Buffalo Bayou Promenade

Project: Buffalo Bayou Promenade
Location: Houston, TX
Firm: SWA Group
Year: 2010
Firm website: www.swagroup.com

Project Description:  Since Arthur Comey did his city plan for Houston in 1912, people have talked about making the city’s bayous into linear parks. It was not until the 1970s and 80s that the pieces began to fall into place. But serious gaps remained. The 1.2 mile long Buffalo Bayou Promenade was a critical missing link, tying the pastoral Buffalo Bayou Park to the west with the theater district and Houston’s downtown to the east. The Buffalo Bayou Partnership hired SWA Group to provide an early conceptual master plan transitioning urban bayou treatments to the pastoral bayou east and west of downtown which had been encircled by freeways and arterials. More recently, SWA was commissioned to complete the design of the west connection, addressing the unique physical constraints and challenges of the site while celebrating its urban and natural context in the heart of the city.

Traditionally, development had turned its back to this portion of the bayou. Towering freeway structures criss-cross the corridor, blocking out sunlight and spilling concentrated sheets of water off their sides during rain storms. Debris, trash, and silt travel along the waters of the bayou and are constantly deposited on the banks. Pedestrians who venture into this segment are more than thirty feet below the grade of surrounding streets, out of view, and with few access and egress points. Severe erosion occurred on excessively steep banks, while overgrown and invasive plantings created unsafe walking conditions for pedestrians. Recognizing these challenges, the design team employed a number of site specific solutions to make a successful pedestrian environment.

Extensive re-grading of the site enabled the team to lay back slopes, thereby helping to improve views into the park while also reducing the impact of erosion and improving flood water conveyance. The design used exposed concrete, recycled crushed concrete, and galvanized steel for their durability, cost effectiveness, and contextual relevance. The planting design re-established a living green tissue into an otherwise sterile environment leading into to the urban core. Groves of re-introduced native trees soften the harsh urban infrastructure, buffer noise, and mitigate the scale of the freeways.

Because Buffalo Bayou is the principal drainage system for much of Houston, the design team had to treat the waterway and its banks with special care. Gabion edge treatments offer visual clarity and therefore safety while utilizing over 14,000 tons of recycled crushed concrete. The stepped design accommodates changes in water levels while filtering floating storm debris. The open gabion cages also allow tree roots and riparian ground covers to form a natural edge while providing a porous foundation for the riparian benthic community.

The success of the park is measured, in large part, by its ability to function as a safe pedestrian environment at night. The landscape architects conceived of three orders of lighting to illuminate the park: a primary trail lighting system, a system of lights to wash through “dark nooks and crannies,” and an art-driven lighting component.

The 1.2 mile stretch of the Sabine-to-Bagby Promenade passes many of Houston’s historic and present day landmarks. Integrated within the wayfinding system, interpretive signage highlights the history of the waterway and the city of Houston. The design simultaneously celebrates historical infrastructure like the concrete foundations of Houston’s first civic center while educating pedestrians about flood-resistant native plants.

Project Team Members: SWA Group, Landscape Architect.
Lead Designer: Kevin Shanley; Project Team: Tim Peterson, Scott McCready, Lance Lowrey, Rhett Rentrop,  John Brandt.
Ann Olson, President, Buffalo Bayou Partnership.
Joe Turner, Director, City of Houston Parks and Recreation Department.

Photography Credits:  Tom Fox, Bill Tatham, SWA Group.

Additional Project Credits:
Architectural Lighting: HerveŽ Descottes; Stephen Korns, Artist
Public Art Sculpture: John Runnels, Artist
Geotechnical: Fugro South, Inc.
Civil Engineering: United Engineers, Inc.
Structural Engineering: Ken Tan and Associates
Electrical Engineering: Ferguson Consulting, Inc.
Planting Design: Mary L. Goldsby Associates – Landscape Architect
Irrigation Design: Ellis Glueck and Associates
Contractor: Boyer, Inc.



Project: Underworld: The Acoustic Ecstasy Entertainment Project
Location: Boston, MA
Designer: Allison Dailey
Year: 2011
Program: Harvard University Graduate School of Design
Faculty Advisors: Eelco Hooftman, Bridget Baines

Project Description: Proposal incubates “dead zones”—marine areas with zero macrobiotic life—in the intertidal fringe of Boston Harbor islands. A prototype of intertidal basins for larvae incubation promote species migration across these hypoxic areas.

