Sands Bethworks: Reinventing A Bethlehem Steel Mill

Project: Sands Bethworks
Location: Bethlehem, PA
Firm: SWA Group
Year: 2008
Firm website:

Project Description: While the US industrial revolution of the 1800s slowly recedes into the depths of national consciousness, the collective memory of rustbelt towns refuses to fade. Massive physical remnants of US industrialization, once considered fantastic achievements in manufacturing and engineering, lay in-situ, slowly decaying, overshadowed by current technological advancements, and given the acknowledgement equivalent to the weeds that now surround these relics. 

Sands Bethworks stands as an exemplary model of what landscape architects can bring to our nation’s post-industrial sites. The former home of Bethlehem Steel, this remediated brownfield illustrates how historic investigation can lead to salient features celebrated within a design. Most importantly, this adaptive re-use project has shown catalytic performance through its revival of South Bethlehem and the ensuing developments Sands Bethworks has engendered.

One of the most prominent examples of re-directing the environmental legacy of a post-industrial landscape can be traced to the south banks of the Lehigh Canal, in the city of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Comprising approximately 1,800 acres (20 acres of which were used for this project), or 20% of Bethlehem’s total land mass, is the former headquarters of Bethlehem Steel Corporation (BSC). Founded in 1904, Bethlehem Steel’s role during the industrial revolution was critical to the economic growth and prosperity of the United States and region. The headquarters in Bethlehem continued to operate until 1998 when US manufacturing divestment, foreign competition, and short-term profit goals finally led to its demise. After almost a century of operation, the effects of Bethlehem Steel’s closure on the city were heartbreaking as thousands of jobs disappeared instantly, along with 20% of Bethlehem’s total tax base. All that remained was a city facing impending bankruptcy, and the largest Brownfield site in the country.

The primary intent of the design was to preserve and elevate the historic industrial setting while capitalizing on the site’s current potential as an engine for economic growth. Following the closure of operations in 1998 and before the design team approached the project, Bethlehem Steel Corporation, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and the US Environmental Protection Agency enacted a cleanup agreement to begin the largest Brownfield conversion plan in the nation. Approximately 375 tons of soil contaminated with heavy metals and toxic compounds was excavated and transported to a permitted landfill, then backfilled with clean fill. Along with the excavation and removal of soil, removal of petroleum products and pathway elimination were implemented.

Project Team Members: Ying-Yu Hung, Gerdo Aquino, Alex Robinson, Michael Hee, Trent Okumura, David Gal.

Architect: RTKL Associates Inc.

Civil Engineering and Geotechnical: French & Parrello Associates, PA
Lighting: LDC – Lighting Design Collaborative
Interior Design: Walsh Bishop Associates, Inc.
Structural Engineer: Desimone Consulting Engineers, PLLC
Signage Design: Redmond Schwartz Mark Design
MEP Engineer: R.G. Vanderweil Engineers, LLP
Traffic Engineer: Lublanecki Engineering
Cost Consultant: VJ Associates, Inc.

CleanTech Corridor

Project: CleanTech Corridor
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Firm: Mia Lehrer + Associates
Year: 2010
Firm website:

Project Description:  The CleanTech Corridor is a 4 mile long district on the eastern edge of Downtown Los Angeles, stretching from the Los Angeles State Historic Park in the north, to the CleanTech Manufacturing Center in the South, and includes both the east and west banks of the channelized Los Angeles River.

The 2,000-acre development zone which encompasses a mix of industrial areas along the Los Angeles River was recently designated as the “Los Angeles Cleantech district”: the cornerstone of the Mayor’s vision to put Los Angeles at the forefront of the clean tech revolution and to transform the old, downtown industrial core of Los Angeles into an incubator for green jobs, technology and the growth of LA’s economy. The Clean Tech Corridor is envisioned to bring together researchers, designers and manufacturers dedicated to the development of clean technology products and solutions to climate change challenges.

To imagine the Cleantech district, the team answered an open ideas competition organized by SCI-Arc’s Future Initiatives program, the Mayors’ office and The Architect’s Newspaper.

