You’ve heard the phrase form follows function and at the Water Works site that’s both figuratively and literally true. This month, we’re exploring the hardscape that shapes the park and lends it an exciting multi-level, multifunctional character.
To learn more, I spoke with Jean Garbarini, lead landscape designer and Principal at Damon Farber Landscape Architects. We first met Garbarini in October, when we toured the project as construction was ramping up and she told us how important to weave pedestrian connectivity into and through the site. Since then, several distinctive concrete forms have been installed in the areas known as the south plaza and the city steps to do just that.
“Access is very important in this project, where we wanted plenty of opportunities to navigate between that really high point on First St. and the level of West River Parkway below it,” explains Garbarini. “But because of the compressed size of the site we had to double our circulation with places for rest and gathering.”
The designers opted for precast concrete, which gives a much crisper and defined shape than relying on casting in place. Minnesota-based American Artstone created all of the precast blocks for seating and retaining walls. The “grays in the limestone on the historic mill buildings act as our precedent for color,” notes Garbarini, who chose a light gray color for the precast.
Similarly, the future General Mills Plaza will feature dark gray granite pavers, which are being quarried in Ely. “Granite pavers will add a little bit more texture in the main plaza and they are so much more durable than any other type of stone,” says Garbarini. “They’ll last forever, are salt-resistant, and because it will be dry set and not mortared, individual pavers can be lifted and reset if they ever move.”
In the coming weeks, we’ll begin to see the hardscape soften, visually at least, with mostly native plantings. We’ll check in with Garbarini then. In the meantime, enjoy a few more images of the park in progress (with, as always, special thanks to Doug Verdier!).