Rain: Magdalena Fernández at the Houston Cistern
Video Installation 2iPM009 from the series Mobile Paintings, 2009
Digital animation by Marcelo D’Orazio.  Audio track produced by Perpetuum Jazzile vocal group.

On view now through June 25, 2017

View Tour Schedule & Purchase Tickets

The Buffalo Bayou Park Cistern is located at 105 Sabine Street, Houston, TX 77007

Should you have any questions about the Cistern or Buffalo Bayou Park, please call:
713.752.0314 ext. 301 or ext. 401


Rain on View Now!

Rain:  Magdalena Fernández at the Houston Cistern
Video Installation 2iPM009 from the series Mobile Paintings, 2009

On view now through June 25, 2017

  • Hours:
    • Wednesdays through Fridays, 3:30 – 7:00 pm
    • Saturdays & Sundays, 10:00 am – 7:00 pm
    • Tours every 30 minutes. Maximum of 40 people per tour.
  • Cost:  $10 per person; $8 for Seniors (65+ with ID), Youth (9-17) and Students (18+ with ID). Children under the age of 9 not permitted.
  • Free on Thursdays, but reservations are still required.
  • Tickets must be reserved online up to 60 days in advance.
  • A number of parking options are available around Buffalo Bayou Park.

Purchase Tickets

This exhibition is organized by the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston and co-presented by Buffalo Bayou Partnership.

Lead underwriting is provided by:
Kinder Foundation
The Brown Foundation, Inc.

Special thanks to Sicardi Gallery and Elmore Public Relations, Inc.

Purchase Tickets

Cistern History Tours

  • Duration:  30 minutes
  • Times:  3:00 – 3:30 pm every Wednesday, Thursday and Friday
  • Cost:  $5 per person (no children under the age of 9 permitted) for a 30-minute, docent-led tour.
  • Free on Thursdays, but reservations are still required.
  • Tickets are available through June 23 and must be reserved online.
  • Capacity:  30 people
  • Parking:  A number of parking options are available around Buffalo Bayou Park.

Purchase Tickets

Photography Tours

These photo-centric tours are geared toward non-professional photographers, student groups, and photography clubs all centered on personal use photography.

  • Duration:  1 hour
  • Times: 10:00 – 11:00 am on the last Saturday and Sunday of every month through June 25.
  • Cost: $15
  • Capacity: 15 people
  • Special Perks: Tripods are permitted, hatches may be opened on non-rainy days during the photo tours.

Book online!

Unless otherwise decided by the group, the photo tours will include an even split of time on each Cistern wall. Light levels and/or hatches will remain the same for the duration of the session and will be decided upon by consensus from the group at the start of the session.

For commercial-use photography or for private after-hours Cistern tours, please contact Stephanie Kiouses.

Rules & Regulations

  • No eating, drinking, or gum-chewing in the Cistern.
  • Littering is prohibited. Please use trash receptacles.
  • No sitting, standing, or climbing on the railing, stairways, or ladders.
  • Running and excessive noise are not permitted.
  • All visitors must comply with instructions or requests from the Buffalo Bayou Park Cistern attendants and staff and must be respectful of others.
  • Strollers, roller skates, inline skates, and bicycles are not permitted.
  • Backpacks, purses, fanny packs and other bags need to be zipped and closed while inside the Cistern.
  • Animals are not permitted.
  • Destroying public property is prohibited by Title 19, Chapter 191 of the Government Code of Texas.
  • No smoking allowed.
  • No children under the age of 9.
  • Photography is allowed, however no tripods or stands.
  • Full participation in the tour requires walking a distance of one quarter mile. If you require assistance or are unable to walk this distance, please notify the Cistern Attendant upon arrival.
  • The Buffalo Bayou Park Cistern is a dim space with no windows. The environment may be challenging for some. If you experience any difficulties, please proceed directly to the nearest exit.
  • Rain:  Magdalena Fernández at the Houston Cistern is an immersive experience with exposure to light and sound. If you experience any discomfort, please proceed directly to the nearest exit.
  • No flash photography

Recent History

The Cistern at Buffalo Bayou Park is a former drinking water reservoir built in 1926 for the City of Houston. As one of the city’s early underground reservoirs, it supported the municipal water system’s goals of fire suppression (water pressure) and drinking water storage. After operating for decades, an irreparable leak was discovered and after a few years, the reservoir was decommissioned in 2007.

In 2010, the City of Houston was sourcing vendors to demolish the Cistern. At the same time, Buffalo Bayou Partnership was developing the $58 million Buffalo Bayou Park project and “discovered” the site. Recognizing the historical and architectural significance of the highly unusual space, Buffalo Bayou Partnership with the City of Houston worked to take over development and maintenance of the space.

BBP restored and repurposed the Cistern into a magnificent public space to house an ambitious program of changing art installations. Houston-based architecture and engineering firm Page was charged with designing a ground-level entry structure to help transition visitors from the outside in to the Cistern and making improvements to the shelf on the perimeter of the space to create a six-foot-wide accessible walkway with guardrails. In May 2016, Buffalo Bayou Partnership opened the Cistern to the public.

Fun Facts

  • 87,500 square feet or the size of 1.5 football fields
  • 221– 25-foot tall, slender concrete columns span the space
  • Holds 15 million gallons of water when functioning at capacity
  • 8-inch thick concrete roof and 8– 18-inch thick concrete side walls
  • 17-second echo
  • SWA Landscape Architect Kevin Shanley first called the reservoir “the Cistern” because it reminded him of the ancient Roman cisterns under Istanbul

Down Periscope

New York artist Donald Lipski’s much-anticipated installation Down Periscope sits atop the Buffalo Bayou Park Cistern on The Brown Foundation Lawn. Through Down Periscope, park visitors are able to peer into the 87,500-square-foot expanse of the Cistern below.

Commissioned by the Houston Arts Alliance (HAA) in partnership with the City of Houston, the seven-foot Down Periscope is housed in a jasmine covered stainless steel arbor, creating a shady, welcoming space for experiencing the work of art.

Down Periscope can also be accessed online from anywhere in the world at downperiscopehouston.com. Please note that Down Periscope will be offline during tours of Rain:  Magdalena Fernández at the Houston Cistern.

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