Case Study Nürtingen 1

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Buffalo Bayou Promenade by Balázs Dukai, Carla Tosso, Fernando Bujaidar Teruel

Name Buffalo Bayou Promenade
Location Huston downtown
Country Texas, USA
Office SWA Group
Client Ann Olson, President, Buffalo Bayou Partnership
Completion 2009
<googlemap version="0.9" lat="29.762366" lon="-95.368838" type="satellite" zoom="15" width="300" height="250">

(A) 29.761621, -95.371327 Buffalo Bayou Promenade </googlemap>

Core Question 1: In how far does this project reveal your concept of future landscapes?

This project is a good example for how to create multi-purpose, useful places with interdisciplinary work. I would emphasize the collaboration with the locals what is in my opinion, crucial in success of public spaces, and the reuse of building materials. I think a future landscape should be a base of the local identity, and therefore strengthen the local identity and the locals awareness of their environment. This project is an example for this.

Landscape and/or urban context

Buffalo Bayou is a main waterway flowing through Houston, in Harris County, Texas, USA. It begins on the west side of the county near Katy, Texas and flows approximately 53 miles (85 km) east to the Houston Ship Channel and then into Galveston Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. Along the way the bayou receives several significant tributary bayous, such as White Oak Bayou, Greens Bayou, and Brays Bayou and passes by several major parks and numerous smaller neighborhood parks. [1]

The Buffalo Bayou Promenade connected Houston's downtown to the river through a formerly neglected area that has a lot of freeways and bridges.

The recuperation and re-use of this area was extremely important, so this area filled with trash was transformed to an attractive area, converting it into a 3,000 linear feet of urban park that provides a prominent gateway to downtown Houston.



Buffalo Bayou is very important, it’s use to relieve flooding and at the same time it was smartly use to improve the quality of the area in matters of using water and space in favor of the people. Correct use of vegetation, such as native plants and eradication of invasive species, make this space not only rich in vegetation but it is shown as a primary natural space in a pretty large city.

As we can see different marked zones are distributed all over the park, with specific vegetation for each area.

Cultural Features

Some time ago Buffalo Bayou was a place of trash of pollution , a place everybody avoid. The only activity that took place there was the annual Reeking Regatta canoe race that was aimed at drawing attention to the bayou. As the city grew, railways, roads and buildings grew around the bayou , no one have a positive view of this neglected area, then as the project to recue this area progressed, more cultural activities progressed, festivals, celebrations, exhibitions, sports start happening in this area, now it’s one of the most used and important areas in the city. Today, Buffalo Bayou is becoming a model of what urban waterways and a correct applied landscape should be. Among the improvements are new pedestrian-access points that invite people into the park, a dramatic blue-to-white lighting system that also enhances security, and native landscaping that includes flood-resistant plants.

Overall character

The project was intended to look for a relief of the strong structure of the city skyline, the organic forms of the bayou helped in this, with this sinuous forms a well balance structure was developed. The design of railings, walls, walks and signage so that they would be long time resistant and according to the ambient of the Bayou. Recycled concrete cobble-lined swales were placed to absorb the destructive, high volume flows of water pouring from the surface of the freeways

The planting plays a very important character in the bayou, the native plants , Nearly 300,000, including over 640 trees, were planted within the project site, these were used to soften the area and make it more attractive to the people, it also played a very important role with the diminishing of noise , and providing an habitat for the several species of animals that live there. Tall trees where planted to level the scale of the highway and some species were putted near the river’s edge to create a shadow that makes it more confortable.

History and dinamics

Along with Galveston Island and Galveston Bay itself, Buffalo Bayou was one of the focal points for early Anglo-American settlement in early Texas, first part of the Spanish Empire and then part of Mexico. Early communities began to appear at the beginning of the 19th century, including Lynchburg, Harrisburg, and New Washington (modern Morgan's Point) in the 1820s. The bayou became important in Texas history when the final battle for Texas Independence was fought along its banks where it merges with the San Jacinto River.

In the 1830s new communities such as Houston were established along the shoreline. A local entrepreneur named Samuel Allen (unrelated to the founders of Houston) established a large ranch, later known as the Allen Ranch, between Harrisburg and Galveston Bay. Harrisburg was initially the major shipping power on the bayou but the destruction wrought by the Texas Revolution and the American Civil War eroded its influence allowing Houston to become the river's dominant commercial center. Buffalo Bayou and Galveston Bay were dredged during the late 19th and early 20th centuries to accommodate larger ships. By the mid 1900s the Port of Houston had established itself as the leading port in Texas eclipsing the natural harbors at Galveston and Texas City.

