American Society of Landscape Architects ASLA 2007 Student Awards
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Site Plan
Bas-relief model expresses elements of the 300 acre proposed park system.
Context: Basin of Mexico
Map of the Basin of Mexico shows existing watershed dynamics and proximity of the Federal District of Mexico City (DF) to Zumpango. Maps on the right show the Zumpango region during the dry season (above) and the wet season (below).
Context: Zumpango Region
Site photos of the Gran Canal, Lake Zumpango, and the Pachuca River. Map highlights cultural destinations and settlement of Zumpango through the overlay of street names. Drawing shows existing structure of the project site through study of its agricultural fabric.
Proposal: System Diagrams
Series of diagrams highlights infrastructural, cultural and ecological systems that are layered to create complex and dynamic relationships within this newly defined public realm.

The Lake: Access to the Shore



AGUA: Infrastructure as Landscape Identity
Shanti Levy, Student ASLA and Elizabeth Hoogheem, Student ASLA
University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia
Faculty Advisors: Mario Schjetnan, FASLA; Julie Bargmann

"Beautifully presented—real art! This project dealt with important hydrological issues in a revelatory way that was culturally specific and spoke to things that were Mexican in nature."

— 2008 Student Awards Jury Comments

Project Statement:

Agua is a water infrastructure park which uses the multiple processes of water as a way of revealing the landscape identity of its site in the Mexico City Basin. The current lack of connection to the cycles and flows of water is leading to a severe water crisis. This park proposes a place which maximizes opportunities for water processes to spur public awareness, create meaningful experiences and support local economic and ecologic viability.    

Project Narrative: 


This proposal for a 300 acre park responds to the combined intensity of development pressure and water crisis in the fringes of the Mexico City Metropolitan Area, the second largest megacity in the world. The park works within the planned development of a new urban corridor in the Zumpango region north of Mexico City, which intends to house an incoming population of one million new residents. The developer’s proposal calls for a traditional, closed, chemical based water treatment plant and an adjacent, vaguely defined expanse of “open space”. We propose an alternative to this monolithic approach, hybridizing this infrastructure into resources for public space, ecological habitat and economic stimulus to bolster an existing town and integrate an influx of new residents.


A spillway draws floodwater from the lake toward the town, allowing it to safely flood seasonal play fields and irrigate crops. A public processional from the town zocalo to a pump house in the lake celebrates the sequence of water treatment that transforms lake water into potable water supply. Living machines and wetland systems treat 32 mg/d of wastewater, while also forming an armature for recreation and agricultural fields. Aquatic hedgerows make a more ecologically complex shoreline for the lake, while, on the city side, pocket parks create thresholds between existing neighborhoods, new infill housing, and the park. Jacaranda hedgerows mark lateral pathways for stormwater and pedestrian access across the canal to the lake. The Pachuca River gains a wide, dense floodplain corridor.


Basin of Mexico: A landscape of duality: The landscape identity of this arid place is inseparable from its oscillation between dual characters. It is half a parched place with subtle traces of seasonal wetness, waiting for the rain. In this dry season, the rain comes suddenly, sweeping through the valley in powerful storms. During these months green colors become latent, leaving muted shades of sand. Month by month the rains return. Wetness becomes dependable, a daily event, leaving behind watercourses and pools, rendering the soil softer, allowing crops to grow. The city’s hydraulic endeavors over the course of its history have addressed this dual character as a dangerous problem, using huge infrastructural feats to fight its threatening floods and droughts. In this proposal, we recognize this dramatic flux as critical to the Basin's health and identity. The lake, reformed as a cultural, ecological system, will reconnect inhabitants to the cycles of water upon which they depend.

The Town: Historic City / Fouled Reputation: The town of Zumpango has a vibrant, historic center, yet it has lost nearly all connection to the lake that spurred its original settlement and offered it a name. In the Federal District of Mexico City, many residents know little of its active zocalo and expansive lake, associating it instead with the course of the sewage-laden Gran Canal.

