Project: Banyoles Old Town
Location: Banyoles, Girona – Spain
Firm: Josep Miàs – MiAS ARCHITECTS
Year: 2011

Project Description: Overtime the historic fabric of Banyoles’ old town had deteriorated into a winding mess of streets overrun with parked cars, narrow sidewalks, aging utilities and a crumbling sewer system. This project transformed the urban landscape by pedestrianizing the quarter, burying utilities below ground and reengaging historic drainage system.

Working with the flow of water, the project uses drainage canals to rediscover the medieval settlement built into the limestone. Water once again becomes a protagonist in the life of the city. In this project we seek to exhaust the possibilities of water and stone. The scope of intervention is limited to the new pedestrian area and conforms to the town of medieval layout and architecture.

In addition to its architecture, a noteworthy feature of Banyoles is its succession of open spaces, small squares, in the otherwise compact medieval town. Due to the presence of these spaces, the layout of the old town undergoes a sequence of compressions and decompressions. These spaces, bounded by façades, pavement, arcades and singular elements, may be seen as open-pit excavations in the travertine.

The first intervention is to strip away the existing pavement to expose the historical substrate of the town, uncovering the remains of buildings, tombs, objects and old canals. The recs, the old water canals, are reincorporated into the streets, uncovered discontinuously in order to avoid disrupting the normal functioning of the town, while establishing a coherent discourse throughout the area.

The pavement is treated as if the stone itself were a liquid; vibrant like a cascade on the slopes and still on the flats. There remain, as if in a museum of time, traces of drift: trunk-benches, undulating silhouettes, random fragments of ruins…

The pavement is now sculpted, even eroded, by the groundwater, in the form of canals and troughs along which the water runs.


Project Credits

Project team: Silvia Brandi, Adriana Porta, Mario Blanco, Josep Puigdemont, Fausto Raposo, Mafalda Batista, Judith Segura, Sophie Lambert, Sven Holzgreve, Thomas Westerholm, Oliver Bals, Marta Cases, Julie Nicaise, Lluís A. Casanovas, Anna Mallén, Bárbara Fachada, Marco Miglioli

Photographer: Adrià Goula


2010, PREMIS FAD Finalist



Project: Promenada
Location: Velenje, Slovenia
Year: 2014
Competition: Open Competition, First Prize

Project Description:  The Velenje “Promenada” is an important city space and a vital city thoroughfare. It is one of the central axes of the centre of Velenje, a young town designed in the 1950s, based on the Modernist ideal of the garden city; as such, it is unique in the Slovene landscape. The renovation of the Promenada represents the first step towards the gradual revitalisation of the city centre. Its tasks are to supply the city with the missing programmes and to help it reclaim its original character of a town-in-a-park. A successful renovation, informed by the awareness of the excessive surfaces designated for traffic, must bring together two requirements seemingly at odds with each other: “More greenery and more programme.”

The existing promenade was created by closing the former traffic road almost thirty years ago. Even though it was re-paved, a sufficiently thorough transformation never took place and the promenade retained the character of a road, remaining too wide and rather dull due to the lack of content. It has been a hybrid space between the road and the surface intended for pedestrians – chiefly a straight path quickly leading the users of the secondary-school complex and the community health center to the inner center without providing any animation for those out for a walk.

Through renovation, the wide straight connection underwent a transformation into a sequence of micro-ambients, of locally widened surfaces connected by a slightly twisting narrower path. The manipulation of layered surfaces slow the flow of pedestrians, allowing spaces for pause, contemplation, and gathering. As the path twists along the surrounding building edges, it provides outdoor spaces that act as extensions of interior programming and which are adaptable over time. In the initial phase, these newly formed public spaces are simply and cost-effectively laid out as sand or grass surfaces, allowing a wide range of use with modest investment.

At the center of the Promenada, a new amphitheater has been created along the river. The Paka River is a torrential and unpredictable body of water, swelling significantly several times a year, but remaining relatively shallow at all other times. In past decades, to protect development from flooding, the riverbed was deepened and the river which was once an attractive element of any city, flowed out of sight. Past widening of the bridge also meant that anyone walking across the structure had a hard time seeing the river at all.