But wait! What is the human experience of this life-catalyzing strategy? The temporary structures host a hypnotic effect as wave fluctuation is manipulated to create flowing Rorschach-like imagery. To activate this landscape of entertainment further, east and west shore “hypnotic incubators” are connected by a tunnel to expand entertainment infrastructure. Music festivals featuring human- and nonhuman-produced sound ensue.


Cleveland Flats Connection Plan

Project: Cleveland Flats Connections Plan
Location: Cleveland, OH
Firm: CMG Landscape Architecture
Year: 2009
Firm website: www.cmgsite.com

Project Description: Building Cleveland by Design (BCbD), a joint program of ParkWorks and Cleveland Public Art, has retained CMG to lead a design process for key connections in Cleveland’s historic Flats neighborhood. The scope of work calls for planning and schematic design for connections that will both bring greater unity to the central city neighborhood and link it more strongly to surrounding areas. Cleveland’s Flats is rich in historic and environmental value. CMG has emphasized ecological design through the planning and design process as a fundamental way to treat and re-frame the area’s rich but complex conditions with sensitivity.

CMG has worked with BCbD in a nimble and responsive manner, often providing material, designs and exhibits to enable community visioning and stakeholder communication on an as needed basis.  Simultaneously CMG has developed an open space framework plan to inform future public and private development of the historic Flats.  Various project sites are addressed in detail within the flats framework plan.  These discrete sites include: an 8 acre linear park with integral storm water treatment and habitat creation program; a remnant landscape that is nominated as a National Archeological Site that CMG has framed as an urban wild, again with an overlay of storm water treatment and habitat creation; a temporary one acre landscape installation to occupy an old parking lot.  The Connections planning and design is to knit together private and public investments in the district, helping ensure that residents and visitors can move easily between new neighborhoods and parks on both the East and West banks of the Cuyahoga River. By solidifying connections, the Flats can become a complete, walk-able neighborhood, attracting people, energy and investment back to the center of Cleveland.

Project Team Members: Willett Moss, Scott Cataffa, Calder Gillin

Hunters Point – Candlestick Point

Project: Hunters Point / Candlestick Point
“Ecological equity and the last great expansion of San Francisco”
Location: San Francisco, CA
Firm: Bionic
Year: 2009
Firm website: www.bioniclandscape.com

Project Description: The City of San Francisco and a developer have proposed a 700-acre development for Candlestick Point / Hunters Point Shipyard at the southwest edge of San Francisco. It will be the last large expansion of the city. The proposal includes commercial, retail, and residential space for 20,000 people, and a new stadium for the San Francisco 49ers. In response to the plan, a coalition of environmental organizations commissioned Bionic to create an urban design alternative that better address the needs of the existing community, including environmental health, economic development, and the creation of open space and its ecology. Through a community design process and analysis of the issues on a city-wide scale, the project documented an actual and perceived exclusion from the large landscapes and open spaces that the rest of the city residents benefit from.

By leveraging existing ecological assets and projecting a reconfiguration of property lines, the alternative planning approach calls for an urban design that is fundamentally different from the City/developer proposal. It proposes flora/fauna/pedestrian connections to open spaces outside the project boundary, and the re-connection of existing patches of habitat. The resulting composition of large-scale spaces provides an alternative that creates more development areas, continuous habitat corridors and large open spaces, and connects existing neighborhoods to the water.

The open space becomes one continuous park representing the six ecological communities of San Francisco. The habitat corridors expand the potential for existing species to flourish while additional habitat is created to reintroduce native species. Anticipating the future importance of water infrastructure for the immediate area and the City, the approach defines areas for water resources. The open space is capable of hosting water storage, wastewater treatment, and large-scale storm water treatment as infrastructural elements. On-site water resources will mandate the integration of building systems with the open space infrastructure. A sub area of the plan proposes to add several city blocks to the project area for the daylighting and restoration of Yosemite Creek. The addition would connect the waterfront to Third Street, the main commercial and transit corridor for the Bayview neighborhood. Once the stream is daylighted, it presents ample opportunity for a variety of open space uses, such as stormwater treatment, urban agriculture, and active and passive recreation. Most importantly, it provides a connection from the existing community to new parks, open spaces, and the Bay.

