Complementing architect Steven Holl’s striking steel water treatment facility, MVVA turned the 14 surrounding acres into a park and nature preserve on a limited budget of $5 per square foot. The finished landscape raises the bar for municipal infrastructure design. Located on the outskirts of New Haven, Connecticut, the facility draws water for the City of New Haven from nearby Lake Whitney at the base of the Mill River Watershed.

The site plan for the treatment facility contrasts the sleek form of the building with a gently modulated topography (sustainably reusing excavated soil) and a small lake-and-stream system that extends an existing wetland.

The landscape creates a microcosm of the surrounding regional watershed from mountain source to reservoir, with bioengineered swales stabilizing the site and capturing water. The planting scheme, calibrated for seasonal variation in color and texture, uses native species. It requires no fertilizers nor pesticides, and the combination of grasses, forbs, and pioneer woody species anticipates the evolution of plant communities over time.

An aerial view reveals both the facility’s location in a leafy residential neighborhood and its integration with the greater regional water system.

Construction photograph showing bioengineering techniques used for slope stabilization.

While privately owned, the landscape and building work together to engage the public, with open edges and trails that invite visitors to enjoy the park-like setting. The site also hosts the historic Eli Whitney Barn, now used for community events. The barn and boarding house, which used to back up to a featureless, flat lawn, are now paired with a dynamic and ecologically diverse public space.

The landscape’s planting and maintenance regimes make the garden highly sustainable.

Project Data

Landscape Architecture: Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates

LOCATION New Haven, Connecticut

YEAR 2005

SIZE 14 acres

CLIENT South Central Connecticut Regional Water Authority

COLLABORATORS

CH2M Hill (Structural Engineering)
Steven Holl Architects (Architecture)
The Bioengineering Group (Bioengineering Consultant)
Tighe and Bond Consulting Engineers (Civil Engineering)

AWARDS

2010 ASLA Design Honor Award

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