Curtis Hixon Park

Curtis Hixon Park located at Tampa, Florida, United States is a project by Thomas Balsley Associates.

New public space is “crown jewel” of city’s waterfront revitalization.

Acting as a “front lawn” to the new Tampa Museum of Art and Glazier Children’s Museum, a new nine-acre park by renowned landscape architects Thomas Balsley Associates has transformed the city’s downtown waterfront district. Described as the “crown jewel” of Tampa, the new Curtis Hixon Park is the centerpiece of a plan for the area that fuses recreation, urbanism, culture, heritage, and entertainment, all in the city’s outdoor “urban living room” along the Hillsborough River. The firm’s bold planning and design have replaced the old museum and parking garages that blocked access to the river with a sparkling new civic park.

Says designer Thomas Balsley, “Successful 21st century urban parks must balance creativity and innovation with proven recipes for design programs. For [this project], we’ve created spaces ranging in scale from large open lawns to small intimate overlooks and garden rooms, able to accommodate large or small events.” Sculpted topography includes lawn panels stepping down from the museum terraces and garden promenade; the southern edge consists of a series of park and garden overlooks and a linear park pavilion with restrooms, café, and a visitor center.

Located along the river are a contemporary play area and urban dog run which take their sculptural cues from the Museum of Art. Louver jet and mist fountains at the park’s key plazas are child-friendly displays designed to capture the public’s imagination while cooling its feet. Timber lawn “rafts,” lounge chairs, and picnic tables with distinctive swivel loungers make up the innovative array of park furniture that is critical to the park’s success and a hallmark of Balsley’s design-as-public-amenity approach.

Masses of spartina and tree groves make up a large portion of the park’s native plantings. Lawns and garden areas as well as the fountains operate on a reclaimed water system. Distinctive LED fountain pavement lights and others throughout the park extend its nighttime curb appeal and downtown activity.

More than becoming the city’s cherished space to play and celebrate, the park’s place-making powers have made it a new landmark for Tampa and re-energized the city’s sense of civic pride.


Sai Van Park

Sai Van Park located at Avenida Panorâmica do Lago Sai Van, Macau is a project by VLB Arquitectura e Planeamento.

 Project’s programme: Landscaping for bridge access areas.

The face of Macau has undergone profound transformations in the past years, due in part to the successive waves of reclamation required to cater for the pulsations of development. The place prior to the project was organized mainly by flyovers and road access to the new cross river bridge that defined leftover islands isolated by traffic and a casual monument derived by the insertion of the 3rd bridge over the existing causeway.

The landscaping project for the 3rd Macau-Taipa Bridge access areas grabs the opportunity to research new urbanities in a contemporary way. From the existing islands the new park invents a network of movements and scenarios for pedestrian and ludic use, and by rotating/tilting these pieces of landscape towards the water on both sides (river and lake), and away from the vehicular thoroughfares at the central axis, a sense of purpose and visual fruition is achieved for an otherwise hostile leftover terrain. The flyovers with its inevitable presence are incorporated into the project as porticos that bring rhythm to the city vistas and water planes.

The project transforms a residual area into a place that permits an urban and natural interactive experience. In a place so characterized by lack of land resources, transforming a no-place into a qualified human environment is a significant achievement for Architecture.


Honour of excellence at the ARCASIA 2009-2010 Architecture Awards.

  • Project name: Sai Van Park
  • Location: Avenida Panorâmica do Lago Sai Van, Macau
  • Program: Landscaping for bridge access areas
  • Year: Design: 2003-2004 • Construction: 2004
  • Client: GDI – Gabinete para o Desenvolvimento de Infraestruturas
  • Project by: VLB Arquitectura e Planeamento
  • Team: Princiapl Designers: Manuel Vicente, Carlotta Bruni, Rui Leão • Colaborators: Helena Alcoforado Gomes, Fok Cheng Io
  • Others: Contractor: Tak Fat Ltd. • Structure Consultant: Profabril Asiaconsultores Lda • E&M Consultant: Tecproeng Macau – Técnica Projectos de Engenharia Lda • Landscaping: Circle & Square Import Export Trading Ltd.
  • Text: Cortesy of VLB Arquitectura e Planeamento
  • Images: Cortesy of VLB Arquitectura e Planeamento.