To move beyond industrial use and create an integrated economic, residential, clean energy, and cultural engine for the city, the team, led by ML+A, explored high performance infrastructures and innovative landscape strategies to develop a highly contextual strategy based on re-using existing and under-utilized resources on the site. The team targeted three major urban infrastructural resources for reuse: the historic bridges crossing the Los Angeles River, the industrial urban fabric, and the LA River itself.


The urban character of the Los Angeles industrial corridor is a paradoxical blend of functionality and disregard. Currently most of the cities distribution, shipping and freight storage occur within this zone. However, there is no structural logic or organization to this corridor. Freight modal hubs are littered along Alameda and Olympic. This blanket of industry is now a barrier between the Eastern Los Angeles community and downtown cutting off a large residential community from accessing the economic center of the city. Due to the lack of organizational clarity to these transit systems, 20-30 percent of the ‘industrial’ buildings that populate the site are outdated with no inherent flexibility or market value – currently shuttered, and left derelict. Conversely, this is part of what makes the clean-tech corridor site so provocative – its raw space and potential for industry and innovation. However, to function within a modern metropolis, the corridor needs a systemic overhaul, a retrofitting to transition into an intermodal landscape in which systems for energy creation (including solar arrays and hydroelectric power), waste management, transportation, and water runoff are integrated.


1. The Bridges as destinations
The team chose to perceive the heroic and monumental bridges along the river as untapped opportunities for dynamic, flexible public space. Largely overlooked, the series of concrete bridges traversing the LA River are a major urban element that imposes a unique identity to the corridor. Major pieces of urban infrastructure, the bridges are an iconic remnant of a once useful and coherent transit system, before the freeways and cars, when the Los Angeles population moved in a less nodal, disparate fashion. The architectural bridges are programmed to integrate the community east of Los Angeles into the site, and formally stitch the two sides of the river.

2. The re-use of existing industrial fabric
The “high performance ruin” is one such strategy of remediating the current vacancy of the site and propagating the development of an interior small business corridor. By editing elements of existing building stock down to elemental form (and retaining a connection to the utility grid) new uses can be integrated with minimal investment. Ideally, the urban ruin is a flexible building platform allowing for different uses to be installed facilitating an adaptive, urban flexibility responsive to shifting business models and volatile markets.

3. The recalibrated LA river
The clean-tech corridor has a symbiotic relationship with the river channel and the periodic events of storm water. The district is re-envisioned as a water filter and percolation zone, while the river itself is redefined as a waterway to support ecological services and social recreation. Also addressing the current inadequate preparation for a 100 year event flood, flood pockets and open space have been introduced along the river as flood control devices to relieve the river in periods of excessive storm events.

Additional Information: Sponsored by SCI-Arc and The Architects Newspaper, 70 entries were received from architectural firms and students in 11 countries. The competition asked architects, landscape architects, designers, engineers, urban planners, students, and environmental professionals to create an innovative urban vision for the CleanTech Corridor. Entrants were encouraged to challenge conventional wisdom and move beyond industrial uses—creating an integrated economic, residential, clean energy, and cultural engine to re-invigorate the industrial district into a thriving mixed-use center. This design is a winning submission.

Project Team Members: Mia Lehrer + Associates (landscape architect)
Astrid Diehl
Zhihang Luo
Buro Happold (engineering)
Steve Chucovich
Ron Elad
Krista Flascha Laney
Jim Suhr (economist)
Elizabeth Timme (architect)

Re-Cultivating The Forest City

Project: Re-Cultivating the Forest City
Location: Cleveland, OH
Firm: PORT Architecture + Urbanism
Firm website:

Project Description: At its economic and political height during the mid-20th century, the city of Cleveland proper had a population of nearly 1 million people. The city was building and investing in infrastructural and civic projects for a projected growth that would double the city’s population before the turn of the century. Instead, the industrial economy quickly evaporated and the population declined by more than half its 1950s high (est. 430,000 in 2009), leaving a vast swath of post-industrial land at the geographic center of the city.

This vacant territory is directly tied to Cleveland’s two most significant natural features – its Lake (Erie) and its River (Cuyahoga). The well-known environmental degradation of these two water bodies was the direct result of the now lost industrial vitality of the City and Region. And while both of these water bodies are notorious for significant environmental issues in their recent history, both have stabilized and by most accounts have significantly improved from an ecological and environmental perspective. However, in an ironic twist of fate, the improvement in the ecological health of the Lake and River has occurred just as the City’s economic and social health has commensurately deteriorated. Our project proposes to correct this relationship, by advancing the City’s economy through the active enhancement of its ecology and its urban infrastructure by modifying and managing the lower Cuyahoga River Valley.