By narrowing the bridge and moving it off the former axis, the design creates space for a new amphitheater, which slowly slopes down towards the river surface. This new public performance space has become the center of urban life allowing the river to once again claim its importance in the city’s consciousness.

Project Credits:

ENOTA Team: Dean Lah, Milan Tomac, Tjaž Bauer, Andrej Oblak, Polona Ruparčič, Nuša Završnik Šilec, Alja Černe, Nebojša Vertovšek

Project Credits:
Elea iC (Structural Engineering)
Nom Biro (Mechanical)
Elsing (Electrical)

Photography: Miran Kambič

Living With Water

Project: Living with Water
Location: New Orleans, LA
Firm: Waggonner & Ball (lead)
Year: 2008-2010; 2011-2013
Project Website:

Project Description: Living in the Mississippi River Delta requires constant awareness of the forces of water, with multiple lines of defense to protect against high water in the Mississippi River, hurricanes approaching from the Gulf of Mexico, and intense rainfall inherent to the sub-tropical climate. The federal levees and floodwalls at the city’s perimeter protect human settlement from high river waters and hurricane storm surges. Within the levees, complex systems of canals, pipes, and pumps protect against flooding caused by rainfall. However, these systems are inadequate to the challenges posed by a changing urban landscape and climate and are the primary cause of subsidence in the region. With these concerns in mind in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Waggonner & Ball saw an opportunity for New Orleans to reinvent itself as a safe, resilient, economically vibrant city that embraces its life-blood: water. This water management concept, Living With Water, is paradigm shift from a drain-pipe-pump mentality toward a system that values water as an asset. Explored through the Dutch Dialogues workshops and developed in the Greater New Orleans Urban Water Plan, the first large-scale Living With Water projects will soon be implemented through the City’s winning National Disaster Resilience Competition entry for the Gentilly Resilience District.

Initiated in 2006 and facilitated by the Royal Netherlands Embassy in Washington DC, Waggonner & Ball reached out to a multi-disciplinary array of Dutch and American organizations to examine methods for improving the design of urban water in the greater New Orleans area. Cosponsored with the Dutch Embassy and the American Planning Association, the three Dutch Dialogues workshops engendered a knowledge exchange between Dutch and American planners and urban designers, architects and engineers, and soils and hydrology experts as well as agencies and universities. This process not only explored the potential to transform land use by focusing first on water, but also established an international network of water management experts whose involvement continues beyond the workshops and Louisiana.

Development of principles established in the Dutch Dialogues continued when, in 2011-2013, the State of Louisiana’s Office of Community Development funded the development of the Greater New Orleans Urban Water Plan. This science and design-based process for creating a resilient and sustainable New Orleans region generated an unprecedented exchange among industry, government, economic development, and non-profit leaders. The plan focuses on water within the existing levee system – primarily stormwater, surface waters, and groundwater – offering a new vision for managing these resources while also addressing pluvial flooding, subsidence, and the misuse of regional water resources. It outlines principles for water management, regional planning, and urban design that are specific to place and developed out of a process that considers local soils, water and biodiversity; existing infrastructure networks; and the city’s distinct urban fabric.

The Urban Water Plan proposes a new investment model for public works wherein spending on streets, canals, pump stations, and stormwater detention basins enhances public spaces and yields opportunities for economic growth and development. Proposed retrofits strengthen existing water systems, make use of undervalued water assets, enhance key corridors, and broaden the hurricane protection concept of “multiple lines of defense” to incorporate urban water management. The five core principles of Living With Water are:

  1. Slowing and storing stormwater
  2. Circulating and recharging surface waters and groundwater
  3. Building with nature
  4. Designing for adaptation
  5. Working together

The plan is a living document created to guide long-range planning and investments for the next fifty years. Because water knows no boundaries, the plan calls for implementation at a range of scales and across political lines. The Greater New Orleans Urban Water Plan is publically available for download at


Project Credits

DD1 Workshop Directors: Waggonner & Ball, Royal Netherlands Embassy, American Planning Association

