American Society of Landscape Architects ASLA 2007 Professional Awards
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Entrance corridor and wet garden. Wall stone was cut from the same quarry vein. Recycled material includes 70 year-old broken concrete slabs (garden floor), old electrical panels (steel benches), and a re-fashioned steel well-head (cocktail table). (Photo: Tom Jenkins)

Sunken entry garden, looking toward the first reservoir and the South Tank. A low-level misting system introduces the water element, creating fog at the ground plane. Existing bamboo stands were thinned to visually link the buildings. (Photo: Tom Jenkins)

A closer view of the first water reservoir, which functions as a fountain pouring water down into the South Tank. A sculpture and a recycled valve system are easily accessed by guests of all ages. (Photo: Tom Jenkins)

The dry garden planted entirely with Little Bluestem, a Texas native plant. Penetration in the South Tank wall opens to the sod roof of the bathroom below. (Photo: Tom Jenkins)

Sod roof covered with native buffalo grass. The roof serves as a viewing platform, covering added bathrooms, overlooking the tank. (Photo: Tom Jenkins)

Interior of the South Tank. Water spills over the crushed granite. Walls within the Tank were water-washed to preserve the patina of the water line. Native plants remove the coldness while preserving a sense of emptiness. (Photo: Tom Jenkins)

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Pump House, Highland Park, Texas
MESA, Dallas, Texas
D.I.R.T. Studio, Charlottesville, Virginia

"We love the artful re-use aspect of this project, it's truly rare and admirable. This is sustainable in so many ways and gives great lesson value, yet it's also playful and inviting for children of all ages."

— 2007 Professional Awards Jury Comments

Project Statement

Pump House is a deconstructed residential garden; a re-creation of an old pumping station. It is a transformation of the industrial into the artistic, incorporating original mechanical equipment, gears, and valves, as well as elements of sustainable design. Such elements include an absorptive paving system and a sod roof, and the consistent use of native plants. Creative elements include a splash basin serving as a floorway, and an interactive clay tile piece for play.

Project Narrative

Turtle Creek Pump House is a place restored, not destroyed. It is a recycling of an entire site, not merely the building materials of that site. In a city where new is typically better, the Pump House is a reminder that the bones of history can provide form for a space, giving shape and substance to a marvelous new creation.

This deconstructed garden is a residential design comparable in approach to Seattle’s Gas Works Park and Pittsburgh’s Mattress Factory. It is simultaneously a remembrance and a revival of history. Originally a pumping station supplying water to the Township of Highland Park in Dallas, the Pump House is now a space for art: a salon, a temporary flat, and a place of play. The Client was motivated to “tell a story” when she purchased this property next to her home, and to remove the accumulated damage of neglect, damage, and misuse imposed upon the site and upon the buildings. She wished to make a garden out of industry, using water not merely as a place to reminisce, but also as a place to act. The site that once pumped clean drinking water to an entire community now lifts the spirit by encouraging social interaction through imaginative uses of water.

The landscape architect acted as both inventor and collaborator, working with the architect, the industrial reclamation programmer, and environmental artists. Consistent collaboration with the Client allowed the imagined to be built. As a patron of modern art and architecture, the Client clearly understands that a decaying site does not necessarily require violent dismemberment. Driven by the desire to re-invent the site while restoring critical features, the Client requested that a painstaking preservation and cataloguing of the mechanical equipment, gears, and valves of the Pump House be conducted.

Sharing environmental values with Pump House visitors was also part of the Client’s vision, and the team responded by designing a garden with intensively planted native Texas grasses and perennials. A native grass expert was hired to give critical advice on plant species best suited for a range of light and moisture conditions. Reeds were planted in a new steel-lined trough, a reminder of the old water main that carried water from the Pump House to Highland Park. Buffalo grass was chosen for the sod roof, providing a small lawn perfectly suited for an intimate picnic.

Consistent with the desire to incorporate native plant life was a commitment to the incorporation of sustainable design elements. A custom-designed, water-permeable paver and grass system was installed on the main driveway to the Pump House, the pattern of which was carefully designed to prevent ladies heels from sinking into the grass. This design was implemented to prevent run-off, allowing for the absorption of surface water into the ground. Also contributing such elements to the garden design is the sod roof, which was constructed atop newly added bathroom facilities.

As one walks through the Turtle Creek Pump House, each turn brings about an encounter with a new interpretive use of the element of water. Ground-level misters were installed in the entry garden to introduce this element. The concrete floor of the old North Water Tank was modified through the construction of a “splash basin” with the addition of a simple, five-inch concrete lip along its doorway to retain water. The interplay of water and concrete is a consistent theme throughout the site, and spillways, fountains, and tanks create a sensory impact consistent with the spirit and memory of this place.

The advent of Modernism ushered in the realization that site and building designs could and should be fully integrated. With the subsequent onslaught of Post-Modernism, deconstruction, the laying bare and reassembly of constituent parts, was pursued in various artistic modes of expression. Using a combination of these two approaches, the Pump House has proven itself a risk well taken: orderly and functional, yet beautiful and playful. It is a magnificent melding of disciplines.

Turtle Creek Pump House is a significant, high-profile Dallas restoration which demonstrates what can happen when concern and creativity are united. It is a prime example of the emerging role of the landscape architect as on par with that of the building architect. Redefinition of the site was as important to the success of the Pump House project as the restoration of the buildings, and this achievement stems from the determined cooperation of client, architect, engineer, designer, landscape architect, and artist. The garden is an equalizer of age: as barefoot intellectuals and artists discuss trends and ideas in the evening, the Client’s grandchildren create their own ideas for play during the day. It is truly a universal design.


View through the portal from the South Tank. The floors of both tanks were raised and re-poured to solve drainage problems. A new ramp for truck access and stairs with recessed lights were added. (Photo: Tom Jenkins)

North Tank filling with water. A new five-inch lighted concrete step spans the portal, allowing the tank (used for entertaining) to retain water. Waterproof blue lighting and a new drainage system were trenched at the perimeter. (Photo: Tom Jenkins)

Motor court of Pump House, accentuated with Equisetum and steel grating. The equisetum marks the location of the water main that once connected the Turtle Creek Pump House to Highland Park. (Photo: Tom Jenkins)

Paver-and-grass system. A custom-designed, water-permeable concrete paver-and-grass system allows visitors with heels to walk comfortably through the motor court of Pump House. (Photo: Tom Jenkins)

Interactive clay tile piece. This piece was designed with built-in benches and pits, installed by an environmental artist, and sited at the Client's favorite spot near Exall Lake. (Photo: Tom Jenkins)

Sculpted ground surrounding the interactive tile piece. Eve's Necklace was planted to dance along the bluff. (Photo: Tom Jenkins)

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