Des Moines Water Works, working in partnership with Iowa State University Department of Landscape Architecture, recently announced that Sasaki Associates, with RDG Planning & Design and Applied Ecological Services (AES), is the winning team of the Water Works Parkitecture Competition.
The Parkitecture competition, aptly named for its emphasis on the fundamental role landscape architecture and design play in re-envisioning Water Works Park, began June 2011. The international design competition entailed the creation of a conceptual plan for Water Works Park to form dynamic relationships between the river, the watershed, and the community.
A panel of judges representing the design industry, Des Moines Water Works and the Greater Des Moines community, reviewed 44 proposals and selected 5 finalists for further review and public comment. The winning team of Sasaki Associates, RDG Planning & Design and AES was confirmed by the Board of Water Works Trustees of the City of Des Moines, Iowa.
The competition sought proposals to integrate the ecological and social function of a park and river into a unified landscape; to inspire the community and to generate discussion about watershed issues/best practices; and offer innovative design solutions to address ecological and recreational challenges specific to Water Works Park.
The 1,500 acre park is bisected by the Raccoon River and a 3-mile-long infiltration gallery, which is a major source of drinking water for Des Moines. The overall vision of Sasaki’s winning plan was to shape, using the natural boundary of the River, two distinct – yet complementary – sections of the Water Works Park: the wild and the engineered. The wild offers immersion into the park’s magnificent natural setting through activities like horseback riding, hiking, and exploration. The engineered is the active heart of the park and provides more structured outdoor activities and event spaces.
The centerpiece of the ‘engineered landscape’ is a recreational watercourse, experienced on standing paddleboards, that is linked to interpretive opportunities regarding the role of the site in harvesting and cleaning drinking water. The engineered landscape also connects to city streets, integrating the park with the urban fabric of Des Moines. Through a series of engaging experiences, the plan offers the potential to realize Water Works Park’s mission – to transform the way society thinks and understands the role of water in the region.
“Education and the connection between the river and the community were highly stressed in Sasaki’s winning plan,” said competition judge, Ted Corrigan, Director of Water Distribution and Grounds for Des Moines Water Works. “The concept of integrating recreation with water supply operational enhancements also stood out from the other submissions.”
Sasaki’s concept plan already won “People’s Favorite” at the public open house on December 15, at the Des Moines Art Center.
The design team and Des Moines Water Works will begin a concept validation process which will address specific issues and include public outreach. It is expected that a majority of the funds for implementation of the vision plan will be obtained through private fundraising and will not be borne by water rate payers.
Throughout the design process, the design team interviewed citizens, community leaders, focus groups, and stakeholders, and will continue engaging the public throughout the master plan and implementation process of the park.
“Building on this concept in a way that provides meaning to the people of Greater Des Moines will be key to the overall success of the ultimate design,” says Pat Boddy, RDG Planning & Design Stewardship Director.
The Water Works Park vision plan is the most recent in a series of urban Midwest floodplain projects for Sasaki. Sasaki principal and landscape architect, Gina Ford, has been involved in the firm’s work in Cedar Rapids, Council Bluffs, Chicago, and Des Moines.
“Our recent work has inspired a deep respect for the dynamism of the floodplain and the need for flood resilience,” she explains. “The Water Works Park competition provided us an opportunity to explore water holistically – from the watershed all the way to the tap. The site is rich with the potential to interpret and transform public understanding of water and its role in the region.”
Sasaki collaborated with Des Moines-based RDG Planning & Design and Minneapolis-based Applied Ecological Services on the competition entry and will continue to do so through implementation. Collectively, the team proffers progressive design strategy, creative vision, acute regional understanding, and technical prowess.
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