In our flat, low-lying city, Houstonians might finally have first crack at exploring our city's underground "ruins." A huge cavern, built in 1926 and used as a 15 million gallon water reservoir until the early 2000s, has been reimagined and reopened as a place for public art.
The space, which was only very minimally renovated to make it safe for the public to access, feels like a work of art in itself. The size of one-and-a-half football fields and filled with over 200 25-foot slender columns, the Cistern produces a 17-second echo from any clap or exclamation that you'll inevitably let out inside the reverberant space.
“Descending into the Cistern the first time was like discovering some ancient ruin," said Larry Page, the principal architect of the redesign, which added a sloping entryway and softly lit walkways ringing the perimeter. "It was so strange and exotic in the setting and clearly ‘lost’ to people's consciousness."
The Cistern's located next to the Water Works at the eastern edge of Buffalo Bayou Park along Sabine Street. And while you're there, check out the site's first art installation: Down Periscope by New York artist Donald Lipski sits on the lawn atop the Cistern and you can peer into the periscope to check out the cavern from above.
Starting May 13, for $2 (free on Thursdays!), you can get a 30-minute tour of the Cistern. It's open to the public Thursday and Friday afternoons, from 3–7 p.m., and on weekends from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, visit buffalobayou.org.