Location: Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Client: Harbor District
Status: Competition, complete
Area: 5 acres
Team: Ten x Ten, Vetter Denk, Design Fugitives
Urban Flashlights is the first in a series of networked riverfront destinations that establish a dynamic waterfront experience for the revitalized Harbor District in Milwaukee. The project amplifies the experience of the site, river and Milwaukee by designing through temporality, sensory response and memory. The project is built by Milwaukee’s Department of Public Work’s (DPW) and constructed of materials available in their stock yards. The design team created solutions through collective rapid model building with community members. Here we co-created a space to play, observe, learn and interact with the river and each other.
In Winter of 2016, the design team was invited to the Take Me to the River Design Charrette organized and hosted by the Harbor District in Milwaukee. The kickoff for the design competition was a community design charrette. Following the event our team had ten days to respond with a resolved design and cost estimate.
The Design team experimented with a unique format for a community charrette. Stakeholders were invited to respond to questions about the site and harbor, and simultaneously, the design team collaboratively built 16 different models in response to the answers and received real time feedback on the models. This formed the basis for the design ideas and allowed for a collection of concepts to truly emerge from the place and community.
Urban Flashlights is the first phase in a series of design interventions meant to create an interactive destination that gives the community access to the river. The project drivers (orientation, discovery and water) are expressed through the five primary elements, oriented east across the river towards the iconic existing silo; Prospect Hill, Observation Deck, Mussel Cranes, Flashlights and Play Beach. Framing the beach and flashlights, the wood deck sets a platform over the river for water access and the Mussel Cranes encourage direct interaction with the aquatic habitat below. The Flashlights are activated through motion sensor and behave differently as people interact with them at night, glowing in intensity as people move underneath. They also act as beacon to the community along Greenfield Avenue and establish an iconic form for the new site. Prospect Hill is oriented towards downtown Milwaukee to make a visual connection with this site and the city.
The site is framed by two planted bio-filtration gardens with birch, dogwood and wet meadow plantings. The basins act as pretreatment for site storm water and are connected to the play beach that acts as a sand filter and slowly releases water back to the river.
As Urban Flashlights establishes the first destination node, future phases establish four additional nodes along shoreline of the Kinnickinnic River. Each present opportunities to incorporate additional phenomena such as wind, wave, kinetic buoys, and beacons. The five nodes are connected via traveling wild rice barges in the third phase to further enhance habitat establishment along the river and connect programmatic components within the district.
The design concept has three primary drivers; orientation, discovery and water. The first, that the project should reorient the users back to the city and harbor, reflect the industrial character, scale and function of the existing fabric and become an iconic destination for the neighborhood. Second, the park users should have control over their environment and that they are invited to discover the park both day and night. Third, that water is important both in the sites stormwater function and the interaction with water through the Mussel Cranes. This also allows for a deeper connection to the river to be experienced on this site and helps to make the School of Freshwater Science’s mission visible through water infrastructure and science.As Urban Flashlights establishes the first destination node, future phases establish four additional nodes along shoreline of the Kinnickinnic River. Each present opportunities to incorporate additional phenomena such as wind, wave, kinetic buoys, and beacons. The five nodes are connected via traveling wild rice barges in the third phase to further enhance habitat establishment along the river and connect programmatic components within the district.