Reñaca Natural Park North / Rencoret and Rüttimann Architecture and Landscape

Landscape architects: Rencoret and Rüttimann Architecture and Landscape – Cecilia Rencoret Rios, Carla Rüttimann Curtze

Architect partner: Beatriz Majluf Adauy
Location: Coastal Path Reñaca – Concon, V Region
Area: 13,500 m2
Area intervened: 9,000 m2
Project Year: 2005
Year Built: 2006
Predominant materials: treated wood
Species: Carpobrutus aequilaterus, Baccharis concave, Stipa caudata, Bahia ambrosioides, Eryngium paniculate, Puya chilensis Puya venustas, Haplopapus foliosus.

The coastal dunes of central Chile are original from the point of view of their morphology and from the flora and fauna they support.This landscape was generated in the Quaternary period, about 25 million years. The particularity of this dune field is that is formed by ancient sand dunes “hung” on marine terraces that are separated by a rocky cliff. In its geological aspect, are considered a single site involved in their training because climatic factors, petrographic, hydrographic, topographic, oceanic and phytogeography are unplayable today.

Navy Pier Finalist: !melk & HOK & UrbanLab


!melk / HOK / UrbanLab smooths the South Dock’s promenade into a gentle slope. At the East End, the Edge includes an Olympic-size swimming pool and a glassed-in platform extending ten feet below lake level so visitors can view a fish habitat (hey!). The Glacier, a 200-foot-high steel structure in the lake, would be a new landmark suitable for climbing, according to the renderings. The team admits its whole vision would cost a whopping $300 million; the $100-million first phase would include improving the South Dock, the Shikaakwa Gardens (a revamped combination of Pier Park and the Crystal Gardens) and the Edge.

Navy Pier Pierscape finalist: Davis Brody Bond & Aedas Architects & Martha Schwartz Partners


Davis Brody Bond / Aedas Architects / Martha Schwartz Partners would install a wave fountain and wetland in Gateway Park. (The wetland would be used as a teaching tool, in conjunction with the Chicago Children’s Museum.) The team extends the South Dock into the water with floating gardens where visitors can watch performances—or just relax. The East End gets a “giant civic hot tub,” open even in winter, and a sci-fi-looking elevated gondola called the PierPod transports people to the pier from downtown Chicago. Unfortunately, $85 million only covers the first phase of this plan, which includes the wetland and upgrades to the promenade. The floating gardens (my favorite feature) and hot tub would have to wait for the $120-plus-million Phase 3. By the time the PierPod is finished, I suspect we’ll be using jetpacks anyway.

Aedas ArchitectsDavis Brody Bond and Martha Schwartz Partners proposalPierESCAPE goes beyond the Navy Pier Centennial Vision as it aims to strengthen the connections between water, land, nature, city, culture, civic space and infrastructure with a “series of dock-like extensions”. The proposal respects the history of the Pier while identifying unique opportunities that will them to create a 21st century waterfront experience that is both a historical and contemporary destination.

PierESCAPE envisions Navy Pier as a world-class urban landscape that protects Lake Michigan, promotes economic growth and creates an escape for the people of . Entertainment, recreation, culture and ecology weave together to create places that are “exciting, enriching, and sustainable.” The Pier will offer an expanded list of activities and destinations that will appeal to the people of  and tourists, enticing them to revisit the Pier again and again, throughout the year.