The industrial valley’s position at the center of the municipal territory, rather than at its periphery, is a distinguishing characteristic that allows any transformation of the area to have a direct reciprocal impact on the core of the city. Additionally, what makes this territory fertile ground for intervention is that just south of the burnt-out landscape of the lower valley lays the equally spectacular, lush, green canopy of the Cuyahoga Valley National Park which is home to the deep forests, rolling hills, and open farmlands that comprise the upland areas of the Cuyahoga River, as well as other landscapes of cultural and historic significance such as the Ohio-Erie Canal.

Re-Cultivating the Forest City looks to reclaim and re-imagine the entirety of the 8,200-acre lower Cuyahoga River Valley, from the terminus of the National Park at the territory’s southern edge, north to the river’s mouth near downtown Cleveland at the shores of Lake Erie. Our approach utilizes a strategy of productive re-colonization, combining economic, ecological and social initiatives to transform the lower Cuyahoga River Valley into a new River Landscape Infrastructure that enhances and expands the ecological value of the river corridor, while simultaneously serving to reorient the economy and urban form of the City of Cleveland.

Project Team Members: Christopher Marcinkoski, Andrew Moddrell, Kyle Reynolds, Richie Gelles, Bradford Goetz, Maren Allen and Jeff Mikolajewski

Perimeter City 238

Project: Perimeter City 238
Location: Lincoln, NE
Designer: Andrew Ferentinos
Year: 2012
Program:  Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Faculty Advisors: Alan Berger, Alexander D’Hooghe

Project Description: Even though the U.S. metropolitan area population is an expanding suburbia, most research on cities is focused on high density, compact urban areas. Metropolitan horizontal scale has largely been neglected even though it is likely to remain the model for many years to come. Lincoln, Nebraska is taken as a model to research innovative models of suburbanization that can be applied to other U.S. cities.

The issues Lincoln face are common to many cities. Majority of inhabitants share the suburban desire to have both city and country at their fingertips. Unfortunately, under the status quo of concentric-ringed expansion, the peri-urban edge—the interface where countryside and city meet—is constantly unstable and fleeting. It is only a matter of time until the edge is consumed by expansion, turning it into a massively thick, low value middle ground, neither city nor country. Agricultural land is constantly consumed, pushing food sources further from their demand.

PERIMETER CITY 238 provides an alternative. It accommodates a doubling population—an increase of 250,000 people by 2050—into a plan that achieves three main goals. It stabilizes, protects, and maximizes the highly sought after peri-urban edge. It distributes a network of relatively higher density urban nodes easily accessible to the low/mid density peri-urban edge. It minimizes and eliminates low value, unwanted middle ground.    

This plan is achieved by using infrastructure to focus growth into eleven new linear cities, or Fingers, that link Lincoln’s satellite towns to the existing city. The result is a new asterisk shaped city that maximizes perimeter and radically increases contact between city and agricultural land from 107 to 228 linear miles. This plan maintains Lincoln’s scale and character as a mid/low-density city, and ensures the continued presence of the agriculture, industry, and prairie landscapes that define its origins and productive future.

Finger-Structure:  The particulars of local topography serve as an organizing principle for the plan. Each of the Fingers, roughly 7 miles long by 1.5 miles wide, contain a population of roughly 25,000. These linear footprints are aligned roughly along ridgelines, leaving lowlands and floodplains to the areas in-between serving as agricultural and prairie habitat.

Transportation: A new continuous parkway, the Cornbelt, traces the outer edges of all eleven Fingers, clearly defining the boundary between city and countryside. An Interior Belt marks the threshold between Lincoln’s existing urban fabric and the new finger extensions. Another highway, the Ring Road, runs perpendicularly across the center of each finger and provides a cross connection between each Finger.

