Down Periscope

Submitted by Public Art Services

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Client: Houston Arts Alliance and Buffalo Bayou Partnership

Location: Houston, TX, United States

Completion date: 2016

Project Team

Artist

Donald Lipski

Project Manager

John Grant

Public Art Services

Overview

Adjacent to the Buffalo Bayou Park in Houston, TX is an abandoned, 87,500 square foot underground cistern that’s approximately the size of 1.5 football fields. Artist Donald Lipski created a periscope to look down into this amazing, underground space that was originally built in 1926 and served as a drinking water reservoir for the City of Houston for decades. The reservoir was decommissioned in 2007 after an irreparable leak was discovered and in 2010 as the Buffalo Bayou Partnership was developing the $58 million Buffalo Bayou Park project they “discovered” the site. Recognizing the historical and architectural significance of the highly unusual space, Buffalo Bayou Partnership with the City of Houston worked to take over development and maintenance of the space.

Goals

The periscope brings the historical significance of this space above ground for all to enjoy. Housed inside a jasmine covered arbor shaped like crossing tubes, 10 feet in diameter, the periscope allows visitors to peer into the cistern by taking control of the camera within. It is viewable and controllable from online devices, as well as from the periscope itself. In 2016 The Buffalo Bayou Partnership launched its Cistern art program, which showcases bold, immersive art installations in this unique setting. The Cistern is open for small tours, and can be controlled virtually through an online system at houstonperiscope.com