The Detroit RiverFront Conservancy is moving forward with plans to revitalise West Riverfront Park after selecting a winning design that combines rejuvenated natural landscapes and unique pavilions to create a highly usable, all-access recreation space.
Downtown Detroit is set to be transformed thanks to the West Riverfront Park design competition. The Detroit RiverFront Conservancy chose Michael Van Valkenburgh and David Adjaye’s proposal to turn an 8.9Ha patch of riverside land into a public park. The winning design by the Brooklyn landscape architecture firm and British architect includes a beach, pavilions, and a small island to support the local ecology.
The landscaping will be led by Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates (MVVA). The plan revolves around the carving out of a beach, called The Summer Cove, in order to build a narrow island in the river with stones. Evergreen Isle will be a roosting spot for migratory birds. The Performance Hill lawn will play host to a range of activities, from casual picnics to events for up to 5000 people. A floating barge makes the hill a perfect place for performances.
"I immediately recognised that this new park could draw the city to the water's edge,” said Van Valkenburgh, who fell in love with the Detroit River when he first saw it. “My team and I spent a lot of time exploring Detroit and meeting many Detroiters in the process. We're looking forward to making West Riverfront Park an amazing place."
The studio brought Adjaye into the project to design four structures: a Pool House, a Park House, a Maker House and a Sports House. Each one is suited to its intended use and surroundings.
Both MVVA and Adjaye are a great fit for the project: MVVA developed the Brooklyn Bridge Park, while Adjaye designed Washington DC’s National Museum of African American History and Culture. It’s no wonder they beat an incredible shortlist, which included James Corner Field Operations, Hood Design Studio with Diller Scofidio + Renfro, and Gustafson Guthrie Nichol.
MVVA and Adjaye worked with Utile, Mobility in Chain and Emmanuel Pratt, as well as local partners LimnoTech, PEA and NTH Consultants.
The design contest is just one part of a series of steps the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy is implementing to connect the city’s residents with the waterfront. They are overhauling an 8.9 kilometre stretch of land between the eastern MacArthur Bridge and the western Ambassador Bridge. West Riverfront Park is the second stage of this project and is just one of a growing number of regeneration projects that are reviving Detroit.
From the very start of the competition, the Conservancy has put the community at the forefront. Over 20 public meetings were held to encourage the public to share their ideas on West Riverfront Park’s future. They also formed a Community Advisory Team (CAT) of Detroit locals to visit New York, Chicago and Philadelphia and bring back inspiration for the new park.
MVVA and the Conservancy will continue to engage with the public in order to finalise the project’s design elements. During this time, the Conservancy will continue to raise funds in order to make the $50 million project a reality.