Nodes: Three types of architectural and landscape interventions organize the structure of the Fingers. First, within each Finger, a centrally located Civic Node acts as a growth magnet and center of economics, commerce, entertainment, culture, and civic space.  Second, Water reservoirs and constructed wetlands are located at the junctions between each Finger. This helps block suburban expansion into farmland. It will comprise a significant element of the future city’s water infrastructure, improving regional water quality as well as providing wildlife habitat and recreational opportunities. Third, land that is excavated in the process is used as fill to raise the elevations of the terminal ends of each Finger. Upon these terminal mounds, ethanol plants and Waste-to-energy facilities are located.

Open Space:  Each linear city will have a network of linked open spaces and natural areas that preserve features such as floodplains and forest while connecting existing parklands. A Constructed Central Park culminates at each finger’s Civic Node. Ringed with higher-density housing, this park accommodates a variety of public activities. The large areas of land lying beyond each finger will be preserved as a mix of productive farmland and prairie, maintained as a publicly accessible landscape preserve.

Infiltrated Cultural And Ecological Urbanism

Project: Infiltrated Cultural and Ecological Urbanism
Location: Kaohsiung City, Taiwan
Firm: Maxthreads Architectural Design
Year: 2011
Firm website:

Project Description: Kaohsiung Ecological District lies on the edge of the Kaohsiung city, along the Wan Shu mountain. The project represents an example of infrastructure-led gridded planning resulting in a cohesive network of new road systems and urban landscape along Kaohsiung port station.

The proposal draws inspiration from the grid of the historic train tracks and uses it as a planning base. A leaf-like spin channels through the site, lending a distinctive identity of its urban planning system. The proposal also exemplifies essential aspects of sustainable urban planning including an integrated mixed-use community that encompasses living, working and leisure within a compact city form and is complemented with a balance of civic and natural spaces.

Further, the development is inspired by the culturally and biologically responsive between the new city urban fabric and existing old town Yen Chan district. The guiding principle of the master plan proposal is to inspire a meaningful sense of community and a shared commitment for social and environmental responsibility. The proposal also introduces a series of urban agriculture farming and historically integrated parks. The strategy is to infiltrate and to conceal the community and biological diversity from the nearby Wan Shu mountain. It also reflects the historical transformation of Kaohsiung city from industrial city to a contemporary cityscape.

Presentation animation material:

Project Team Members: Max Yang, Eve Lee, Amy Millar, Wayne Chang

Reclaiming The Shoreline: Redefining Indiana’s Lake Michigan Coast

Project: Reclaiming the Shoreline:  Redefining Indiana’s Lake Michigan Coast
Location: Michigan City, IN
Designer: Dane Carlson 
Year: 2011
Program: Ball State University, Undergraduate

Project Description: The NIPSCO coal generating station in Michigan City, Indiana is one of a series of industrial complexes which have dominated the shoreline of Lake Michigan for decades, bringing with them pollution of ground and water and crippled shorelines. This design solution utilizes the framework of industrial infrastructure to return the site to ecological and community function; as ecological processes develop through a series of phases, human inhabitation brings the site to life.

Program: The program consists of three primary components: ecological development, creation of a public realm and spatial network, and community development. Rather than creating the site as a destination, the program intends to extend all surrounding elements directly into the site design.

Ecology: Reestablishment of tiered dune ecosystems is the primary component of ecological restoration. The introduction of new sediment flows through littoral drift and longshore current, in addition to the creation of a semi-permeable jetty, allows for the accretion of sand along the shoreline, and this process is accelerated by the staggered formations of sheet pilings driven into the lakebed. As a new layer of dunes form here, landward sand becomes stabilized by pioneer vegetation, allowing it to host new and varied plant communities.

Four intradunal wetlands, also known as pannes, and one coastal wetland replace the series of ash settling ponds along the shoreline. The remaining layer of sheet piling, together with a sub-grade sheet of clay, forms a waterproof barrier leading to the accumulation of water at the bottom of each depression. The wet feet of each depression make them uniquely suitable to host rushes and sedges which form the basis of panne plant communities.

The creation of dune forests inland of the shoreline mimics the natural progression of successional dune ecologies. The ini­tial layer of dunes begins organic matter accumulation with cottonwood and dunegrass. Jack pine forest and oak savannah inhabit the layers of dune beyond this, and oak/hickory forests beyond these. Introduction of these tiers of dune evolution creates the basis for a permanently evolving, functional ecological system which mimics that of the national lakeshore to the south.