Project Team Members:
Marcel Wilson-Principal, Kelly Schoonmaker- Associate
Client: Saul Bloom – Arc Ecology]
Sierra Club
Urban Strategies Council

Anning River New South Town

Project: Anning River New South Town in Miyi County: Future Historic Ecologies
Location: Miyi County, Panzhihua, China
Firm: SWA Group
Year: 2009
Firm website: www.swagroup.com

Project Description: The design for the development of the 200-hectare Anning River New South Town proposes an innovative hydrologic system, a hybrid of the historic waterways and a new ecological system to serve as the backbone for a vibrant new town. At the core of the proposal is an understanding of how people and program interface with water systems, ranging from infrastructure (new hydroelectric dam) to ecological recreational features (a lake for swimming at the southern end of the project containing filtered water). The goal was to create a city identified through an improved relationship with water, setting a new precedent for Chinese waterfront design.

The proposal was based on thorough analysis conducted by the landscape architect and affiliated consultants, including commercial consultants, civil engineers, and hydrology engineers. Central to this study was an understanding of the site’s landscape structure, defined largely by the Anning River and its new hydroelectric dam, a system of mountain and agriculture waterways, and the agriculture fields that they serve.

The successful execution of this project relies on an integrated approach to land planning and hydrological design. The project is defined by three strategies: integrating the existing landscape systems and agricultural heritage with new development, enriching the new city’s relationship to water with a hybrid approach to new and old hydrological infrastructure, and using an array of planning strategies to activate the rich underlying landscape infrastructure.

Project Team Members: 
Project Lead Designer: Gerdo Aquino, President
SWA Group Project Team: Gerdo Aquino, Patrick Curran, Ying-Yu Hung, Dawn Dyer, Alexander Robinson, Youngmin Kim, Grace Qin Gao, Ying-Hu, Michael Hee, Natalie Sandoval, Gary Garcia, Meng Yang, Ryan Hsu, Hyun-Min Kim, Qiu Hong Tang
Architecture: Studio ShiftMario Cipresso, Chris Warren
Sustainable Planning and Engineering Consultants: ARUP, Tony Chan, Yong-Wei, Qi-Liang He, James Chen
Control Plan: Shanghai Tongji Urban Planning & Design
Ecological Engineering: Biomatrix Water


Project: Streamlines
Location: Minneapolis, MN
Firm: Stoss Landscape Urbanism
Year: 2011
Firm website: www.stoss.net

Project Description: The project re-imagines 5.5 miles of Mississippi Riverfront in Minneapolis, from the cultural riverfront in downtown north to the city limit. Stoss’s proposal is titled Streamlines; it’s about sheer, unfiltered experiences of direct contact with the river and river life, in many ways and at multiple moments. And it’s about weaving these experiences back into the everyday city.

Streamlines is also a project about working ecologies, ecological systems and dynamics put to work to clean, to re-constitute this working riverfront, and to guide a longer-term transformation of the city fabric. But it is not about a single green line along the river. Rather, this project is about multiple threads, multiple strands; it evokes the stories and lives of the people who live, work, and play by the river’s edge and have done so for centuries. It builds from the rich histories and evolving identities of the Mississippi River, the ecological, economic, social lifeblood of the city, and of the continent. And it puts in place a series of working and operational landscapes, green infrastructures, and landscape-based urban fabrics that will guide this transformation for the next generation of city-dwellers, just as the Grand Rounds did for 20th-century Minneapolis.

Project Team Members:
Designer: Stoss Landscape Urbanism. Chris Reed, principal, lead designer
Scott Bishop, project manager
Meg Studer, project designer
Design Team: Jill Allen, Thomas Clark, Jill Desimini, Sandrina Dumitrascu, Alexandra Gauzza,
Marguerite Graham, Taekyung Kim, Stephanie Morrison
Collaborators: Michael Maltzan Architecture (architecture + infrastructure)
Utile, Inc. (urban design)
Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, Antimodular Inc. (interactive public art)
Close Landscape Architecture + (associate landscape + planning)
Applied Ecological Services (ecology + natural resources)
Buro Happold (sustainability + infrastructure)
Hr & A Advisors, Inc. (economic development)
Plandform Ltd (ecology + environmental planning)
Project Projects (identity + environmental graphics)
Moffat Nichol (waterfront + hydraulic engineering)
Nelson\Nygaard (transportation planning)
Davis Langdon (cost estimation)
Pine & Swallow (soil science)
Jim Tittle, Nice Pictures (videography)
Eric Silva (audio)

Find out more:
Stoss – Complete Streamlines Submission on the Minneapolis Competition Website
Stoss – Director’s Cut – Streamlines Video

Image credits: Stoss Landscape Urbanism

The Culture Now Project: 100 Points Of Public Space

Project: The Culture Now Project: 100 Points of Public Space
Location: Cleveland, OH
Designers: Clayton Taylor, Jai Kumaran
Year: 2011
Program: University of California, Los Angeles
Faculty Advisors: Thom Mayne, Karen Lohrmann
Website: www.suprastudio.aud.ucla.edu/

Project Description: The post-industrial city is a global phenomenon of the late twentieth century. Cities around the world need something to occupy the sites of old industry.