“Our goal will be to achieve a higher degree of integration between the Pierscape and all existing, new and proposed buildings”

Key aspects of the design include:

  • Crossing the Waters into Gateway Park
  • Taking it over the edge into South Dock Park
  • Getting Up to Get Down at Pier Park
  • Going Through the Looking Glass in Crystal Garden
  • Taking the Plunge at East Edge Park
As visitors cross the entry plaza threshold of the Wetland Stream, they are immediately confronted with a range of interactive spaces that commemorate the natural condition of Lake Michigan’s shoreline. Gateway Plaza, the Bus Plaza and the Wetland Garden are the three main components that welcome visitors to Navy Pier.
 Referred to as the Porch, South Dock serves as the unifying public space that stretches the entire length of the Pier and connects it back to the city. It is the “route of procession” that docks all the program and activities. At night, slender stainless steel channels, known as “lightowers”, mimic the Chicago skyline and illuminate the pedestrian promenade. The South-facing pathway overlooks the floating gardens, a major civic space offered in this proposal.
The gardens transform the city’s edge, creating a “greater fusion between infrastructure and the environment”, while accommodating for spaces of play, culture and relaxation. These series of iconic spaces create an intensified connection to the water with geometry inspired by the greater Chicago area. An existing wall of boats is removed and relocated into specified docking area, keeping the lakefront open, free and clear.
A grand staircase brings you up to Pier Park. A complex mixture of rides, theaters, outdoor spaces and much more is integrated into an area focused on interactive play. A new topography in The Crystal Garden creates a wonderland of outdoor spaces that provide an “art exhibit of play”.
The East Edge Park breaks the visitor away from the Pier and allows them to “take a plunge”. The lagoon features a year round public spa that allows people to directly interact with the lake, during any season. The wooden deck steps down into the water, creating a park during the summer and a space for ice skating during the winter.
This complex, yet organized proposal even features a Pier Pod that would serve as both a “spectacle” and mode of transformation. This Gondola experience would not be included in the 85 million budget.

Navy Pier Pierscape finalist: Pier+ / AECOM and BIG (Bjarke Ingels Group)


AECOM / Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) places an aquaponic vertical urban farm in the Crystal Gardens, which would provide food for Navy Pier’s restaurants. (Surely not Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville Bar & Grill?) The team incorporates the Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s planned extension into a manmade hill suitable for people-watching or sledding, depending on the season; visitors can descend via a giant slide. A “loyalty program” app enables people to control a snazzy fountain at the pier’s East End and post messages on a screen incorporated into the Ferris wheel. AECOM / BIG swears it can deliver these improvements, among other features, within Pierscape’s $85 million budget.

Design leadership: AECOM and BIG
Lighting design: Speirs + Major
Signage: Project Projects
Programmed events and art: Lead Pencil Studio
Water feature design: WET Design
Economics: Tivoli International and AECOM
Horticulture: Eden Project and Christy Webber Landscapes
Cost Estimating: Davis Langdon, an AECOM company

A team led by AECOM and New York-based Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) is one of five shortlisted teams invited to participate in an international design competition to renovate and reactivate Chicago’s landmark Navy Pier. This is a once-in-a-century opportunity that will redefine the character and focus of Chicago’s waterfront. It is part of an ambitious effort to create a new Navy Pier for the 21st century, and in doing so, to redefine what the pier and the waterfront means to the city.

Unveiled to the public on January 31, 2012 at the Museum of Contemporary Art, the AECOM-BIG design vision aims to “re-colonize the people’s pier,” by maximizing opportunity through a holistic approach. The result is Pier+, a vibrant urban destination that creates a new amenity shared by all while making a positive and progressive statement about Chicago to the world.

Navy Pier is prominently situated along Lake Michigan and the Great Lakes. The largest destination in  and the world’s longest pier, and a centerpiece of Daniel Burnham’s forward-thinking grand plan, this has been a much-loved piece of Chicago history. In recent years, though, the pier’s popularity has waned, marked by congested experiences that are cut off from the rest of the city.

The AECOM-BIG design proposal seeks to strike a new chapter in this storied history. Our ambition is to create a new reality at Navy Pier that lives up to the poetics of its beautiful lakefront setting by giving a world-class place back to Chicago.

