Houston has been buzzing lately over the newest (or depending on who you ask – oldest) addition to Buffalo Bayou Park—the Cistern.
The Cistern is an underground storage facility built in 1926 originally to house drinking water for Houston. After it sprung a leak in the late 2000s, the Cistern was decommissioned and ultimately forgotten until Buffalo Bayou Park began undergoing renovations and planned to build a skate park on the same location. Park planners tossed around a few ideas between demolition and using it as a storage for mulch, but they ultimately decided to renovate the Cistern and open it to the public as an art display.
Entering the Cistern will transport you to a different world making you feel like you’re Indiana Jones discovering a lost Mayan tomb or Harry Potter in the Chamber of Secrets. Hundreds of columns support the concrete structure and reflect eerily off the dimly lit water casting optical illusions against flashlight beams. The Cistern is as large as 1.5 football fields and when it’s full it can hold over 15 million gallons of water. Anyone who lived in Houston before 2007, likely drank water that filtered through the Cistern.
Visitors can go on 30 minute docent-led tours Thursdays – Sundays. One of the highlights of the tour is yelling as loud as you can for a second or two and then hearing the echo reverberate off the walls, water and columns for over 15 seconds. If you’re interested in seeing the Cistern in person, be sure to purchase tickets at least a week in advance as the tours have sold out three weekends in a row! You can purchase your tickets here.
If you don’t have a chance to visit the Cistern, you can view it via live video stream via an art installation by Donald Lipski called Down Periscope. The park is in the process of curating additional temporary art installations for the Cistern. Learn more about the Buffalo Bayou Park Cistern here.