Waller Creek Corridor Framework Plan
In 2011, construction began on a mile-long tunnel beneath Waller Creek in Austin, Texas. The tunnel is designed to carry most of the creek’s flow under the city, protecting 28 acres of Downtown Austin from flooding and controlling the water level at the surface. MVVA was tasked with restructuring this spatially complex corridor as the backbone for a series of new parks and neighborhood connections. The existing Waller Creek landscape comprised a mix of street crossings, abandoned utilities, eroded earthen banks, and moments of fragile natural beauty alongside intensely used urban spaces. At the time of the Framework Plan, the study area of the creek also intersected two underused existing parks: Waterloo Park to the north and Palm Park to the south.
The integrated nature-machine quality of Waller Creek reflects an evolving global narrative of cities promoting natural systems as part of their development and infrastructure. The Waller Creek Corridor Framework Plan recognizes the critical role of landscape architecture in this new paradigm.
With the reduction of the floodplain, approximately 12 million square feet of development will be added to Downtown Austin and organized around a chain of parks and trails that will anchor a new walkable district.
The Framework Plan synthesizes the proposals into eight programmatic layers: trail network; utilities; heritage trees; riparian slopes; aquatic habitat; stormwater retrofits; stewardship, maintenance & operations; and hydraulics & hydrology.
The highly eclectic circumstances along the length of Waller Creek were negotiated to produce a trail network that prioritizes views and comfortable physical access to the creek along with targeted preservation of ecological features.
The creation of at least three cross-sections per block facilitated a detailed mapping of slope conditions and helped determine the degree of reconstruction required, along with the likely costs.
Building on functional assessments of the existing creek developed by the City of Austin, a vocabulary of desirable channel configurations and features was established.
The Framework Plan established a methodology for ranking retrofit scenarios for the piped watershed and specifically targeted each outfall for inline or landscape treatments.