Plans to overhaul Tom Lee Park along Memphis’s Mississippi River depict the expanded public space as a series of ‘rooms’ that serve different civic functions interspersed with open space.
US architecture firm Studio Gang has designed the transformation of Tom Lee Park, a 30-acre (12.1-hectare) waterfront plot in collaboration with landscape architecture studio SCAPE.
The aim is to provide a better connection between the river and the city, restore natural ecology, and add a number of public facilities. These will include areas for education, sports, recreation, play and events, alongside amenities like a cafe, lockers, storage and bathrooms.
"The new Tom Lee Park will be a civic space for everyone in Memphis to enjoy," said Studio Gang founder Jeanne Gang.
The scheme will segment the park, which stretches from the top of the bluff to the bank of the Mississippi, into four distinct zones: The Gateway, The Riffle, The Pool and The Tailout. Each will draw on features of the Mississippi River Basin.
"The dynamic forms of the Mississippi River Basin itself inspired a series of ‘rooms’ in the park, creating a unique template for diverse civic spaces and ecological revitalisation," said SCAPE's design director Kate Orff.
New structures will take cues from historic designs previously built on the Memphis riverfront, like terminal buildings, grain elevators and barges to suit the surroundings, according to Studio Gang.
"We've designed the architecture to float in the landscape like vessels on the river, creating a park that uniquely reflects the changing nature of the Mississippi River and the city along its banks," said Gang.
The Gateway, located at the northernmost point, will form the main entrance to the park, and is designed to bolster the link between downtown Memphis and the riverfront. A connection will be provided by a terraced, accessible pathway, featuring wide steps that can function as seats overlooking the water.
The walkway will join the city's Beale Street to the Beale Street Landing on the water's edge. Here, visitors will be greeted by the Oxbow plaza, where water features and native plants will be interspersed with open space for public events, installations and festivals.
The Riffle will form the heart of the park, and is modelled on the "pattern of river water flowing over stones". At the centre, a large gridded canopy will cover sports courts designed for basketball, yoga, dance, and fitness classes. Other features include "eco edges" along the water.
Looped pathways will thread throughout the park to connect the different areas, and include a one-mile running circuit and workout equipment.
Next up, The Pool zone will be made up of a series of lawns and ponds for open-air sports games, and activities like picnics and kite flying. Large events, such as the city's annual Beale Street Music Festival, will also be hosted here.
The team's intentions for the southern end of the park, known as The Tailout, are to leave it wild and provide facilities for outdoor learning. An outdoor classroom design for STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) programmes will be included.
An architectural landmark will be placed at the bottom of the park, known as the Habitat Tower. Accessed by a bridge, the latticed structure will offer views of the water during the day and the Mighty Lights show on the river at night.
Planting will adorn the tower to encourage birds to nest, as part of a wider ambition to include local flora and fauna for ecological restoration. Other greenery will be added throughout the park to bolster shade provided by the tree canopy. Additional environmental features included in the scheme are systems to mitigate water pollution, photovoltaic panels for energy, and stormwater collection.
In order to engage the local community in the transformation of Tom Lee Park, the team engaged with local students from North and South Memphis.
"Our design builds upon two years of work alongside Memphians, which began with the Riverfront Concept, our proposal for the Riverfront as a whole, and is inspired by the extraordinary work that today's Memphians are doing for their community," said Gang.
Slated for completion in 2020, the Tom Lee Park redevelopment forms part of Studio Gang's Memphis Riverfront Concept. The masterplan will overhaul six miles of the city's Mississippi riverfront into bustling public spaces, with other areas including Fourth Bluff, Mud Island, MLK Park and Greenbelt Park.
Images © Studio Gang via Dezeen