The Waller Creek Conservancy sponsored an International Design Competition that called for the most innovative and qualified landscape architects and architects to design a fragmented and undervalued section of Austin into a vibrant, livable, and workable district.
Waller Creek rests in a thin, urban riparian ecosystem that meanders for seven miles from the northern part of the city southward through The University of Texas at Austin campus and along the eastern edge of the downtown area before it meets Lady Bird Lake. The Design Competition focused on the lower 1.5 miles.
Over the years this 15 block stretch has suffered from erosion, invasive species, and pollution. Today it lies hidden by partial channelization and disengaged development. Lower Waller Creek can swell to 50 times its normal size during extreme flood events. The Design Competition imagined a different Waller Creek, made possible by a flood control tunnel that was under construction at the time of competition and completed in 2014.
In asking leading professionals to re-envision the role of a small, urban creek in the context of a densely populated area, the Waller Creek Conservancy recognized a commonly neglected resource for cities around the world. In seeking answers, Conservancy members and supporters sought specific solutions that reflect the environmental and cultural contexts of Austin. They anticipated new solutions that would advance landscape and urban design thinking.
The Design Competition was a three-stage process. The first stages focused on designers’ qualifications and vision. Design concepts were developed in Stage III and were evaluated on behalf of the Conservancy by a Jury of nationally recognized and independent professionals in landscape architecture, architecture, urban design, ecological restoration, and real estate development.
The Jury unanimously selected the MVVA and Thomas Phifer & Partners team to design Waller Creek. This team conveyed a high regard for the experiential and expressive potentials of urban landscapes, a deep commitment to support social activities and civic participation, and great respect for the aspirations of the Waller Creek Conservancy and the City of Austin. Excelling beyond the stated Design Principles, the team was superior in vision, professional ability, and design leadership. The members presented a commanding knowledge of the underlying social, ecological, and technical issues of this project, displayed extensive expertise and experience in each and every contributing discipline, and offered an integrative and transformative design for the Waller Creek district. Finally, in the judgment of the Jury, the MVVA Team submission offered the most substantial promise for transforming Waller Creek into a connected series of public spaces that are of an inclusive, democratic character supportive of the continuing transformation of Downtown Austin.