Key aspects of the design include:

  • Gateway Park: A welcoming, well-connected arrival experience through focused interventions.
  • Crystal Garden: Part sculptural indoor park, part futuristic urban farm – a sustainable food production hub for entertainment, education and culinary delight.
  • Skyline Gardens: An extraordinary tapestry of the world’s finest roof gardens.
  • Pier Park: A Grand Stair and Boardwalk (pictured) that give the city a truly world-class setting and the finest views in town, through integrated, holistic thinking.
  • East End Park: An archipelago meeting both the water’s edge and horizon line.
  • South Dock: A playful ribbon of connectivity, expanded program and shaded pathways.

East End Park: The East End Park will take visitors over the water, and into the water. The existing obstruction to the view is eliminated, revealing a breathtaking view of the lake, the water blending seamlessly into the sky. A lifted corner creates a space below at ground level, housing a café/restaurant.

Recalling the east end’s not-so-distant history when portions of it were closer to water for smaller boats and wading, we propose a stepped soft threshold that can accommodate fluctuation in water levels. This new public space will allow visitors to engage much more closely with the water; sculpturally, it will be the yin to the yang of the lifted corner to the south. This “North Dip” becomes a completely intimate and free experience allowing for relaxation in the sun on a man-made beach park. Stepped seating will allow for viewing a spectacular 500-foot-high water show (designed by WET) located off the end of the pier in the lake.

Pier Park Grand Stairs: At the heart of Pier+ is the Grand Stairs, combining a large stepped zone for seating, a flat zone of slides and medium-size steps straight to a rooftop with uninterrupted views. The massive scale of the buildings currently constructed on the pier restricts the views back to the city. Lifting the public realm over the existing pier provides a respite, a relief from the city that is not available anywhere else: it becomes a place that will make the pier a destination among day-to-day residents, rather than just the occasional tourist.

The Grand Stairs is thus a park with a city view, doubling as a “Spanish Steps” style place to rest, to look, to play and to relax – a new landmark that is as iconic as it is public.

The hill (doubling as the roof of the proposed Shakespeare Theater) accommodates a series of restaurants and dining terraces looking back to the city, from where you will be able to enjoy dramatic views of the sun setting behind the Chicago skyline.

Any proposed program within the Pier Park – from organized concerts to personal picnics – will be immediately unique. In the Chicago winter, for example, this can become a place to play. The smooth portion of the Grand Stair to the south will have a permanent set of slides as a groomed area in snowy months for a giant set of tubing slides. In warmer months, the slides will be transformed as a playful amenity for all ages to enjoy.

Life After Dark: As an integral part of the team, renowned lighting designers Speirs + Major have developed a comprehensive lighting design program that will make Navy Pier a stunning vision in the Chicago nightscape. Developing a theme of “Life After Dark,” the designers have created a night-time identity that combines the functional requirements of lighting delivered alongside leisure activities of the site.

Micro-wind turbines on the roof will produce renewable energy to power much of the lighting

Crystal Garden: The Crystal Garden will be an indoor public attraction that brings together sustainable food production, entertainment, education and culinary delight. An aquaponic nutrient/water cycle system will feed various naturally-growing fruits and vegetables, which will respond well to the microclimate, in dramatic sculptural pillars – an urban food jungle. Ground-level pedestrian circulation will enable easy visitor access; meanwhile a floating seed-like juice bar will serve products created from food grown on site. Completing the holistic system, food grown in the Crystal Garden will be used to supply the restaurants at Pier+.

Skyline Gardens: Between the Grand Stairs and East End Park will be an evolving tapestry of the world’s finest roof gardens. Arranged in an artful geometric pattern, these gardens will provide a visually interesting and rich landscape for visitors. In collaboration with the existing flower show, a phasing plan imagines the roof gardens growing through time to eventually encompass the entire rooftop of Navy Pier’s largest building.