DD1 Workshop Participants: (Dutch) Arcadis; Royal Haskoning DHV; City of Rotterdam; Netherlands Ministry of Environment, Spatial Planning and Housing; Netherlands Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment; Netherlands Ministry for Transport, Public Work and Water Management; Rijnland Water Board; Delft University of Technology

(American) America’s Wetland Foundation; Center for Planning Excellence; CH2M; Conciously Rebuilding; CRCL; Fertel Foundation; Flood Protection Alliance; Laborde Marine; Port of New Orleans; SELA Flood Protection Authority; Wayne Troyer Architects; U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; State of Louisiana, Senator Landrieu’s Office; Louisiana Department of Transportation & Development; Louisiana Economic Development; Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority; Louisiana Recovery Administration; Jefferson Parish; Plaquemines Parish; St. Bernard Parish; New Orleans Office of Recovery and Development Administration; New Orleans Regional Planning Commission; New Orleans City Planning Commission; New Orleans Sewerage and Water Board; Louisiana State University; Tulane University; Washington University in St. Louis

DD2 Workshop Directors: Waggonner & Ball, Royal Netherlands Embassy, American Planning Association

DD2 Workshop Participants: (Dutch) Arcadis; Bosch Slabbers; Deltares; DHV; ds+V; ; Robbert de Koning Landscape Architects; City of Amsterdam; City of Rotterdam; Netherlands Ministry for Transport, Public Work and Water Management; Netherlands Ministry of Environment, Spatial Planning and Housing; NIROV; Province of South Holland; Delft University of Technology; University of Wageningen

(American) Audubon Engineers; Center for Urban and Environmental Solutions; DMJM/Harris; Goody Clancy; Manning Architects; Schrenk & Peterson; Spackman Mossop and Michaels; Villavaso & Associates; Wallace Roberts Todd; Greater New Orleans Community Data Center; City of Fort Worth; Louisiana State University; University of New Orleans; Tulane University; University of Virginia; Washington University in St. Louis

DD3 Workshop Directors: Waggonner & Ball; Royal Netherlands Embassy; American Planning Association; Netherlands Water Partnership; United States Environmental Protection Agency; Tulane University

DD3 Workshop Participants: (Dutch) Arcadis; Bosch Slabbers; Deltares; H+N+S Landscape Architects; Palmbout Urban Landscapes; Royal Haskoning; City of Amsterdam; City of Rotterdam; Delft University of Technology; Wageningen University

(American / Canadian) AECOM; Avegno Bailey & Associates, Inc.; Cashio Cochran LLC; CDM Smith; Brown+Danos Landdesign, Inc.; Gil Kelley & Associates; Manning Architects; Shrenck & Peterson; Stull & Lee, Inc.; SWA Group; Tierra Resources; Urban Progress Design; Waldemar S. Nelson & Company, Inc.; Friends of Lafitte Corridor; New Orleans City Park; City of New Orleans; New Orleans Department of Public Works; New Orleans Redevelopment Authority; New Orleans Regional Planning Commission; Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority; National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; Louisiana State University; University of Toronto; University of Virginia; Washington University in St. Louis; Yale University


Greater New Orleans Urban Water Plan

Design Team:
Waggonner & Ball, Project Lead, Coordination
Arcadis US; Engineering, System Cost Engineering
Bosch Slabbers Landscape + Urban Design; Landscape Architecture, Project Design
CDM Smith; Hydraulic Modeling, Outreach
City of Rotterdam; Water System Operations
Dana Brown & Associates; Landscape Architecture, Outreach
Deltares; Geohydrology, Implementation
FutureProof; Sustainability, Implementation
H+N+S Landscape Architects; Landscape Architecture, Urban Design
Manning Architects; Urban Design, Outreach
Palmbout Urban Landscapes; Landscape Urbanism
Robbert de Koning Landscape Architect; Landscape Architecture, Project Design
Royal Haskoning; Hydrology, Water System Analysis
Tulane University; Jurisdictional Context, Implementation
Washington University in St. Louis; Project Design

Senior Advisors:
Dale Morris, Royal Netherlands Embassy
Paul Farmer, American Planning Association
Piet Dircke, Arcadis NL

