A recent look at a centuries-old landfill – the eighth hill of Rome – presents new insight into the variety of uses and cultural identities reclaimed landfills today might strive toward. On Places, architect Michael Ezban explores the history and current status of Monte Testaccio as an integral part of the Roman urban fabric. As a depository for the shards of millions of olive oil-transporting clay vessels, known as amphorae, Monte Testaccio reached a height of over 100 feet throughout several centuries. Because of its composition, this otherwise inactive landfill has become an active and useful part of the urban landscape in the centuries since. It has been a material stockpile, housed wine cellars, served as a setting for passion plays, competitive festivities, and military training, and hosted a wide range of both marginalized populations and commercial activities at its base.
In Ezban’s article, Freshkills Park is mentioned in particular as an example of modern reclamation that similarly “integrates multiple functions and constituencies” in its design.
As a historical model, Monte Testaccio provides a particularly interesting case study, reflecting the many possibilities inherent in contemporary aspirations to transform waste landscapes into productive, multivalent spaces.
(via Places: Design Observer)
The 7.5 MW Jersey-Atlantic Wind Farm was the first wind power facility built in New Jersey and the first urban coastal wind farm in the United States. It is located within the Atlantic County Utilities Authority (ACUA) Wastewater Treatment Facility site and has been in operation since December 2005. The five 380-foot turbines produce about 19 million kWh of electricity for the regional electric grid (about 2,500 homes worth) as well as for the Wastewater Treatment Plant. Within the farm’s first five years of operation, it has already saved ACUA approximately $2.5 million in electricity fees. The overall energy produced is estimated to save the energy equivalent of 24,000 barrels of crude oil per year. The site has also become a tourist attraction; ACUA offers tours of the wind farm twice a week throughout the summer.
(via Clean Technica)
[The exhibition] highlights real-life examples of sustainable landscape design and its positive effects on the environment and quality of life. These spaces use natural systems to clean the air and water, restore habitats, create healthy communities, and ultimately provide significant economic, social, and environmental value.
Case studies include Park 20/20, a 28-acre mixed-use Amsterdam business park that manages waste, energy and water in “closed-loop” systems; a new sustainable master plan for Greensberg, Kansas; Wellesley College’s Alumnae Valley, the transformation of a parking lot and brownfield into a functioning wetland; and two New York City parks, Bryant Park and the High Line. The website also features instructive animated sequences on converting brownfield sites into parkland and responsibly managing stormwater.
(via The Dirt)
Spectacle Island, part of the Boston Harbor National Recreation Area, was home to a horse rendering plant and a city waste incinerator from 1857 to 1937. When the incinerator closed, the island served as a landfill until 1959. Though the island’s original size was approximately 49 acres, landfilling increased its size to 85 acres (with an additional 28 acres in the intertidal zone). It remained largely unchanged until the 1990s, posing some risk to public health because it lacked the landfill systems to prevent leaching into Boston Harbor. Benefiting from the Big Dig—the decades-long relocation of Boston’s Central Artery to below-ground tunnels—the landfill was finally capped with excavated clay in 1992 and covered with topsoil, 2,400 trees and 26,000 shrubs.
After almost 15 years of environmental clean-up, the park on Spectacle Island opened to the public in 2006. It features five miles of hiking trails, a popular swimming beach, fishing, a marina with 38 public boat slips, a cafe and visitor center with solar panels, composting toilets and graywater recycling. Hundreds of fish and bird species now live at the site. The National Park Service, which operates the park, organizes jazz concerts, children’s programming and guided tours around the island and up to its 157-foot summit. Visitors catch a 15-minute ferry to and from downtown Boston.
On Friday, the Freshkills Park Development Team took a field trip to the town of Hempstead on Long Island to check out the Norman J. Levy Park and Preserve, formerly the Merrick Landfill. We were drawn to the site by its herd of Nigerian dwarf goats, purchased in 2009 and herded by park rangers to eradicate invasive weeds and overgrowth at the site (The initial herd of five had recently given birth to nine kids, and the names of these kids were announced on Friday, too). These are extremely adorable creatures, as our flickr photo set attests. The park also has a flock of guinea fowl, which they deploy to control the site’s tick population. We were interested in both strategies as sustainable measures that can be used to manage big pieces of public land, and we’re hopeful that the future holds an opportunity to invite herded animals to the site for management of undesirable plant or insect populations. It’s a strategy that has been growing in popularity.
While we were at the Park and Preserve, we were given a great tour by Head Ranger Sue and Sanitation Deputy Commissioner Michael McConnell—via high-class electric jitney! The 52-acre site was an operating municipal landfill from 1950 to 1984 and was redeveloped, according to a plan overseen by engineering firm Lockwood, Kessler and Bartlett, between 1994 and 2001. It has been open to the public since then, and it’s really quite beautiful, drawing about 55,000 visitors annually. Features include a 500-foot fishing pier stretching out into Merrick Bay, three miles of hiking and jogging trails with exercise stations along the way, composting toilets, an outlook with views out across the entire region, and even a windmill-aerated pond at the top of the 115-foot landfill mound. It’s not quite the same type of park that Freshkills Park will be: our tour guides were clear in emphasizing that Norman J. Levy is a preserve, and there are no bikes, rollerblades or dogs allowed. Even so, we gained much insight from understanding their development process and their operational structure.
