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Press release

Cistern Illuminated Returns to the Buffalo Bayou Park Cistern

September 13, 2023

November 25, 2023 – January 7, 2024

The second annual light installation will feature new interactive elements

HOUSTON, TX – Buffalo Bayou Partnership (BBP) is pleased to announce the second annual Cistern Illuminated, a site-specific winter light installation in the Buffalo Bayou Park Cistern. Houston artist/engineer Kelly O’Brien returns for another holiday season, this time incorporating new audio and visual elements to create a more fully immersive experience.

Cistern Illuminated debuted in November 2022 and presented the public with a completely new view of this historic space. Lighting instruments controlled by customized software cast colored light throughout the space. The special angle of these lights created an uncanny reflection of the Cistern’s ceiling on the glassy water below.

This year’s installation will further amplify the features of this 1920s industrial relic, from its cavernous expanse to its repeating columns which appear infinite due to the Cistern’s illusory qualities. Beyond these visual elements, the 2023 installation makes use of the space’s extraordinary acoustics, exciting for new and repeat visitors alike.

BBP offers tours of the Cistern year-round, but Cistern Illuminated is only available for a limited time, running Saturday, November 25, 2023, to Sunday, January 7, 2024. In addition to tours that allow guests to view the installation, choral performances by the Schola Cantorum of the Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart will take place on select dates, highlighting the Cistern’s unique acoustic qualities and bringing music to this already ethereal experience. Tickets for Cistern Illuminated are available here.


About Buffalo Bayou Partnership: Established in 1986, Buffalo Bayou Partnership is the non-profit organization creating and stewarding welcoming parks, trails, and unique spaces, connecting Houstonians with the city’s most significant natural waterway. The organization’s geographic focus is the 10-square mile stretch of the bayou that flows from Shepherd Drive, through the heart of downtown into the East End, and onto the Port of Houston Turning Basin. In addition to constructing award-winning green spaces such as Buffalo Bayou Park, BBP also removes trash from the waterway and activates the bayou through unique programs, public art, volunteer events and recreational opportunities that enrich the quality of life in Houston.

About the Buffalo Bayou Park Cistern: A structure reminiscent of the ancient Roman cisterns in Istanbul, the Buffalo Bayou Park Cistern is a cavernous, 87,500-square-foot-space featuring more than 200 slender, 25-foot-high concrete columns. BBP rediscovered the Cistern in 2010 when it was developing Buffalo Bayou Park, a 160-acre green space west of downtown Houston. Recognizing the significance of the highly unusual site, BBP took the bold step of repurposing the Cistern into a magnificent public space. In addition to tours highlighting the history and architecture of the Cistern, BBP presents an ambitious program of changing art installations in this iconic space, including past projects by Magdalena Fernández, Carlos Cruz-Diez, and Anri Sala.

About Kelly O’Brien: An artist and engineer, Kelly O’Brien has extensive experience designing and fabricating art installations. O’Brien develops his own large-scale artistic work, as well as managing Fenris, a team of designers and fabricators honed to build and install captivating creations for other artists. His application of engineering principles and fabrication methods successfully transforms workable ideas from the realm of imagination into three-dimensional reality.