Community: Introduction of dense residential development allows the site to be a place of inhabitation as well as a destination. Located directly north of an existing neighborhood, this new community provides pedestrian connections to existing streets and al­lows residents from surrounding communities to access pedestrian circulation routes into the heart of the site. Community development lies on the site’s southern portion, maintaining the northern reaches as a place for ecological growth, ecotour­ism, and education. All homes front on open space and residents can easily access woodland canopies or recreational hotspots through aerial circulation systems. A central node makes basic services, such as daycare and grocery, within walking distance of homes.

Public Realm: The most iconic features of the generating station, in addition to most of the auxiliary structures, are adapted into public amenities. In the west, the cooling tower becomes a hotel, providing a viewing platform for the public and creating an anchor for the aerial circulation system. This system extends eastward through the community, carving a path for the creation of a green avenue defined by woodland plantings. To the east, both boiler houses host sport courts and adventure recreation due to their proximity to the creek’s waterfront. Here, an extension of the Franklin Street corridor forms the primary com­mercial and open public space on site. Access extends northward, connecting this attraction to the public beach through a series of woodland and waterside pathways open only to pedestrians.

The High Line: Section 1

Project: The High Line, Section 1
Location: New York, NY
Firm: James Corner Field Operations
Year: 2009

Project Description:  The High Line is a 1.2-mile long abandoned elevated freight rail line along the west side of lower Manhattan. This 5.9 acre stretch of open space spans twenty city blocks in between and through buildings from Gansevoort Street through the meat packing district and West Chelsea, up to 30th Street, and ending at the Hudson Rail Yards. The High Line was built in the 1930s as part of the larger West Side Improvement Project, funded by the City and State of New Yorkand the New York Central Railroad, to eliminate dangerous street-level railroad crossings. The existing substrate consists primarily of rock ballast, railroad ties, steel rails, and reinforced concrete. Over the past twenty-four years since the last train ran on the High Line in 1980, a thin layer of soil has formed in some areas and an opportunistic landscape of early successional species began to grow inspiring its current design.

The High Line is now recognized as an important and distinctive asset to the city: an urban event operating on many scales—leveraging a new way of seeing the city, connecting distinct neighborhoods, providing an important green space for the immediate neighborhoods, and modeling a new kind of urban “greening.” The re-imagination of this industrial relic was a unique opportunity, and the High Line has transformed into an exceptional public open space.

Project Team Members: Field Operations and Diller Scofidio + Renfro

Project Detailed Credits: 

Field Operations, Team Lead, Landscape Architecture / Urban Design
James Corner
Tom Jost
Lisa Switkin
Nahyun Hwang
Lara Shihab-Eldin
Sierra Bainbridge

Diller Scofidio + Renfro, Architecture
Elizabeth Diller
Ricardo Scofidio
Matthew Johnson
Charles Renfro
Gaspar Libedinsky
Hayley Eber

Piet Oudolf, Horticulture
Olafur Eliasson, Artist
L’Observatoire, Lighting Design
Buro Happold, Structural Engineering / Sustainable Engineering
Robert Sillman Associates, Structural Engineering / Historic Preservation
Philip Habib Associates, Traffic Planning
GRB, Environmental Engineering
VJ Associates, Capital and Operating Cost Estimating
ETM, Public Space Management
DVS Associates, Site Security
Applied Ecological Services, Inc., Ecology
Code Consultants,ADA/ NYC Code / Regulations
Creative Time, Public Art Programming
Control Point, Site Surveyor

Image Captions and Credits: Images courtesy of Jim Corner Field Operations.

1. Gansevoort End, Plaza, and Stairs, Gansevoort and Washington Streets
2. The Tenth Avenue Square, from street level, with windows onto Tenth Avenue
3. Gansevoort Woodland at Night, Aerial View from Gansevoort Street to West 13th Street, looking South
4. Gansevoort Plaza and Stair, Gansevoort Street and Washington Street, looking North
5. Gansevoort Woodland, Gansevoort Street to Little West 12th Street, looking South
6. Washington Grasslands, between Little West 12th Street and West 13th Street, looking South
7. Sundeck Water Feature and Preserve, between West 14th Street and West 15th Street, looking South
8. The Sundeck, one of the High Line’s most popular gathering spots, between 14th and 15th Streets
9. Northern Spur Preserve, between West 16th Street and West 17th Street, looking South towards the Statue of Liberty
10. Chelsea Grasslands, between West 19th Street and West 20th Street, looking North
11. Sundeck Water Feature and Preserve, between West 14th Street and West 15th Street, looking South
12. Washington Grasslands, aerial view of the High Line over Little West 12th Street