Kristina Hill, University of California Berkley
Bry Sarté, Sherwood Design Engineers
Jane Wolff, University of Toronto
Han Meyer, Delft University of Technology
Ton Schaap, City of Amsterdam
Steven Slabbers, Bosch Slabbers Landscape + Urban Design
Lodewijk van Nieuwenhuijze, H+N+S Landscape Architects
John Klingman; Tulane University

Resource Team:
Bright Moments; Outreach
Dewberry; NFIP Consulting, Risk Assessment
Eustis Engineering; Geotechnical and Hydrogeological Data
GCR; Economic Benefit Analysis
LSU Coastal Sustainability Studio; Visualization Tools
Waldemar S. Nelson and Company, Inc.; Project Cost Estimating


Aqueous Ecologies

Project: Aqueous Ecologies
Location: Willets Point, NY
Designer: Michael Ezban
Year: 2013
Program: Harvard University Graduate School of Design
Faculty Advisor: Chris Reed

Project Description: ‘Aqueous Ecologies’ imagines a future for Willets Point, a derelict peninsula in Queens, NY, in which new ecologies, economies, and cultural identities of the city are intertwined with landscape-based solutions for adaptive, polyfunctional, and publicly accessible wastewater management and treatment. Aquaculture becomes a foundation for an ecological urbanism.

Rather than starting with a traditional masterplan, this project proposes a productive ecology of multi-trophic aquaculture (closed-loop fish farming) as a catalyst for urban development. A 50-year process for cultivating aquaculture and urbanism at Willets Point increases wildlife biodiversity and creates cultural and economic synergies over time, at both local and regional scales. Over time, synergistic relationships between aquaculture and urbanism mature, establishing the urban core as a greywater and stormwater supply for a burgeoning aquaculture industry.

At areas of high urban density, waters flow through hard- and soft-bottom channels, from sidewalk swales to plaza basins. The alternating conditions of saturation and desiccation at these urban spaces foster a dynamic range of recreational and commercial activity. At the littoral zone of Willets Point, the character of the landscape is quite different. Biotic succession and daily tide dynamics are evident in the expansive salt marshes, while kelp cultivation groins — thriving on aquaculture wastewater — extend into Flushing Bay, becoming armatures for sediment accumulation and spontaneous vegetation. The kelp can either be exported into culinary and medicinal economies, or remain within the aquaculture system as processed fish meal.

Public access throughout the littoral zone, via boardwalks that convey wastewater for treatment, allows for immersive cultural experiences and an opportunity to experience the dynamism of succession and daily tide dynamics. Processes of sediment deposition and accumulation against these boardwalks lead to the emergence of publicly accessible habitat islands. During storm events, public activities shift to elevated civic spaces that float above temporarily flooded civic spaces. The raised infrastructure connects to existing elevated transit lines and roof gardens and allows aquaculture and wastewater filtration to intertwine at multiple levels within the fabric of the city.


Featured in Scenario 3: Rethinking Infrastructure 


Queens Plaza

Project: Queens Plaza
Location: Long Island City, NY
Firm: Margie Ruddick
Year: 2003
Firm website:

Project Description:  Queens Plaza is the gateway to Long Island City from Manhattan. Spanning eight city blocks, the completed project enhances a tangle of 14 lanes of traffic, two elevated subway lines, two bridges, and a parking lot. Through road realignment, the project improved vehicular circulation, created alternative transportation corridors, and opened space for a primary park area.

As one of two pilot projects for New York City’s High Performance Infrastructure Guidelines, Queens Plaza utilizes a constructed wetland and subsurface filtration systems to prevent over 20.2 million gallons of stormwater from entering the city’s combined sewer system, reduces ambient noise pollution from elevated trains passing through Queens Plaza by 23%, and has increased surrounding property values by 37% (during a period when NYC Metro property values increased by 8%). On an average summer day, Queens Plaza attracts 125 visitors to a site once described colloquially as the ‘Boulevard of Death’.

Designed in collaboration with the artist Michael Singer, the project employs interlocking and modular permeable pavers that serve as firm walking surfaces and that transport surface runoff to infiltration areas. This strategy incorporates high albedo asphalt aggregates, recycled asphalt, and reused demolition materials for a sub-base in order to reduce ambient air temperatures and watering requirements for the project’s 489 native trees and grasses.