Vulgare runs another eye-popping photo feature, this time on the 200-acre Parque Atlantico (“Atlantic Park”) in Santander, Spain. Situated in a thalweg called La Vaguada de las Llamas (“The Valley of Flames”), the site was once a marshy estuary fed by a stream from the Atlantic Ocean. Cut off from its coastal connection over the course of 19th and 20th century development, the site became an informal dumping ground for garbage, rubble and liquid waste, which progressively damaged its remaining ecosystem. After the City Council gained control of the land in the early 2000s, it held a design competition for a park that would assist the site’s environmental recovery and serve as a beautiful and valuable public space. The selected proposal, by architects Enric Batlle Duran and Joan Roig Duran, creates three levels, the lowest being a natural riverbed and artificial lake to host local wildlife and vegetation. Construction began in 2007, and the first phases of the park are now open to the public.
In addition to its terraces, gardens and paths, the park has a gym, an amphitheater, a playground, a cafeteria with roof garden and will eventually also host a museum and a botanical garden featuring flora from around the world.
Yes, its official name is Mount Trashmore Park. Virginia Beach is home to one of the earliest conversions of a contemporary sanitary landfill to parkland in the US. The 165-acre site operated for many years as a landfill for waste originating from all over the east coast. High costs of filling and limited capacity led to the landfill’s closure by 1971. Guided by the vision of the director of Virginia’s Department of Health, conversion to parkland proceeded until 1973, when the site was opened to the public. The park now boasts 1.5 miles of trails, picnic grounds, playgrounds, basketball and volleyball courts, two man-made lakes for fishing and a 24,000-square-foot skate park. It is one of Virginia’s most popular parks, attracting approximately 1 million visitors annually.
Groundwater testing at the site has shown no impact from landfill operations. Landfill gas is collected by underground infrastructure–but unlike the Freshkills Park site, the gas at Mount Trashmore is not harvested for energy; it is released at synchronized intervals.
27-acre Stearns Quarry Park opened in 2009 in the Bridgeport neighborhood of Chicago. The site was used as a limestone quarry from 1833 to 1969 by the Illinois Stone and Lime Company, after which it served as a municipal landfill: from 1969 to 1974, dirt, gravel, brick and construction debris were delivered to the site, filling the hole excavated by mining operations.
Guided by a design produced by site design group and landscape architecture firm D.I.R.T. Studio, the City of Chicago began park construction in 2005. As at the Freshkills Park site, coupling landfill closure and park construction required compliance with state regulations about, among other things, topsoil cleanliness and depth. More than 40,000 cubic yards of topsoil were imported to the site. Hundreds of trees were planted. Boardwalks over wetland areas were made of recyled plastic and wood. A stormwater containment system was constructed to catch and treat water before channeling it into the park’s wetlands and pond.
The completed park features a fishing pond and fountain, athletic fields, running paths, a hiking and sledding mound, public event space, a host of native plantings and related birds and wildlife, and an exhibited collection of 400 million-year-old fossils of aquatic animals. The Chicago Park District has put together an MP3 audio tour of the park, guided by a planner and historian, who reviews the site’s history and its current features.
Gas Works Park in Seattle, WA is located on the 19.1-acre site of a former Seattle Gas Light Company coal gasification plant. The plant opened in 1906 and closed in 1956 when the City switched to natural gas. The site was abandoned for several years until the City purchased it in 1962; a design combining elements of historic preservation and park design was commissioned from landscape architect Richard Haag in the early 1970s.
The design was remarkable, especially at the time, for retaining and showcasing original infrastructure of the abandoned gas production facilities. (The site now hosts the last extant remnants of coal gasification plants in the US.) Various industrial facilities within the park were converted for new uses: the boiler house, which provided steam for gasification and compressors, became a picnic shelter; the pump house, which pumped gas throughout the facility and to customers, became the play barn; the smoke arrestor hood outside the pump house became a play structure for climbing.
An early brownfield reclamation project, the site’s soil and ground water were cleaned up through bioremediation before the site could be opened for public use. Per state and federal requirements, waste was also removed and/or capped, and air in a portion of the site was sparged to remove benzene. The park opened in 1975 and has been well used and loved since; today it hosts one of Seattle’s largest Fourth of July fireworks events.
As part of its waterfront redevelopment plan, multi-governmental agency Waterfront Toronto is currently in construction of Sherbourne Park, a $28 million storm water treatment facility and public park, near the Lake Ontario shore. Much of the water treatment infrastructure will be visible to park visitors, making more transparent the purification process through features like an ultraviolet treatment pavilion, dramatic channelizing sculptures and biofiltration beds.
The facility’s design has been led by planning, urban design and landscape architecture firm Phillips Farevaag Smallenberg and illustrates, like Freshkills Park, the increased level of collaboration that is becoming more common around large infrastructure projects between engineers, landscape architects and planners.
There are two park sites in New York City that are also sited atop water filtration plants, though neither showcase water filtration quite as prominently: Riverbank State Park sits atop a wastewater treatment facility, and the in-construction Croton Water Filtration Plant in the Bronx’s Van Cordlant Park sites a golf course and green roof atop a drinking water filtration facility.
(via The Dirt)