Buffalo Bayou Park- 2017 Global Awards for Excellence Finalist

Buffalo Bayou

Location: Houston, Texas, United States
Developer: Buffalo Bayou Partnership
Designer: SWA Group, Page
Site Size: 160 Acres

The renewed 160-acre Buffalo Bayou Park is a critical urban green space, extending upstream of downtown Houston along Buffalo Bayou, the principal drainage system for much of the city. Stretching over 2.3 miles, the park offers Houstonians access to one of the region’s last un-channelized urban waterways. Over 15 miles of pedestrian and bike paths, including 4 pedestrian bridges, offer opportunities to explore the restored ecology of the bayou while promoting healthy activities for Houston’s growing population. Large event lawns, protected gardens, nature play areas and flexible plazas provide the infrastructure to support year-round events, bringing together Houston’s diverse population to the historic birthplace of the city. The park overcame many obstacles to create the right balance between hydraulic, ecological, and park-user needs. Located within one of city’s primary drainage ways, Houston’s floodwaters frequently submerge much of the park. Creative design techniques were employed to create a resilient park environment, able to withstand the destructive forces of the bayou while protecting the investment of these valuable public amenities. The $58-million project was funded through a public-private partnership model, kicked off by a catalyst gift of $30 million with additional funds raised through a capital campaign supported by over 850 local entities. Critical to the long-term success of the park, annual maintenance of $2 million is funded through a local Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone for 30 years. Vicinity to the park has become one of Houston’s most sought-after urban amenities, serving as a catalyst for real estate development and helping to re-brand the city as one that celebrates its diversity and supports a high quality of life. As our increasingly crowded cities search for more parkland, Buffalo Bayou Park acts as a global benchmark for applying creative design and funding to unlock critical green space in the heart of our communities.

Lost Lake Pavilion at Buffalo Bayou Park: Houston, TX, Architect: Page Architects
©Albert Vecerka/Esto. The interior of the new restaurant building at Lost Lake rests just above the 100-year flood elevation. Here, visitors dine with a panoramic view of the bayou environs, experiencing the contrast of the wildness of the bayou landscape and the luxuriousness of the building’s interior.
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Jonnu Singleton, SWA Group. The park is designed to facilitate many different types of engagement with nature through cycling, jogging, paddling, and exploration. A nature playground provides intimate contact with natural play features for children. Features of the play area include a boulder rock scramble, a rolling lawn, a stream and waterfall, climbing logs and stones, and 33-foot slide.
Free Press Summer Fest 2
Houston First. Eleanor Tinsley Park hosts thousands of visitors during some of Houston’s largest community celebrations including the annual Free Press Summer Fest Music Festival and Freedom Over Texas (Houston’s Independence Day Festival).
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Jonnu Singleton, SWA Group. New pedestrian bridges provide more frequent crossing opportunities, as well as separate these modes from vehicular bridges, where sidewalks were undersized and unsafe.

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