The Turning Basin terminal in Harrisburg (now part of Houston) became the port's largest shipping point. The Texas Oil Boom of the early 20th century sparked industrial development along Buffalo Bayou east of Houston and along Galveston Bay. Shipping points became established throughout this industrial complex. In 1977 the Barbours Cut Terminal was opened at Morgan's Point shifting much of the shipping traffic away from Turning Basin downstream toward the bay. Still commerce on the bayou remains heavy and vital to the economy of Greater Houston. Today, despite the urban environment, Buffalo Bayou and its parks remain the centerpiece for many festivals and gatherings in Houston throughout the year. It is also still very popular with canoe and kayak enthusiasts. [1]


Illustration: Map; sketches; short descriptive analyses

Cultural/social/political context

Population and ethnicity

As of the 2000 Census, there were 1,953,631 people and the population density was 3,371.7 people per square mile (1,301.8/km²). So in 2000 Huston was the 4. largest city in the USA. In 2009 the estimated population is 2,257,926 people.(1) Houston is a multicultural city, in part because of its many academic institutions and strong industries as well as being a major port city. Over ninety languages are spoken in the city.(2) It has the third-largest Hispanic and third-largest Mexican population in the United States.(3)


Houston is a multicultural city with a thriving international community. Officially, Houston is nicknamed the "Space City" as it is home to NASA's Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center, where Mission Control Center is located. Many locals, however, prefer to call it the "Bayou City." Other nicknames include "H-Town", "Clutch City", and "Magnolia City". (4) The city has 337 parks, and also there is the famous Theater District and the Museum District.(5)

Government and economy

The city of Houston has a strong mayor–council government. The City's elected officials, serving concurrent two year terms, are: the mayor, the city controller and 14 members of the city council. Huston has a Parks and Recration Department, which was created in 1916. On those days the department maintained only 2 parks, today it is about 350 developed parks, 200 esplanades and greenspaces inside and outside of the city.(6)(7)

The economy of Houston is primarily based on the energy industry (particularly oil), however, biomedical research and aerospace are also large parts of the city's economic base. The Houston metropolitan area comprises the largest petrochemical manufacturing area in the world, including for synthetic rubber, insecticides, and fertilizers. The area is also the world's leading center for building oilfield equipment. The city is home to more than 3,000 energy-related establishments, including many of the top oil and gas exploration and production firms and petroleum pipeline operators.(8) The per capita income for the city was $20,101. 19% of the population and 16% of families were below the poverty line.(3)


Spatial analysis of area/project/plan

*What are the main structural features?

The Buffalo Bayou Promenade consists physically, into 3,000 linear feet of urban park that provide a gateway to downtown Houston, TX. In this case, the project functions as a link, between 2 parts of a city that were divided for a long time, linear parks connecting the different sides both physically and socially. A very important feature of it is the combination of solid basic forms in the buildings, and the sinuous forms of the existing terrain, this gives the Landscape a unique shape. The materials used were all chosen specifically for the rough natural and environmental conditions of the area, this also include the re-plantation of local vegetation and trees. The waterway had to be treated with special care, for Buffalo Bayou is one of the main drainage systems of Houston. A very important piece for its success was the fact that it can also work as a pedestrian park at night, because of a very well thought illumination system. The lightning system is supposed to represent a balance betwwen nature and urbanity, on special events the lighting is meant to follow the phases of the moon.

*How has it been shaped?

The lightning system is supposed to represent a balance betwwen nature and urbanity, on special events the lighting is meant to follow the phases of the moon. The waterway, as commonly took a very important part on the shaping of Buffalo Bayou Walk, so did the existing highways that cross above it. The project was born as a way to revitalize a very historically important part of the city, also, geographically; the land was a strategic point of connection between the downtown and the Westside of Houston, but given the threatening conditions, most people avoided it.

Were there any critical decisions?

