An amazing structure was rediscovered below what is to become the signature Sky Lawn at The Water Works (north of the existing Lee & Joe Jamail Skatepark) when the Buffalo Bayou Park – Shepherd to Sabine project began in 2010. 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 2 inches of water on the reservoir’s floor. Buffalo Bayou Park designers recognized immediately that this highly unusual space brims with potential for new life for a public space. Read this Houston Chronicle article by Lisa Gray from January 2012 and watch this July 2013 Channel 11 interview with Guy Hagstette.
Since the Cistern was discovered after the park’s budget was finalized, this project is not within the scope of Buffalo Bayou Partnership’s Shepherd to Sabine Master Plan. Furthermore, the space is only accessible via small hatches that open to 14-foot ladders creating enormous logistical difficulties in viewing and navigating the area. However, thanks to Houston-based SmartGeoMetrics, park users are able to get an unprecedented view of the Cistern.
SmartGeoMetrics is known primarily for providing 3D high definition laser services to the petrochemical, civil engineering and architecture industries. The company also has a passion for providing 3D imaging of special landmarks and interesting spaces like the Texas tall ship Elissa and the Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi. Taking a keen interest in the Cistern’s size, beauty and untapped potential, SmartGeoMetrics volunteered time and resources to join Buffalo Bayou Partnership on an excursion into the Cistern in early 2012. Their goal? To acquire 3D imaging data of the cavernous space to document its as-is condition. The result? An impressive array of 3D imaging, photographs and autosteroscopic holograms which Buffalo Bayou Partnership will use in developing future plans for the Cistern, once funding is available. You can see a 3D fly-through of the Cistern here. Buffalo Bayou Partnership is grateful to SmartGeoMetrics for providing a stunning and unique study of Buffalo Bayou Park’s hidden treasure.