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Honor Award - DESIGN

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Louisville Waterfront Park
Louisville, KY

Hargreaves Associates

Glenn Allen, ASLA
Principal, Hargreaves Associates
2020 17th Street
San Francisco, CA 94103
Tel. 415-865-1811;
Fax 415-865-1810

Project Purpose

Waterfront Park represents a major reclamation of land formerly used for industrial and transportation purposes and cut off from the urban fabric by rail lines and an elevated expressway. Typical of American urban waterfronts, civic life had over time turned its back on the river completely. Phase I construction, approximately 40-acres in size (of the 100+ acre site), represents a complete rebirth of Louisville's waterfront, and a renaissance of the city's public life. The energy of the early 19th century working waterfront has been recaptured here, and the city's primary focus has been returned to the river. New infill development per the Master Plan (1990), as well as redevelopment of the neighboring historic business district, has begun in force next to the park, and demand is now high for adjacent land.

Waterfront Park is made up of a series of varied, flexible and programmable spaces. The Wharf accommodates off-loading of big touring riverboats. The Festival Plaza is designed specifically around festivals associated with the Kentucky Derby. The Overlook is a contemplative urban space and art garden. The Great Lawn, the centerpiece of the entire park designed to host very large events and provide large open flexible play space, has now in its third year since implementation become the favored venue in downtown, scheduled with over 100 events per year and numerous spontaneous happenings. Over 200,000 people visit the park annually and the accumulative attendance at all events last year was in excess of 1.25 million people. Continuing east, 80-acres of parkland provides strolling trails, with native riparian plantings and wetland development. The entire project is graded to break down visual and physical barriers between the city and the river while simultaneously providing flood protection without the need for floodwalls. The character of the park transitions from paved plazas to formal lawns to native riparian plantings and meandering pathways as the park extends east, away from downtown toward residential areas.



Role of the Landscape Architect

The landscape architect created the Master Plan-the first phase of the design was then implemented in phased segments over two years. The design process included numerous workshops and presentations with community members, as well as coordination and review with city, state, county, and federal agencies. The landscape architect provided schematic design through construction documentation and construction observation with a local architect providing specific construction documentation and construction management.

Special Factors

The entire park is within the 100-year flood zone and is subject to periodic flooding, and has already withstood successfully several significant flood events. The amount of silt and debris deposited after flooding and the duration of inundation created a unique set of technical challenges to the design team. River barge traffic was also a major concern, both in terms of designing urban edges that can survive a barge collision, and also creating green "natural" shoreline to withstand the near constant pounding wave-action from barge wake.


The landscape architect, as lead master planner and designer, was responsible for effecting broad and dramatic changes to the public use of Louisville's waterfront. Phase II implementation of the master plan design is currently underway. This further evolved park program development will create an anchor of activity at the eastern end of the park and will include the rehabilitation of an abandoned railroad bridge as a pedestrian connection across the Ohio River, additional recreation fields, and a children's adventure play landscape.

Enormously successful, the park has become a destination for area residents and visitors alike -heavily used at all times of day and well on into the evening -the park has transformed Louisville's image of itself and given it back its river. The park is truly Louisville's living room downtown.

2001 Award Winners
Press Release
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