One of the most important decisions for this project was the election of the construction materials, they had to be the most resistant to bad enviromental conditions. How to be able to make the wild topography a suitable place for the common citizen was another issue that had to be taken into consideration by the Lanscape Architects, which aproached it with very specific designs for this proyect that adapted perfectly to the needs of the Houston inhabitants. Some decades before, there had been plans to improve the landscape on the City´s bayous, but this specific part remained as a critical missing link, in order to catch up to the 21th century´s mentality of the city this part needed to be improved, by doing so, a high amount of parking spots were provided, also, the citizens adquired a vast new space to perform all kinds of recreational activities.

Illustration: Map/diagram/sketches photos and background notes

Analysis of program/function

In the following you will find what roles has the Buffalo Bayou Promenade in Houstons life. The whole Buffalo Bayou is the principal drainage system for much of Houston, as well as a natural waterway in the city. Besides, there is an ever present threat of flood. Water on Buffalo Bayou can rise rapidly from sea level to 35 feet (11 m) deep, often within several hours.(9) Hydraulic engineers worked closely with the design team so that the aesthetics of the park. At numerous junctures, the project's rock walls, sweeping channels, and other engineered structures provide design elements that enhance both form and function. (10)

The Buffalo Bayou Promenade is in the neighborhood of the downtown. Therefore is serves as an important bicycle and pedestrian link from Sesquicentennial Park to the upstream reach and to new entertainment venues. However before the renewal there was unsafe walking conditions for pedestrians due to the dark nooks and crannies. (11) The revitalization project made emphasis on crime prevention, so serious lighting system was installed and not planted large bushes along sidewalks to create a safe place even at night. (10)

And the area is also the ground of numerous freeway structures what are blocking out a lot of sunlight. The large area of shade gardens was the answer to this problem. On the map the shade gardens are marked with green. (10)

The new Buffalo Bayou Promenade has the following functions: ▪ live performance of music and video, ▪ outdoor sculpture exhibits ▪ canoeing and kayaking ▪ walking and jogging

Besides it had a role in helping to change how Houstonians think about their waterways in general and Buffalo Bayou in particular. (9)


Analysis of design/planning process

How was the area/project/plan formulated and implemented?

Since the city was first planned by Arthur Comey in 1912, there was people who thought that linear parks in this area would be a good idea, but it only started to take shape in the 70´s, some of the areas were improved, but this particular one was left for dead, until a few years ago.

This area had been abandoned by the citizens of Houston in the 20th century, this was probably because of the state of mind that came with it, people was not very interested in a place like this, or how it would affect the well-function of the city as a living, growing and moving organism,the new century brought a new mentality, which lead to the improvement of Landscapes taking care of the natural elements, old ideas where thrown away and new ones arrived.

Having all of this in mind, the landscape architects formulated their designs and plans, and executions; the results were astonishing, the area is now one of the most recognized bayous in the USA, not only did this project meet the expectations, but it also sent a message, on scale, proportion, materials and perseverance.

Were there any important consultations/collaborations?

For optimal results, a multidisciplinary team had to be assembled to perform this monstruos task.


Analysis of use/users

* How is the area/project/plan used and by whom?

Used by pedestrians, runners, bikers and boaters this renewed area is used by thousands of persons ,as city people is always searching for more park space, the Promenade offers 23-acres of free space where they can do several activities . The project also physically and visually augments several other downtown revitalization efforts focused on improving the quality of life of their habitants. The area is used by a wide range of users from children to senior citizens, activities are planed according to age and this public space always provide a safe place to be even by night with a modern lightning plan, which provides the area a safe-environment to use and to enjoy. The several activities that go on in the park provide the population a healthy way to spend time which involves family and group oriented activities, also is a landmark in the city who anyone can refer to. Concerts and night activities also are part of the Bayou, these plays an important part in the community life and makes it more integrated.

* Is the use changing? Are there any issues?'

No, when the remodelation of the buffalo Bayou was planned it was decided it was going to be for the use of the people of Houston and it has remained like that since then, with parks and several features Buffalo Bayou is a place anyone can go and enjoy the activities that are developed there.from the beginning the of Buffalo Bayou the use is already set up.

Illustration: Map/diagram/sketches photos and background notes

Core Question 2: What is the role of landscape architecture in this project?

Landscape architecture plays a very important role in this project, as for making the project successful and cohesive,and for making it useful and pleasant to the people, planning every detail in advance makes this one a functional project. With landscape architecture all sources can be putted into use, from the correct use of plants,to the design of the parks and areas, all of this to be used by the people. This plays the most important role of all , without planning and good execution no project can be finished successfully.

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