An aspect about downtown Houston, and likely 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, sidewalks and many floors of the buildings; even beyond the pedestrian tunnels here in Houston. Admittedly downtown Houston is flat–or seems to be–until you approach Buffalo Bayou on the north and west side of the Theater District. The varying levels of public space provides an aspect of letting one “escape” that, for me, takes the space to another dimension.
On the north and west side of downtown you will find a different set of layers that present stronger contrasts than the tunnels to the high-rise buildings. These photos show the beautiful gardens and bayou with trees and plants under the IH-45 freeway bridges that are layers of transportation on top of interlocking gardens–the Sabine to Bagby promenade.
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 a 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.
If I was designing a park then I would work have a place to view the space and beyond from different levels. At Discovery Green the upper level of The Grove restaurant and the high ground at viewing area for the stage provide views from different levels.
I am proud to say the second floor deck at The Grove stemmed from my suggestion (in the Project for Public Spaces workshop) of adding a tree house in the oaks where one could eat and sit back while looking down on the fun times at ground level. In that very flat part of downtown the view looking down through the trees while being in the limbs is great–at least for the little boy in some of us.
If you want to visit the Sabine to Bagby Promenade there is on-street parking on most of the cross streets under IH-45. Parking on the streets is free on Sundays and there are no rush hour restrictions.