The Scenes of Waller Creek re-imagines the Waller Creek corridor at the University of Texas at Austin. This urban creek currently faces many environmental challenges, such as a thin riparian buffer, eroded banks, and overgrown invasive vegetation. The creek is situated along a major transportation corridor, San Jacinto Boulevard, but there are few formal spaces along the creek for people to enjoy. The Scenes of Waller Creek presents a riparian restoration, facilitated by a new satellite location for The Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center, as well as a series of formalized outdoor classrooms that allow for education about the creek.
The program and site strategies that this project employs are the concepts of “frame” and “story”. Frames represent boundaries within which interactions take place, and the stories are what happens within those frames. Our design for Waller Creek creates outdoor classrooms within which the story of environmental education can take place. For this project we were asked to address three objectives: Engage the Creek, Enhance the Environment, and Expand Access. These objectives became central to our corridor design visions of “Composing Frames”, “Establishing Continuity”, and “Directing Movements”. For Engage the Creek, the project composes frames of outdoor classrooms to tell the story of people and the environment. For the Enhance the Environment, the project establishes continuity by sharing the story of the ecosystem that runs through the riparian zone frame. For Expand Access, our design directs movements of people within transit rooms frames.
In addition to the new Ladybird Campus Center, the corridor design also includes landscape plans for the renovations of the theater building and a new dormitory, which focus on habitat stability and storm water management. Between these three site designs, a series of formalized outdoor classrooms showcase local environmental topics, like limestone geology or native pollinator plants. This project celebrates the creek as a unique ecological amenity that runs through the middle of the University of Texas campus.