Mistreated landscapes such as old warehouses, dejected industrial complexes, abandoned quarries, landfills, etc. can be revitalized into unique spaces of public amenity. In his article, Rebirth of the Forgotten Landscape: Parts 1, 2, 3, published by Land8, Jeff Gonot highlights projects showing some of the possibilities.

Chambers Bay //University Place, WA_2miles of uninterrupted Puget Sound shoreline //360acre site /50acres of park /3miles of trail
An environmentally hazardous old gravel quarry was demolished for an environmentally responsible multi-use recreation hub: a golf course, hiking trails, a central meadow, dog park, an Environmental Services Building, and is under development with a Sewer Utility project that will limit wastewater discharge into the Sound. The Sewer Utility received the 2008 Northwest Biosolids Management Award, the 2007 Governor’s Award for Pollution Prevention and Sustainable Practices, and multiple Department of Ecology Outstanding Performance awards.

The design strategically incorporated the immense concrete mining relics, creating a stark contrast between rough gray industrial structures and the smooth swath of green turf. The trail weaves around and through the golf course, curving and peaking in a way that appropriately separates recreational uses.

Northside Park //Denver, CO_the center of a developable area along the South Platte River
Wenk //13acre part of Northside Redevelopment Plan /22.5acre industrial park
Grading of the site was manipulated to conceal/reveal the sewage treatment plant industrial framework. Removing the framework would have been cost prohibitive, while incorporation added unique site character. 30,000yards of concrete from the plant were crushed and used as fill and a wildlife viewing area was created from the recycled concrete. The reuse strategy achieved a 30% reduction in demolition costs.

The park included multi-purpose rec. fields, adaptive reused structures for shelters, restoration of naturalized wildlife habitat with NTF holding pond (altered slightly to allow limited human access), and concrete-lined drainage channel re-routed as a re-vegetated waterway accommodating surface runoff from the park and the regional watershed. Two concrete drop structures; one in the channel inside the park, the other at the canal’s entrance into the heron pond, serve to slow and filter stormwater before reaching the pond preserve and to accommodate grade changes. The waterway also serves to create a rough, wandering edge against the more maintenance intensive areas of the park.

Gale Fulton discussed an additional goal of the NRP’s, the reestablishment of cohesive residential neighborhoods after being intruded upon by post-industrial land uses and the nearby Interstate 70 corridor, in her article Denver’s Northside Park: The collision of program, process, and the past.

Fulton related the NRP with a discussion about propelling the profession of the landscape architecture forward. “Landscape architecture has become largely ameliorative (a condition exemplified by the automatic inclusion of tree-lined streets and grass parkways in many contemporary landscape architectural projects).” She suggested the approach of revealing to park users the processes and/or phenomena at work on the site. As can be learned in a brief overview of Environmental History, education breeds this demand. She suggested the designed features having potential are the naturalized waterway and the recycled concrete forms.

Without visiting the park it is hard to agree or disagree with the remainder of Fulton’s arguments which go into describing the current profession as lacking the “Olmstedian vision of an art form founded upon mystery and indeterminacy but purposeful in its aim to improve the social conditions of those for whom it was produced” and being displace by, “a rational, aesthetically motivated…often times unmindful of its power to influence societal conditions.” In premise, I would agree that design ought not be focused on ‘social convention’ forcing the user to adapt to the program, but rather it ought be site specific in that the users define the program, which may alter in time, pending on the users. What I could not find in her article were examples to justify her argument of how Northside failed to do so. I would argue adapting the post-industrial to a usable park for the residences in the area is exactly what she was recommending, adapting the program to the users needs.




Jeff Gonot
other link>embedded in article


  1. Reblogged this on Urban Choreography and commented:
    Artful park restoration with ecological benefits – but my one question is – where are the people in these pictures – do these beautiful pictures represent the needs of anyone who lives there – what do they do for enhancing peoples lives or are they only for the ‘environment?’These are political questions that Landscape Architects and designers are loath to enter into – after all we need the work don’t we?

    • A good question: “Do these beautiful pictures represent the needs of [the people]?”

      And the short answer, that I would argue, alludes analogous to the early conservation movement with Gifford Pinchot and the National Parks.
      1906 Antiquities Act afforded the President of the United States to designate as national moments objects of historic or ‘scenic value.’ This led to preservations, by President Roosevelt, such as the Grand Canyon, Washington’s Olympic peninsula, and by the end of Roosevelt’s Presidency, 41 national forest reserves encompassing 41 million acres and by 1909, 159 national forests containing 150 million acres (stat source: ‘Preserving the Nation’ by Thomas R. Wellock). Professor of Environmental History at North Dakota State University, Dr. Mark Harvey, argues that people are willing to pay for the protection of scenic places, such as Yellowstone or the Grand Canyon, without ever visiting them. He suggests that in the minds of many, it is the knowledge that these places exist that suffices. Perhaps the same can be said of local park systems. I can wake up in morning happier with knowledge I could go for a jog on a scenic trail if I wanted to…even if I don’t, I am more contented in life to have the option.

      Pinchot made the statement in Breaking New Ground, “The one great central problem [was] the use of the earth for the good of man…When the use of all the natural resources for the general good is seen to be a common policy with a common purpose, the chance for wise use of each of them becomes infinitely greater than it had ever been before.” Therefore, even if, for argument’s sake, people do not frequent the land, if the natural resources of the land are serving the common good, for example, in rainwater collection, stormwater treatment, the abatement of further development, therefore preserving the scenic land value for current residents, etc, it is of wise use of the land.

      So…are these landscapes “enhancing the lives” of the people who live there? Without asking them personally or following through with an in-depth site analysis, I can not concretely say one way or another. But what I can say with all certainty is that these designs entice me to move to one of those locations, so I could be one of those people with the leisure to enjoy them for their recreational benefits in addition to their scenic and environmental ones.

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