Before completion of the Waller Creek Tunnel Project, Waller Creek was prone to massive flooding – an event that would cut off Austin’s east side from downtown. East Austin is an area that has been oft disconnected from Austin proper, having faced economic and social isolation in the past. With the recent uptick in commercial investment and ongoing development, many of its lifelong citizens are now being displaced. The Creek Zipper draws attention to both the socioeconomic and physical divide in an area of Austin that should be connecting these vastly different, but equally important neighborhoods. When the Waller Creek Tunnel Project is complete, the creek will be a useful and productive public space for the city that will act as a connector, rather than a divider.
The Creek Zipper is a series of interconnected units that form zipper-like strands. Each unit varies depending on the width of the strand creating a dynamic overall geometry that ebbs and flows much like the water level of the creek itself. Though the water level will stabilize once the Tunnel Project is complete, the level will still rise and drop within acceptable limits. Each unit will be raised on adjustable pedestals, so the flat bottom of the unit will coincide with the average water level. When the water level is below average, the water will pass below the strands and be only minimally affected by the legs that support the units. When the water level rises above average, the water will interact with the folded geometry of each unit causing a turbulent flow. The distortion of water as it rises reflects the devastation that used to occur when the creek flooded.
The Creek Zipper is an array of arrays. The project consists of a number of a strands that extend the length of the creek between the 6th Street Bridge and the 3 concrete steps that span the river between 6th and 7th Street. The strands are free-flowing and occasionally intersect and join one another to form larger strands. Each strand varies from one another, differing in length and width. The strands are made up of an array of units that connect to form the overall zipper. The units and strands are part of an assemblage that favors neither whole or part. The entire project, each strand, and each unit can be read as whole in and of itself, calling to question the hierarchical part/whole relationship that has traditionally dominated art and architecture for much of their histories. Though the strands and units are similar to each other and have the same generic properties, the specific geometry of each one is unique as a result of its association with the overall assemblage, the site and how it joins with neighboring units.