream of the city center, its edges not only teem with plant and animal life, but spurred by recent investment, have grown to be an important civic asset and public promenade. The life of the river is once again becoming the life of the city. In an attempt to leverage current upriver momentum to improve downstream environments, we propose a phased settlement strategy to stitch the west branch of Buffalo Bayou back into the city.
Phase One establishes primary links between our downstream sites and the recently upgraded upstream section through low-cost maintenance shifts. Ongoing operations are moved onto the river as a spectacle - the daily rhythms of riverboats pulling rafts of flowers, grasses, and trees to restoration sites makes a display of necessary phytoremediation work and newly vibrant public spaces. Partnered with a small fleet of water taxis, the river itself becomes both a connective infrastructure and a site of cultural exchange.
Phase Two capitalizes on the river’s new connectivity, not only closing transit gaps for underserved communities, but providing access to new sites and experiences along the bayou. To spark new uses and civic engagement, a series of cultural programs – a plant nursery, markets, events, festivals, concerts, temporary installations, and pop-up eateries – is choreographed and implemented on a yearly basis to take advantage of the latent opportunities the wide array of sites and structures along the bayou offer. In this experimental space of temporary engagements, previously unknown and underutilized sites become destinations. Economic strategies can be tested cheaply with low risk serving as an incubator for sparking and spreading the impacts of new economies beyond the bayou.
Designed by Christopher Reznich with Yuxi Qin, Harvard GSD Options Studio advised by Chris Reed.