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American Society of Landscape Architects


February 2005 Issue

Uncovered Landscape
Eddying time at the WaterWorks at Arizona Falls.

By Rebecca Fish Ewan

Uncovered Landscape
Lanterman Photography

A visitor to Phoenix might imagine that the only thing roaring there is a steady stream of traffic—suvs, big trucks, and Humvees motoring along the wide straight arterials with little to nothing in their way. And why not? After all, Phoenix is featured on the cover of Dolores Hayden’s new book, A Field Guide to Sprawl.

Where to find a quiet place to get away from the barrage of urban noise, heat, and tension? Up to now, this would be the exclusive domain of posh private resorts. One might never expect to find a slice of comfort and retreat at a hydroelectric plant near the intersection of Phoenix’s Indian School Road and North 56th Street. It would be more predictable to find a “dumpy utility with chain-link fencing and piles of dirt,” says Marie Navarre of the Phoenix Arts Commission, describing the site of the WaterWorks at Arizona Falls before the city of Phoenix partnered with the Salt River Project (srp) to create a power generator/educational facility/art piece/public open space project.

There is a roar at this site, not of cars, but of water. Not the gentle gurgle of Islam-inspired bubbler fountains that are becoming common in courtyards throughout Phoenix, but the thunderous crash of a mountain stream. The air is saturated with moisture. Being at Arizona Falls is like escaping to a river gorge...but one designed by Fritz Lang. Instead of a forest of trees, the skyline is wrapped in power lines; instead of sitting on smooth tumbled boulders, one can recline on an expanded metal bench. The project is a celebration of engineering and energy capture.

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