Rather than removing or masking the surrounding infrastructural elements, the project incorporates flexible stainless steel mesh to highlight the complex and irregular volumes created by the undergirding of the elevated rails. Through creative lighting, these spaces are turned into a lantern-like serial installation suspended between the vehicular traffic above and pedestrian traffic below. These structures provide the tracks with legibility and highlight them as a wayfinding beacon at the interaction of Jackson Avenue and Queens Plaza.

Rejecting the notion of passive ‘greening,’ Queens Plaza reactivates an underutilized space and the surrounding urban fabric created by unplanned infrastructural layering. Satisfying performative criteria and providing social and recreational benefits, the project is a robust precedent of what landscape can achieve in a challenging urban context.

Project Team:

Margie Ruddick – Design Lead
Marpillero Pollak Architects – Architecture and Urban Design
Michael Singer Studio – Public Art
WRT – Landscape Architecture
Leni Schwendinger Light Projects – Lighting Design
Langan Engineering – Civil Engineering


Featured in Scenario 3: Rethinking Infrastructure  

Brooklyn Bridge Park

Project: Brooklyn Bridge Park
Location: Brooklyn, NY
Firm: Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, Inc.
Year: 2010 – Piers 1, Pier 6;
2012—Pier 5;
2013—Pier 2, Pier 3/4 Uplands.
Firm website:

Project Description: Currently under construction, Brooklyn Bridge Park will eventually encompass approximately eighty-five acres and 1.3 miles of waterfront. The park’s goals are both ambitious and straightforward: to preserve the dramatic experience and monumental character of the industrial waterfront while reintroducing self-sustaining ecosystems to the site and investing it with new social and recreational possibilities.

MVVA took a broad mandate of sustainability and applied it across a range of spheres—ecological, structural, cultural, and economic. Sociological diversity, programmatic flexibility, and a robust post-industrial nature are threaded together to create a park that can function both as a metropolitan park on the scale of Olmsted’s landscape infrastructures and as a collection of smaller, nested neighborhood parks.

Brooklyn Bridge Park’s design took on a site with limited access points, a narrow overall width, extreme noise pollution from the adjacent elevated highway, a complex structural waterline condition, and a goal of capturing and recycling stormwater. Excess stormwater is collected from buildings, paved areas, lawns, and planting areas, conveyed into underground tanks, and then cycled and cleansed through rain gardens, supporting a lush swath of rain garden plantings. This runoff collection system, in conjunction with the increased use of water-absorbing lawn and planted areas, dramatically curtails the discharge of stormwater runoff into city systems and lowers the likelihood of combined sewer overflow.

Pier One and Pier Six function as “urban junctions,” entrances to the park that will attract families and individuals on a daily and year-round basis with programs such as playgrounds, picnic tables, benches, areas of accessible natural plantings, a dog run with water, and park concession buildings with restrooms. This first phase of Brooklyn Bridge Park provides vital new social spaces and urban programs while bookending the site and laying the foundation for a continuous waterfront park to grow in between. The salt marsh landscape on Pier 6, sports fields and courts on Piers 2 and 5, a community lawn space on Pier 3, a beach, and other park amenities will come with future phases of park construction.

Project Websites: Brooklyn Bridge Park NYC 
An interview with Matthew Urbanski (Places Journal) 

Project Team: MVVA, Team Lead, Landscape Architecture / Urban Design
AECOM, Marine & Site Infrastructure
Ysrael A. Seinuk, P.C., Structural Engineering
Nitsch Engineering, Stormwater Reuse Consultant
Maryann Thompson Architect, Architecture for Pier 2 and Warming Hut
Richmond So Engineers , Pier 2 Park Building & Warming Hut Structural Engineering
Domingo Gonzales Associates , Lighting Design
Open , Graphic Design
Pine & Swallow Associates , Soil Science
R.J. Van Seters Company , Water Feature Consultant
Paulus, Sokolowski and Sartor, Park Buildings Architect & MEP

The CityDeck

Project: The CityDeck
Location: Green Bay, Wisconsin, USA
Firm: Stoss Landscape Urbanism
Year: 2009-2012
Firm website:

Project Description: The CityDeck is the heart of a multi-phase redevelopment project along Green Bay’s Fox Riverfront with aims to significantly increase access to the river and to diversify social and ecological life along it. The boardwalk is activated by an undulating wooden surface that provides spaces for gathering, docking, watching, and playing. The sectional diversity creates a wide range of seating configurations and river overlooks. The boardwalk is flexible, accommodating both large and small gatherings comfortably for round-the-clock and year-round activity.

