Tuesday, February 14, 2012


Morris Architects recently completed a study proposing that high speed rail could effectively reconnect the city, not just at the scale of the mega region but also at the level of the neighborhood. Regional transportation agencies in Houston are evaluating locations for an intermodal transit hub for commuter and high speed rail. The Morris design exercise shows how this terminal is potentially catalytic at multiple scales.

The site is an underused mail facility on the edge of Downtown Houston, perched on a retaining wall above Buffalo Bayou with the downtown street grid beyond. To the east, separated by freeway ramps and freight rail, is the elevated campus of the University of Houston Downtown.

The project unfolds in three moves: the street that currently segregates the bayou from the site is relocated to its center; the bayou banks are re-contoured to connect bayou level paths to the street grid; and the university is linked in with an elevated plaza. New public spaces are created on multiple levels: the sloping banks of the slowly moving bayou, the urban street and intermodal terminal, and the elevated path overlooking the skyline.

The rail terminal is seen not as a sealed box but as a porous fabric. Transfers are made to high speed rail, bus, light rail, cabs, bikes, bayou paths, and even kayaks. These connections unfold outside the terminal itself, on streets, pathways, and bayou greenways activated by the presence of students and residents. A fractured fabric is transformed into a hyper-connected node, linked to Dallas and Austin as well as to the surrounding city’s neighborhoods.