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Bridges Providing Layers in a Downtown

By: Tom Davis Category: Placemaking

CIMG1695.JPGAn aspect about downtown Houston and your city that many may not consider when rushing to work, the theater, a ball game or out to dinner is that there are layers that go beyond the streets and many floors of the buildings–even beyond the pedestrian tunnels here in Houston. In any major city there are bridges and too often people end up trying to live there until they are run out and their cycle starts over. That land space below the bridges is very valuable and should not be wasted on cycling the homeless in an out.

On the north and west side of downtown Houston you will find a different set of layers that present stronger contrasts than the tunnels to the high rises. Buffalo Bayou under Smith St.These photos show the beautiful gardens and bayou with trees and plants under the freeway bridges that are layers of transportation. on top of interlocking gardens. The bayou does not bubble along and even if it did the drone of cars and trucks overhead would drown it out. But there is still an clear sense of serenity plus, in many places, the feeling of seclusion and the comfort of not being in the race.

The thought of the highway noise may make the mental image not so appealing but the bridges also create a feeling of intimacy when you are surrounded by the greenery and the very lazy bayou.

Sabine to Bagby Promenade in downtown Houston TexasJust down stream for here is Allen’s Landing and upstream is the Sabine Street bridge. If you want to visit you will find on-street parking on most of the cross streets. Parking on the streets is free on Sundays and on Saturdays and Sundays there are no rush-hour restrictions.

Sabine to Bagby Promenade in downtown Houston TexasI admit this location is not the typical bridge over a street like is around the other three sides of downtown Houston. But, the condition of these banks ten years ago made most people turn and look for easier projects. The majority of the credit for these gardens and trails must go to the Buffalo Bayou Partnership.

This post is in many ways is a re-post of one at my other blogs, UrbanPublicSpaces.com, but with a different slant. The focus here more directly addresses the use of space under the bridges. Perhaps the other post will provide an alternate view of downtowns and inspire you to find a good use for the often unused space under the bridges.

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