Waller Creek Framework Plan at the University of Texas Austin
Completed in 2019, the Waller Creek Framework Plan for the University of Texas at Austin (UT) provides an integrated plan for transforming a neglected urban creek into a physically and symbolically important campus landscape. MVVA was initially hired to address the safety of the university community throughout the creek corridor, but we soon realized that the safety of people in the creek corridor was intrinsically tied to other critical issues: improved plant habitat, durable slope conditions, traffic control on adjacent roads, and cultivation of a strong landscape character connected to the corridor’s rich and complex history. By defining those issues early on, the MVVA team was able to offer a cohesive vision for improvements to creek health, sustainability, and connectivity.
Waller Creek today is simultaneously central in students’ everyday experiences and nearly invisible on the campus. It drives the organization of buildings and circulation, but it has been historically treated as a barrier to overcome rather than a spine of activity in its own right. At the same time, it has been central to the university’s legacy of environmental activism and debate.
Currently, 95% of campus stormwater runoff is directed to Waller Creek. This runoff enters the creek by overland flow and through 162 stormwater outfall pipes.
Surrounding Waller Creek are bald cypress groves descended from specimens first planted in the early 20th century. The bald cypress are the most significant structure for the integrity and stability of the creek landscape through their root systems and their ability to adapt to the fluctuating water levels in the creek following major storms.
For the purposes of structuring the Framework Plan, the segment of Waller Creek within UT Austin is divided into five reaches that are delineated by changes to broad patterns of creek morphology and campus development.
Detailed circulation plans were developed for each reach of the creek corridor.