The Lake: Remnant / Tank: Lake Zumpango links the area to the Basin of Mexico’s unique history, as it is one of the last three remnant lakes of the once powerful lacustrine system. The lake has been named a “Water Sanctuary” by the government, but steps have not been taken to define or investigate this status. Rather, the lake is better known for its role as a massive piece of infrastructure, a flood-control “tank.” While the lake provides a habitat for diverse flocks of migrating birds, its impenetrable edges raise questions of access, visibility, and missed opportunities. And yet the people find ways to overcome these barriers, to precariously occupy the lake and its edges.

The Gran Canal: Barrier to the Lake / Connection to the Basin: Multiple linear barriers currently separate the town from the lake. The Gran Canal is the key culprit. The canal, a ten-meter deep ravine, was heralded on the day of its opening as Mexico City’s savior, emptying waste and floodwaters from the basin. The deep channel carries the sewage of Mexico City north through Zumpango, running parallel to the eastern edge of the lake, defining an extreme, un-crossable boundary. The blackwater is dropped into two grand “water boxes” at the northeast corner of the lake, which direct the effluent to the agricultural fields of Hidalgo, the food source of the region. We see the canal as another missed opportunity, a monument in its own right, connecting the city, if now negatively, to the water system of the entire basin.

The Pachuca River: Eroded Arroyo / Potential Corridor: The Pachuca River emerges at the summit of Mt. Pachuca and runs its course through the agricultural fields east of Zumpango. The seasonal watercourse has been described as the sewer line of the lands that flank its eroded banks. When it reaches Zumpango it is channeled in a concrete bed, dismissed from the life of the city and released into the fissure of the canal.


  1. Connect the new and proposed city to the lake edge.
  2. Celebrate the flood control function of the lake, creating public engagement with both the infrastructural role and the seasonal fluctuations of the local water system. Direct floodwaters to support irrigation for intensive productivity.
  3. Use public space as a way to connect the existing city of Zumpango and its residents with their neighbors arriving to the new urban corridor.
  4. Increase the complexity of the lake edge to create diverse wildlife and human habitats.
  5. Provide opportunities for citizen connection to wastewater treatment processes within an experiential, productive, shared landscape.
  6. Provide collective recreational opportunities to reinforce the identity of the city, both existing and new.
  7. Increase the lake’s local and regional significance by creating a destination along its shores.
  8. Strengthen the ecology of the lake as aquatic habitat, the Pachuca and the Gran Canal as wildlife corridors.
  9. Use an armature of hedgerows to channel, cleanse and infiltrate stormwater while also creating access routes between local neighborhoods, the park and the lake.
  10. Provide economic opportunities for production based on the resources of water, and tourism.
  11. Integrate facilities for public use: schools, environmental education centers.

Provide potable water to the city, making its processes of treatment visible with a procession from the center of Zumpango to the lake.



Path from Zocalo to Lake: Spillway/Aqueduct/Potable Water System
Detailed study model of transect from the urban grain of Zumpango center reconnected to the lake edge. A new water tower and 'water zocalo' marks one end, in dialogue with a pump house at the other.

Path from Zocalo to Lake: Seasonal Play Fields and Section at Spillway
The path from the town zocalo to the lake edge is defined by a potable water treatment system and associated aqueduct, as well as a spillway that draws floodwater from the lake to irrigate crops and flood seasonal play fields.

The Lake Edge: Public Access/ Wildlife Habitat/ Pump House
Section perspective at lake edge through potable water promenade, and restored aquatic habitat. Pump house aligns with prominent mountain in the distance to mark a destination at the lakeshore.

The Pachuca River: Flood Plain/ Wildlife Corridor
The Pachuca gains access to a wide, dense and reforested floodplain corridor that receives clean wastewater treated in the park. A series of weirs slow and direct the water to support infiltration into the basin's rapidly depleting aquifer.

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