Open Channel Flow - CODAworx

Open Channel Flow

Client: Houston Public Works Department

Location: Houston, TX, United States

Completion date: 2009

Artwork budget: $150,000

Project Team


Matthew Geller

Industry Resource

Andrew Vrana



Open Channel Flow mimics in style and color Water Department structures that dot the Houston landscape. By using the stainless steel hand pump, one can experience a refreshing “shower” as water rains down from the showerhead 25 feet above. Simultaneously, and as a result of pumping water through the pipes, yellow and blue beacons on top of the 60-foot structure flash, signaling people as far away as downtown that another person has doused themselves with a refreshing, albeit very brief, shower.

Selected for the 2010 Year in Review, Public Art Network, Americans for the Arts

Buffalo Bayou Park, Houston, TX
60’ x 33’ x 45’
Painted steel, stainless steel, water, LED beacons


The Sabine Water Pump Station (adjacent to Buffalo Bayou Park) is a highly unusual site for an artwork: it’s not a plaza, an entryway, or a public park. The Pump Station’s vital human necessity is generally taken for granted by the public, most of whom wouldn’t be able to identify it if asked. This all makes it particularly attractive to Matthew Geller as a site for his work, as he’s drawn to overlooked and under-appreciated environments.

The 60-foot tall structure of 12-, 8- and 4-inch steel pipes with amber and blue beacons on top stands inside the restricted grounds of the Sabine Water Pump Station. It is a much bigger, slightly more elaborate version of other pipe structures located on the Pump Station grounds. One pipe, like the branch of a large tree, leaves the Pump Station property, passes over the Pump Station fence and ends with a showerhead 25-feet overhead in Buffalo Bayou Park. All these elements combine to create a kind of urban earthwork that is playful, absurd and as entertaining as it is functional.


Geller’s process always begins with stakeholder and community engagement which could include learning about the area's history, gaining insight into the community’s vision for the site, and brainstorming about what would enrich and bring together their diverse community.

Metalab provided project management, design development, and fabrication oversite services.

Additional Information

In his public art practice, Matthew Geller’s participatory sculptures become one of the building blocks that make a space a destination. As such, the work activates the site and promotes interaction among visitors, often creating intimate moments in a singularly public space. Part of his work’s success is that it is physically experiential: viewers understand that there is a place for themselves in it. His sculptures enable moments of respite and delight, befitting the site's functional and visual context. He purposefully uses materials from the everyday environment creating a level of connection to the familiar while highlighting elements of awe and beguilement. The idea is to surprise while fostering the sense of an inclusive community around an unlikely object or location, creating a micro public square or landmark. By considering behavioral design and incorporating dynamic elements activated by people and changes in the weather, the resulting work is in constant flux. Ultimately, the artwork’s goal will be to engender a sense of wonder, enhancing the community and visitor experience.