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03-22-21 | Department

Hardscape Adds New Life to Plaza

Pedestrian Plaza in Oklahoma City
by Scott Howard, HFSD

The design approach for the corridors in Oklahoma City was to de-emphasize the monotone, long linear character that once existed, by articulating the experience of pedestrian circulation through the creation of smaller gathering spaces along the spatial sequence. The curvy lines in the paving are of a lighter grey, offset by the contrasting secondary darker grey. To continue the cohesiveness of the plaza, granite stone benches, granite cobble berms, and seatwalls were placed around to provide an array of seating in the area as well as leaving space for additional bistro table sets.
A perforated metal wall screen banded with striking yellow linear graphics indicates the parking area in the newly meandering corridors. The screen provides a buffer to the parking in the corridor, while the perforations allow for some light to permeate through for safe visibility.
The tallest of the three spheroidal granite boulders is between 13'-14' in height and weighs 80 tons. The stone foutains were placed on a circular layout of granite cobblestones with a hidden reservoir below. Water gently spills from the top, runs down the face of the stone, and then dissipates back into the reservoir. Up-lighting was positioned around the base of the main water feature which provides a ripple effect for a soothing atmosphere.
Expanded polystyrene foam (geofoam) was utilized as a fill-in in the raised planters. The passageways are lit with on-grade pole lighting that blends seamlessly with the linear and curving contrasting nature of the plaza.
Curvilinear stone mounds composed of granite cubes were placed throughout the project to define passive areas for gathering, sitting, and to create strong edges.

Located in downtown Oklahoma City, Pedestrian Plaza is now an urban park that visitors and passersby have been able to stroll through for the last several years. After working on construction documents and going through the bidding process, HFSD as the prime consultant on this project, had to coordinate among many disciplines. To assist in the transformation, HFSD brought in Scott Murase of Murase Associates from Seattle & Portland. The goal of the project was to transform the predominately greyscale theme of concrete passages and parking lots into a brighter oasis, providing an inviting and warmer passive space for pedestrians. The plaza features contrasting linear pavers that flow through the entire space, as well as curvilinear walls with built-in seating and planting beds that make it feel as though you weren't in the middle of downtown Oklahoma City. Pedestrian Plaza specializes in three significant rock features: a giant, granite boulder water feature, rolling stone mounds, and hand selected boulders placed around the entire site. There is also an 8' perforated screen wall which provides a buffer to the on-grade parking in the corridor. Another unique feature to this site is that half of it was built over an existing parking garage. With these conditions in mind behind the design, HFSD had to specialize the features on top of the parking garage deck to a specific weight limit. To accommodate these specifics, we used a variety of lightweight materials: geofoam in the planting berms, air drains under the pavers, and drip irrigation only on top of the deck way.

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Pedestrian Plaza further complements the surrounding, award-winning Project 180 streetscapes, also designed by HFSD, while establishing the park as a new exciting location with different design features. The project can be separated into three main spaces: Main Street Park, the Harvey/Park Corner, and the Linear Corridors that connect the two. Although each space is unique and has its own character, the team sought to create cohesiveness through the design, and especially the selection of hardscape materials. Some of the key elements to be integrated into the new plaza included a water feature, pedestrian seating, pedestrian lighting, elevated planter beds, sculptural stone features, and decorative paving.

Main Street Park was given a slightly different paving pattern, because it is not just a pass-through space, but a destination opportunity where people are encouraged to sit, relax, and stay awhile. Then, a more linear paving pattern was used throughout the narrow corridors serving the purpose of leading people through the spaces and directing the pedestrian flow. The design team explored a mixture of plank pavers and architectural finished concrete to create these patterns.

The planting scheme for the plaza included an array of plant life. The plantings were placed in large swaths, grouped by similar texture and color characteristics. Due to the large scale of the surrounding buildings, no attempt was made to screen them, but rather soften the edges of the spaces and provide landscape character. For instance, the mounding of natural planting areas has helped shape the spaces and direct the pedestrian flow. The overall project design preserved six existing oak trees and incorporated additional shade trees and planting areas to the central open space and along the corridors to soften and buffer the parking garage and skywalk columns.

Ultimately this project brought the HFSD design team a notable challenge of not only wrapping a pedestrian level plaza space around an existing parking area and the labyrinth of buildings, but also making it an enhanced and inviting space for pedestrian commuters to travel through.

As seen in LASN magazine, March 2021.

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