Let There be Light

Creek Show illuminates the dark corners of Waller Creek during the long wait

Creek Show illuminates the dark corners of Waller Creek

Burton Baldridge Architects' proposal for Creek Show
Burton Baldridge Architects' proposal for Creek Show, "Tracing the Line." Photo courtesy of Burton Baldridge Architects
Thoughtbarn's proposal for Creek Show
Thoughtbarn's proposal is called "High Water Mark." Photo courtesy of Thoughtbarn
The Creek Show logo was designed by Pentagram in Austin.
The Creek Show logo was designed by Pentagram. Photo courtesy of Pentagram
Burton Baldridge Architects' proposal for Creek Show
Thoughtbarn's proposal for Creek Show
The Creek Show logo was designed by Pentagram in Austin.

Since the inception of the project's design competition in 2012, a great deal of attention has been given to the development of Waller Creek as a multi-functional city park by local government officials and the media.

But now that a design has been selected (and, as a refresher, it's that of MVVA and Thomas Phifer & Partners) and a plan is in place, what's next? Do we really have to wait an excruciating 10 to 20 years while the plan is actualized to take advantage of the public space?

Thankfully, we don't.

Recognizing the need to maintain the public's interest and involvement in Waller Creek's revitalization during the construction period, Architectural Record contributing editor Ingrid Spencer and architect Hope Hasbrouck devised Creek Show — a series of temporary, public art installations that will appear along the 1.5-mile Waller Creek site beginning in 2014.

"The name Creek Show came from thinking about a three-ring circus sort of a thing," Spencer tells CultureMap. "Right now, the creek is kind of wild and a bit broken — but it still has beauty as it is. [Waller Creek Conservancy president] Melba Whatley wanted to find a way to include the community in what's happening. . .to point out that this area is about to change and connect people to the region."

A heavy-hitting group of local architects and landscape architects have created five different proposals for installations that would activate the public area in artistic ways around the theme of "illumination." In Burton Baldridge Architects' "Tracing the Line," for example, a series of 220 large round latex balloons containing an ultra-bright LED would be suspended on 10-foot centers at a single point, forming a winding line of airborne lanterns that becomes increasingly visible as the evening progresses into night. 

Waller Creek Conservancy executive director Stephanie McDonald explains that though Creek Show is still in the planning and prototyping stage, the group has high hopes that the installations can be activated sometime next year.

"We're trying to make these relatively inexpensive, and we hope people will recognize this is a temporal thing — something to enjoy while we have to wait long and patiently."

One way the Creek Show group intends to make the luminescent renderings a reality is through a diversification of donations from the public, the Downtown Austin Alliance and a possible Kickstarter campaign.

"We hope Austinites will discover Waller Creek," says McDonald. "I think most people ignore it, and what's amazing about Creek Show is that it's a way for the community to understand Waller Creek in relation to the rest of Austin."

"There are so many forgotten spaces," continues Spencer. "But it's going to change so drastically. Like the Creek Show logo, you could say the monster is crawling out of the creek and going to change into something wonderful."

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Participating architects and landscape architects include Jason Sowell, Steven Spears, Lucy Begg, Robert Gay, Murray Legge, Burton Baldridge and Michael Hargens. The Creek Show logo was designed by DJ Stout of Pentagram.