Courtesy of Elizabeth Christian and Associates
Michael Van Valkenburg Associates and Thomas Phifer & Partners were named the winners of Design Waller Creek: A Competition on Oct. 18 as Austin City Council affirmed the Waller Creek competition jury's selection.
“I am pleased with the jury's choice, I am pleased with the process, and I am pleased that my colleagues gave it a go today,” Mayor Pro Tem Sheryl Cole said. “... This public space, as designed by the team, will be such a place for higher education learning, for public discourse and thought-provoking action for our entire community.”
The project encompasses about 1.5 miles of Waller Creek with a total area of 28 acres, about 11 percent of downtown. The Michael Van Valkenburg and Thomas Phifer & Partners design was chosen from 31 other projects and nine other teams. A five-member jury trimmed the number down to four teams April 16 before selecting the winning design.
Michael Van Valkenburg Associates is a Brooklyn, N.Y.-based architecture firm, and Thomas Phifer & Partners is a New York, N.Y-based architecture firm. Two notable projects from Michael Van Valkenburg Associates include Brooklyn Bridge Park and Teardrop Park, both in New York.
“I have seen Michael Van Valkenburg's work in New York City, and it is exceptional, it is exquisite, and I hope that we can have just a fraction of that here in Austin,” said Stephanie McDonald, executive director of the Waller Creek Conservancy. “I think it's his approach, it's a very thoughtful approach. Michael Van Valkenburg is academic, he teaches at the Graduate School of Design at Harvard, and his work is very elegant.”
McDonald said the next step in the renovation of Waller Creek is the implementation of the selected design plan, but there are still details such as a cost estimate and time frame to work out.
“(Implementation) is already beginning,” McDonald said. “We're trying to work in conjunction with the City of Austin and the Waller Creek tunnel project, which is already about 65 percent complete. We are having to catch up because when they come up to ground, we want to be able to to make sure that our design can be a part of what their work is so we're not having to go back in and redo anything.”
The 5,600-foot-long Waller Creek Tunnel is expected to be completed in 2014, and the estimated cost of the tunnel is about $146.7 million.
Melba Whatley, president of the Waller Creek Conservancy Board, said Austin has good karma, and the Waller Creek project will add to that karma.
“But whatever makes up our good karma, the Waller Creek Conservancy Board believes that through great design and the great, hard work ahead, together we will make a stunning transformation of the 28 downtown acres, and we will make them into moments of enduring beauty in a setting for all that we hold dear in this city,” Whatley said.
For more information on the project and the winning design, visit www.wallercreek.org.