In 2012, the Des Moines’ Water Works launched an international design competition for its 1,500 floodplain park. In addition to it being a stunning ecological resource, it also had the rich story of being the place where Des Moines’ drinking water is harvested. Gina Ford, while a principal at Sasaki, led the winning competition scheme and subsequent master plan.
The design imagined a dynamic public park that would reveal the processes in the working landscape and celebrates the value of clean water to visitors. The proposal suggested a new paradigm for public space on the Raccoon River, where the dynamic floodplain, the engineered water systems, ecology and active recreation come together.
For three miles along the Raccoon River, a man-made “gallery” pipe captures and diverts water to the Water Works plant. The design makes this process visible, creating a recreational circuit and “gallery walk” at the surface. Visitors come into contact with the harvesting of their drinking water, and educated about its quality. The competition winning scheme told the story of the park—its hidden water utility infrastructure, its water quality issue, its landscape, and its potential future uses—through a park guidebook.Project Images