+StL: A Landscape Master plan in St. Louis

Department: Architecture
Authors (Academic team): VALIN Ivan, (HKU) (lead), KOKORA Michael (HKU) (lead), HOEFERLIN Derek (U. Washington) (lead), SAMUELS Linda (U. Washington), PURNELL Jason (U. Washington)

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Professional Team: TLS Landscape Architecture (landscape lead), Object Territories (landscape and architecture lead), [dhd] Derek Hoeferlin Design (architecture lead); Borderless Studio (planning), Bryan Cave Associates (law), Dutchtown South Community Coorperation (community), Econsult Solutions (economics), E Design Dynamics (hydrology), EDSI (traffic planning), James Lima Planning (programming), Jeremy Goss (health and food), Kristen Fleischmann Brewer (art advisor), Langan (engineering), North Newstead Association(community), Preservation Research Office (history), Prosperity Labs (economics), Ramboll (engineering), Silman (engineering), Project Controls (QS), Terra Technologies (ecology)

This project consists of a master plan and strategic development proposal completed for a high-profile international urban design competition. I participated on the team of academics and professionals as a lead. Our proposal went through a two-phase review process against an international field of leading practitioners, and in the final stage competed against four other teams including one led by James Corner Field Operations and another by Stoss Landscape Urbanism.

Asked to resolve ecological, social, and economic issues with a strategic landscape intervention in the heart of St. Louis, our master plan proposal envisioned a rebuttal of the typical resource-concentrating big landscape interventions that have ‘cornered the market’ on international urban design projects. Instead, following in the spirit of the organizer’s citizen-involved approach to building regional greenway networks, we proposed a master plan that reconnected a multi-modal network at the city’s urban core in ways that brought incremental investment back to  the communities and ecologies currently faltering, or forgotten, that surround the project corridor.

Our team was assembled on a principle of multidisciplinarity and on community/professional partnerships. The team included academics from the University of Hong Kong, the University of Washington Sam Fox School of Architecture and the Brown School of Social Work with community leaders, public health advocates, and professional specialists in architecture, landscape architecture, ecology, hydrology, civil engineering, law, economics, and community finance. Committed to a horizontal design and decision making process, the resulting master plan focused on providing tactical measures to address specific problems related to equity, public health, and mobility in the city.  We focused on three strategies in particular: 1) stimulating existing economic assets by planning linked investments, 2) “maximin” regeneration of disconnected ecological patches and corridors as a self-maintaining urban wilderness, and 3) an implementation sequence that would expand and ensure equity among the various communities affected by urban regeneration. These three strategies articulated a finer set of goals for distributing development, introducing biodiversity and undoing hard water infrastructures, and planning for unbroken access to jobs, institutions, and public space.

My role as an academic on the team drew on my research on landscape systems in developing countries. I saw such systems as a potential model for low-capital investment projects in the developed world. My research for the project involved surveying existing landscape systems and habitats and proposing suitable interventions to maximize social and ecological services while minimizing disturbance. Working with hydrological engineers and ecologists, I designed a series of prairie and wetland interventions and evaluated their long-term cost-benefit for adjacent sites. I was also an academic liaison with the leading landscape architect and professional head, TLS, often translating their professional perspective in team negotiations. Finally, I–together with the academic team at Washington University–articulated the project’s “counter-proposal” narrative and its critique of international competition practice. This would ultimately cost our team the winning prize (we came in second place), but has been cited as a defining concept in the prizes and awards the project has won since.

The project has won six international awards, notably:

1) ASLA National Honor Award in Analysis and Planning (American Society of Landscape Architects);

2) AIA-New York Honor Award for Urban Design (American Institute of Architects);

3) Sustainable Cities and Human Settlements Award for Planning and Design (2019 Global Forum on Human Settlements)

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