By the middle of the twentieth century, Cleveland was a thriving industrial city with a population of one million. Occupying a strategic location on Lake Erie, the city and its river were at the center of a booming steel industry. Cleveland’s decline began after World War II as global economic patterns began to shift industry and manufacturing away from the United States. The Cuyahoga River fire in 1969 was a landmark industrial accident that triggered the start of the modern environmental movement, and the advent of the Environmental Protection Agency and the Clean Water Act.

As a result, Cleveland’s economy and identity suffered. Since then, the city has witnessed half of the city’s population move and into the suburbs. Its industrial core, once a thriving economic zone, now divides the city. 100 Points of Public Space locates cultural opportunities in the industrial landscape by identifying, marking, and appropriating empty spaces, abandoned buildings, and existing infrastructure.

In cities like Paris, the river is regarded as a cultural object and a vital urban element. In post-industrial zones like the Ruhr Region, a cultural landscape has been updated, engaging educational and recreational infrastructure to accompany existing cultural institutions and establish new public space.

Cleveland has ignored the Cuyahoga River. Occupying a 2,400 acre valley in the center of the city, three times the size of New York’s Central Park, the Cuyahoga is crossed by a dozen bridges that support over 100,000 people daily as they move across the city. Instead of a forgotten void, the valley and river could become a cultural landscape, a civic armature connecting the diverse neighborhoods.

100 Points of Public Space exposes the opportunities inherent in the river valley. Its terrain is crisscrossed with rail, boat, and vehicular traffic, but there is no public access to observe the city or experience the valley. This project identifies new urban and cultural locations that open venues for public engagement with the city. Each point is positioned at the intersection of existing infrastructure, and activated at different times throughout the year according to program and use. Through this system, the valley can be traversed and experienced in many ways, from point to point, along existing infrastructure via new connections.

100 Points of Public Space is aimed at uniting communities, investors and civic entities in spatially, socially, and visually active modes. As such, the proposal takes on the conceptual layout of the Documenta in Kassel, Germany, which became a worldwide fount of contemporary art, transforming a city destroyed by World War II into a thriving cultural landmark. 100 Points of Public Space is a series of contemporary places, rather than a post-industrial museum, offering a field of possibilities to the surrounding neighborhoods and the entire city.

Project Background: This project is one of eight proposals presented under the 2010-2011 UCLA MArch II Suprastudio. From August 2010 to June 2011, Thom Mayne, Design Director of Morphosis, Karen Lohrmann, and a group of advisors have been leading 14 post graduate architecture and urban design graduate students in an inquiry about the dynamics of culture now. The project is going forward next year to include thirteen other universities with the hope of creating an extensive discussion about contemporary culture and the nature of American cities. Additional work and information is available for download on the suprastudio website.

Image Captions: 
Image 1: City Analysis: Observing the geography, city image, cultural climate, and local leadership a strange network of possibilities is formed.
Image 2: Locating opportunity: The Cuyahoga River Valley is at the center of Cleveland. This area has immense potential to become the connective tissue that could tie east, west, and downtown Cleveland.
Image 3: Marking the Valley; Each point marks opportune intersections of rail, road, and river, which are abundant throughout the Cuyahoga River Valley. These places are no longer useful for industry and need to be interpreted for post-industrial society.
Image 4: A dispersed park system: The 100 Points of public space are idiosyncratic and varied but collectively operate as dispersed park system integrated in the urban fabric.
Image 5: Making the connection: Unused roads, railways, and the Cuyahoga river assist people in making the connection from point to point.
Image 6: Points in context: Each point is interpreted differently throughout the river valley. Some points mark abandoned buildings or stoops, others mark bridges and optimum viewing points of the city.
Image 7: Ibid., detail.
Image 8: Experiencing the valley: The 100 point of public space interprets industrial objects for post industrial culture.
Image 9: 100 points of public space: Diagram of point variation. Each crossing of road rail and river is taken directly from the Cuyahoga, river valley.