The design inventively integrates sustainable stormwater, material, and lighting strategies; it reorients downtown to the riverfront; it frames opportunities for new development; and it creates an entirely new image for the City of Green Bay. Project planning and design involved intense public and stakeholder participation, as well as extensive coordination with local, county, state, and federal agencies.

Phase 1 opened in stages in 2009 and 2010. Phases 2 and 3 were completed in 2011-2012.

Project Team Members: Chris Reed, principal, lead designer; Scott Bishop, project manager.
Design Team: Tim Barner, Cathy Braasch, Steve Carlucci, Jill Desimini, Adrian Fehrmann, Carl Frushour, Kristin Malone, Chris Muskopf, Susan Fitzgerald, Jana Kienitz, Lisl Kotheimer, Bryan Miyahara, Graham Palmer, Megan Studer, Sarah Wright.

Vetter Denk, urban design
GRAEF Anhalt Schloemer and Associates, structural engineering
STS Consultants/AECOM, civil and geotechnical engineering
Light THIS!, lighting design
Pine + Swallow, soil science
Clark Dietz, electrical and plumbing
WF Baird Associates, cost

Find out more:
CityDeck Website.
“Restaurants Loving Dine on the Deck,” Fox News, July 2011.
“Dine on the Deck livens up downtown Green Bay Waterfront,” Scott Cooper Williams, July 2011.
“River key selling point for Green Bay’s downtown: City in talks with two unnamed businesses,” Mark Leland, July 2011.

Image credits: 
All images and photos by Stoss Landscape Urbanism, except for the final image: Photo by Jeff Mirkes, Executive Director for Downtown Green Bay, Inc

Text and Stoss drawings are all provided for use on the Scenario Journal website. No other use or distribution is authorized.

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.


PatchWork, Living City Design Competition

Project: PatchWork, Living City Design Competition
Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
Firm: OLIN
Year: 2011
Firm Website:

Project Description: OLIN’s award-winning submission to the Living City Design Competition responded to ambitious standards of sustainable development within the historically rich, yet socially and ecologically underserved neighborhoods of Brewerytown and North Central in Philadelphia. Working closely with the architects and urban planners Digsau and Interface Studio, the OLIN team explored how sustainable design can be implemented within an existing urban framework by utilizing local resources, community engagement, and respect for vernacular culture and architecture.

Using an “evolving block” strategy, the team phased incremental and achievable improvements over a span of twenty-five years. To meet 100% on-site renewable energy for thousands of households, homes are retrofitted with façades of photovoltaic panels, and the commercial spine along Ridge Avenue is shaded with canopies that collect solar power. Vacant parcels punctuating blocks of row homes transform into a pedestrian-friendly network of green spaces populated by play areas, community gardens, and urban farms. Existing row homes are either retrofitted, renovated, or replaced. Structural materials deemed necessary for demolition are salvaged for reuse elsewhere in the neighborhoods, thereby supplying over thirty million bricks and three million square feet of wood for building new homes.

Rain gardens and roof cisterns combine with district-level “living machine” water treatment centers located along the green space network. This integrated system reduces the neighborhoods’ per capita potable water consumption from 69.3 gallons per day (the amount used by an average American) to 9.2 gallons, and eases demand on the city’s aging and over-burdened combined stormwater and sewer system. The long-abandoned Red Bell Brewery is refurbished, creating local jobs and opportunities for locavore farming. This measure contributes to the goal of meeting 80% of the district’s food needs within a 500-mile radius.

Image Credits: The Olin Studio.

Project Team Members: DIGSAU, Interface Studio