ULI Global Excellence Award Finalist: Buffalo Bayou Park

The prestigious Urban Land Institute (ULI), a global non-profit dedicated to shaping the future of land use and creating thriving communities, has selected Buffalo Bayou Park as one of 25 finalists for its 2017 Annual Global Awards for Excellence. This year’s finalists include three projects located in Asia, two in Europe, and 20 in North America and winners will be announced at the 2017 ULI Fall Meeting in Los Angeles. Page is proud to be part of the project team for one of the finalists.

Buffalo Bayou Park was undertaken by the Buffalo Bayou Partnership to transform the portion of the waterway which meanders west along Memorial Drive from Sabine Street in downtown Houston to South Shepherd Drive. Page is the architect for two buildings and two large pavilions in the 2.3-mile, 160-acre park, which was planned and designed by landscape architecture firm The SWA Group. The design of the park restores the natural landscape which was adversely affected by the channelization of the bayou six decades ago. 

Because the vast majority of the park is in a 100-year flood plain that functions as a major drainage route for storm water on the Gulf Coast, the structures had to be designed to withstand extreme storm and flooding conditions. The design vocabulary pairs solid board-formed concrete piers with much lighter steel-spanning members to create modules. The concrete piers enable some structures to be lifted off the ground, elevating the primary programmed spaces out of the flood plain while also providing extraordinary resistance to the horizontal forces that come from rushing water, floating trees trunks and other debris that assault buildings during a flood. When a severe flooding event occurred just months after completion of the structures, there was no damage sustained to any of them.

Below the lawn of one of the Page-designed buildings is the recently re-discovered "Cistern," the City of Houston’s first underground drinking-water reservoir which had been unused for decades. Bids had already been solicited by the City of Houston to demolish The Cistern when the Buffalo Bayou Park design team wrangled an opportunity to drop through a roof hatch and view the space. The defunct underground drinking water reservoir, built in 1927, had been out of service for years and the city was considering proposals for commercial uses of the space such as a parking garage. Steps were taken to preserve adapt the Cistern to turn it into a popular visitor destination that accommodates installation art.  

The finalists were selected by an international jury made up of ULI members representing a multidisciplinary collection of real estate development expertise, including finance, land planning, development, public affairs, design and other professional services. They evaluated entries based on their innovative approach to urban design and standards of excellence in construction, economics, planning and management. 

The ULI Awards for Excellence have been given since 1979 and are open to the entire industry, not just ULI members. To see a list of all the 2017 finalists and their designers in Urban Land Magazine, click here