Palmisano Park

Project: Henry Palmisano (Stearns Quarry) Park
Location: Chicago, IL
Firm: Site Design Group, Ltd.
Year: 2009
Firm website:

Project Description: Henry Palmisano Park holds in its history an evolution of uses and values. Long operated as a quarry from 1830 through 1969, the site later became a landfill for the City of Chicago’s construction waste. Located in the neighborhood of Bridgeport, it is now a twenty-seven-acre environmental park designed to engage residents and support native eco-systems. As a joint project involving three Chicago agencies, the park exemplifies the city’s commitment to sustainability by the reuse of a post-industrial site as a place for exploration and discovery of natural systems.

Palmisano Park provides several native ecosystems, including prairie plant communities, simulated wetlands, and a large two-acre pond. These native ecosystems with bird and fish habitats have become a popular destination for thousands of Chicagoans. Tours and even overnight campouts are conducted by the city, universities, and organizations and draws the interest of sustainability activists throughout the United States. All stormwater on site, including from the massive hill—dubbed “Mount Bridgeport” by locals—is directed toward the pond and wetlands instead of the city’s sewers. The water flows through tiered educational wetlands that connect the community with nature and allows children and adults alike to walk amidst native plantings.

Exposed quarry walls, recycled materials, reclaimed limestone boulders, concrete outcropping, and remnants of abandoned infrastructure are as much a part of the park experience as the natural systems the site supports. With unusual terrain for the Chicago area, the central mound reaches a height of almost forty feet where visitors can view an impressive view of the Chicago skyline among native grasses and flora. This combination of experiences—natural, industrial, urban, residential—anchors the surrounding community to this new destination park, providing a local identity of urban sustainability.

Project Team Members:
Client/Owner: Chicago Park District
Photography Credit: Ron Gordon Photography and Site Design Group, Ltd.
Site Design Group Ltd. – Architect of Record, Landscape Architecture and Project Management
Ernest C. Wong, Principal-in-Charge; Michelle M. Inouye, Project Manager and Designer; Hana Ishikawa, Associate Project Manager;
Weston Solutions, Inc. – Civil and Environmental Engineering
Applied Ecological Systems, Inc. – Wetland Engineering
Kowalenko & Bilotti, Inc. – Environmental Engineering
Continental Associates – Electrical Engineering
Gagarin Farruggia Gibisch Reis, Inc. – Structural Engineering
Clauss Brothers, Inc. – General Contractor
Midwest Fence Corporation – Metalwork

Buffalo Bayou Promenade

Project: Buffalo Bayou Promenade
Location: Houston, TX
Firm: SWA Group
Year: 2010
Firm website:

Project Description:  Since Arthur Comey did his city plan for Houston in 1912, people have talked about making the city’s bayous into linear parks. It was not until the 1970s and 80s that the pieces began to fall into place. But serious gaps remained. The 1.2 mile long Buffalo Bayou Promenade was a critical missing link, tying the pastoral Buffalo Bayou Park to the west with the theater district and Houston’s downtown to the east. The Buffalo Bayou Partnership hired SWA Group to provide an early conceptual master plan transitioning urban bayou treatments to the pastoral bayou east and west of downtown which had been encircled by freeways and arterials. More recently, SWA was commissioned to complete the design of the west connection, addressing the unique physical constraints and challenges of the site while celebrating its urban and natural context in the heart of the city.

Traditionally, development had turned its back to this portion of the bayou. Towering freeway structures criss-cross the corridor, blocking out sunlight and spilling concentrated sheets of water off their sides during rain storms. Debris, trash, and silt travel along the waters of the bayou and are constantly deposited on the banks. Pedestrians who venture into this segment are more than thirty feet below the grade of surrounding streets, out of view, and with few access and egress points. Severe erosion occurred on excessively steep banks, while overgrown and invasive plantings created unsafe walking conditions for pedestrians. Recognizing these challenges, the design team employed a number of site specific solutions to make a successful pedestrian environment.

