As the Buffalo Bayou Park – Shepherd to Sabine project began in 2010, an amazing structure was rediscovered below the lawn that is to become the signature Sky Lawn at The Water Works (north of the existing Lee & Joe Jamail Skatepark). The “Cistern,” as it has been dubbed, was the City of Houston’s first underground drinking-water reservoir. Built in 1927, it provided decades of service until it was drained when it sprang a leak that couldn’t be located or contained.
Unused for years, the 87,500-square-foot expanse includes 25-foot tall, slender concrete columns set row upon row, hovering over two inches of water on the reservoir’s floor. Buffalo Bayou Park designers recognized immediately that this highly unusual space brimmed with potential for new life as a public space with light flooding in from the entrance hatches – a dramatic, almost artful expanse is created. Read this Houston Chronicle article by Lisa Gray.
The space is only accessible via small hatches that open to 14-foot ladders creating enormous logistical difficulties in viewing and navigating the area.
Inspired by the space and challenge was Douglas Smith with SmartGeoMetrics, a Houston-based company with more than 30 years of combined experience providing 3D high definition laser services to industries such as petrochemical, civil engineering and architecture. Smith was so excited about the space that he and his team volunteered to acquire 3D imaging data of the cavernous space to document its as-is condition. This data can be used in software like AutoCAD and Revit as well as to create 3D fly-throughs and even autosteroscopic holograms. See a 3D fly-through.
Houston-based digital marketing company FuelFX also donated a specialized mobile and tablet APP to the project. The APP creates an interactive 3D augmented reality model of the “Cistern” that enables developers to better visualize the space in the palm of their hand. The APP debuted on August 29th at the “An Update on the Cistern Project” presentation at AIA Houston.
Buffalo Bayou Partnership received a $1.2 million grant from The Brown Foundation to make the necessary enhancements to bring the site up to code and will eventually turn it into a temporary art space.