07 March 2017

No. 92: Visit the Buffalo Bayou Park Cistern +

No. 92: Visit the Buffalo Bayou  Park Cistern plus
A New Restaurant for 2017 (No. 90)

Visiting a decommissioned underwater cistern doesn't really sound like something to look forward to,  but ever since I first read about it a year or so ago, it has been on my list. And that was before it was even open to the public.

The drinking water reservoir was originally built in 1926 to hold water for the City of Houston. Eventually it sprang a leak and was decommissioned in 2007, then slated for demolition.  The Buffalo Bayou Partnership, which has developed the park running along Buffalo Bayou,  realized the significance of the old cistern and stepped in to save it.

Opening to the public in May of 2016, the cistern is accessed through a tunnel and toured by walking the 1/4 mile path built around the interior of the reservoir. There are two skylights which allow light to enter for regular viewing. (This visit the skylights were covered because of an art installation.) Inside the 87,500 square foot space there are 221 evenly spaced 25 foot tall columns that rest in about 6" of water. The little bit of water is left in the reservoir to help protect the concrete structure and it also allows the columns to reflect, making them seem to project into infinity. 

Entering the ramp to the space, the temperature drops a bit and there is that lovely dank smell of water.  The lights go off completely for about 30 seconds to allow your eyes to adjust to the dark.  The longer you are in the space, the more acclimated your eyes get.   

Upon entry, they give you a minute to let your eyes adjust to the dark.

In partnership with the Houston Museum of Fine Art the cistern is currently exhibiting an audio visual feast, Rain by Magdalena Fernández.  The almost two minute light show is accompanied by the sounds of a thunderstorm. Bars of light are projected onto the columns, building with the storm until there is simultaneous flash of light and thunder . A Slovenian a cappella group created the thunderstorm sounds by snapping fingers, stomping their heels, and slapping their hands against their legs. The damp earthy smell of the cistern adds to the effect of a summer storm. The show repeated as the tour guide walked us around the structure, occasionally stopping so we could take pictures without bumping into each other in the dark.  As we travelled around the perimeter, I was able to see more of the light show as my eyes adjusted to the darkness of the space. 

The beginning of the exhibition, lights slowly coming up.

And it was amazing. I was silently clapping with each crash of thunder. So worth the trip.  
I can't wait to go back when the exhibit is gone so I can experience the cistern on its own. I'm sure it will be just as fascinating, albeit a bit quieter. 

Thunder and lightning!
O my!

After the tour, it was lunch time. The Kitchen at the Dunlavy had been recommended for lunch and it did not disappoint. 

There was a little wait- 
here we are outside in line!

Also in the Buffalo Bayou Park but a bit of a distance from the cistern, we drove rather than taking one of the many trails. Martha was once again my companion for this adventure because she is always game to try something new, bless her heart. I had the most scrumptious turkey and brie sandwich while Martha tried the chicken BLT. (We both agreed my sandwich was the better value and flavor. Her's was a little sparse.)   

Is this not just the perfect decór? 
Warehouse meets 40s glamour. 
And look at those happy diners!

Tummies full, we walked down to the Waugh Street bridge from the restaurant to listen to the bats twitter.  The path goes under the bridge and you can hear the bat colony rustling around, making sweet little sounds.  I need to go back at dusk to watch them all fly out in search of dinner. Maybe that needs to be added to the list? 

All in all it was a fabulous way to spend a Saturday. The cistern is a quick visit but it does not disappoint and the entire Buffalo Bayou Park is a jewel. Definitely I will go back. Maybe rent bicycles next time? Watch the bats? Who knows? 

Cistern and restaurant visited. Yay. 

(And thanks to Martha for the last three pics. My iPhone was declaring "no more room". Sigh)
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