Extensive re-grading of the site enabled the team to lay back slopes, thereby helping to improve views into the park while also reducing the impact of erosion and improving flood water conveyance. The design used exposed concrete, recycled crushed concrete, and galvanized steel for their durability, cost effectiveness, and contextual relevance. The planting design re-established a living green tissue into an otherwise sterile environment leading into to the urban core. Groves of re-introduced native trees soften the harsh urban infrastructure, buffer noise, and mitigate the scale of the freeways.

Because Buffalo Bayou is the principal drainage system for much of Houston, the design team had to treat the waterway and its banks with special care. Gabion edge treatments offer visual clarity and therefore safety while utilizing over 14,000 tons of recycled crushed concrete. The stepped design accommodates changes in water levels while filtering floating storm debris. The open gabion cages also allow tree roots and riparian ground covers to form a natural edge while providing a porous foundation for the riparian benthic community.

The success of the park is measured, in large part, by its ability to function as a safe pedestrian environment at night. The landscape architects conceived of three orders of lighting to illuminate the park: a primary trail lighting system, a system of lights to wash through “dark nooks and crannies,” and an art-driven lighting component.

The 1.2 mile stretch of the Sabine-to-Bagby Promenade passes many of Houston’s historic and present day landmarks. Integrated within the wayfinding system, interpretive signage highlights the history of the waterway and the city of Houston. The design simultaneously celebrates historical infrastructure like the concrete foundations of Houston’s first civic center while educating pedestrians about flood-resistant native plants.

Project Team Members: SWA Group, Landscape Architect.
Lead Designer: Kevin Shanley; Project Team: Tim Peterson, Scott McCready, Lance Lowrey, Rhett Rentrop,  John Brandt.
Ann Olson, President, Buffalo Bayou Partnership.
Joe Turner, Director, City of Houston Parks and Recreation Department.

Photography Credits:  Tom Fox, Bill Tatham, SWA Group.

Additional Project Credits:
Architectural Lighting: HerveŽ Descottes; Stephen Korns, Artist
Public Art Sculpture: John Runnels, Artist
Geotechnical: Fugro South, Inc.
Civil Engineering: United Engineers, Inc.
Structural Engineering: Ken Tan and Associates
Electrical Engineering: Ferguson Consulting, Inc.
Planting Design: Mary L. Goldsby Associates – Landscape Architect
Irrigation Design: Ellis Glueck and Associates
Contractor: Boyer, Inc.


Cleveland Flats Connection Plan

Project: Cleveland Flats Connections Plan
Location: Cleveland, OH
Firm: CMG Landscape Architecture
Year: 2009
Firm website:

Project Description: Building Cleveland by Design (BCbD), a joint program of ParkWorks and Cleveland Public Art, has retained CMG to lead a design process for key connections in Cleveland’s historic Flats neighborhood. The scope of work calls for planning and schematic design for connections that will both bring greater unity to the central city neighborhood and link it more strongly to surrounding areas. Cleveland’s Flats is rich in historic and environmental value. CMG has emphasized ecological design through the planning and design process as a fundamental way to treat and re-frame the area’s rich but complex conditions with sensitivity.

CMG has worked with BCbD in a nimble and responsive manner, often providing material, designs and exhibits to enable community visioning and stakeholder communication on an as needed basis.  Simultaneously CMG has developed an open space framework plan to inform future public and private development of the historic Flats.  Various project sites are addressed in detail within the flats framework plan.  These discrete sites include: an 8 acre linear park with integral storm water treatment and habitat creation program; a remnant landscape that is nominated as a National Archeological Site that CMG has framed as an urban wild, again with an overlay of storm water treatment and habitat creation; a temporary one acre landscape installation to occupy an old parking lot.  The Connections planning and design is to knit together private and public investments in the district, helping ensure that residents and visitors can move easily between new neighborhoods and parks on both the East and West banks of the Cuyahoga River. By solidifying connections, the Flats can become a complete, walk-able neighborhood, attracting people, energy and investment back to the center of Cleveland.

Project Team Members: Willett Moss, Scott Cataffa, Calder Gillin