Coen+Partners: The Warroad Land Port of Entry landscape design utilizes beautiful and economic materials to reflect the northern Minnesota vernacular and the dignity of the United States Government. The site is characterized by horizontal landscape interventions designed in response to the expansive horizon of the site and region. The project created a distinctive landscape that complements the architecture in a thoughtful and contextual manner, while addressing issues of sustainability and serving the Port’s security and operational needs.
SITE PLAN A Trees: Tamarack and Pine B Concrete Paving: Light & Heavy Duty C Slate Flagging Garden D Birch Trees E Tamarack Trees F Infiltration Areas G Prairie Meadow Mix H Minnesota State Trunk Highway No. 313 I Canadian National Railroad
Preliminary Contextual Site Analysis: A Borders and Transportation B Wetlands C Vegetation
A-C The Landscape Architect worked extensively with the Architect and General Services Administration (GSA) to place the buildings within the larger site context. These initial study diagrams explore overall site design layout including circulation, planting, paving, and the orientation of structures. D Reflects the masterplan selected for the completed project.
The Landscape Architect worked with the Architect and GSA to seamlessly blend complex traffic circulation requirements with the building, site design, and planting strategies.
A Commercial Building B Commercial Queuing C Primary Inspections Canopy D Main Office Area E Secondary Inspection Area F Secondary Inspection Canopy G Public Parking H Employee Parking I Outgoing Inspection Canopy
Aerial construction photograph of building and slate flagging gardens in winter. American Tamarack, one of few deciduous conifers, was selected because of its endemic presence in the region, brilliant copper fall color, and interesting winter habit.
Aerial photograph immediately following construction. The site is situated in the large, flat Glacial Lake Agassiz plane and Laurentian Mixed Forest region of northern Minnesota. The design is principally characterized by simple, horizontal interventions in response to the expansive horizon of the overall site and region.
Port of Entry, north facade at night. A native meadow prairie mix was seeded through the majority of the site while wet prairie and wetland plantings occur within the layered system of infiltration areas and reconstructed wetlands. Innovative water management and treatment systems were used to reduce overall runoff and improve water quality.
Port of Entry, north facade and wetland buffer. The landscape design played an important role in helping the project attain a LEED Silver rating. In addition to sustainable water management strategies, the design incorporated durable and low maintenance materials to help reduce upkeep and long term costs. The strategic use of native and adaptive plantings was employed to reduce irrigation consumption by 75%.
The planting design incorporated native plant material; selections were based on design effect, color, and texture as well as hardiness and maintenance requirements. Plantings include rows of American Tamarack and Whitespire Birch, flagging gardens of native sedum, and seeding of a native meadow prairie, native wet prairie mix, and wetland plantings.
Slate flagging garden planted with rows of native Tamarack. The overall site design for the Port of Entry utilizes beautiful yet economic materials reflective of the northern Minnesota vernacular. Simplicity, texture, and coherent form were overarching goals for a landscape principally viewed from one’s vehicle.
The north façade as seen at night. The site design creates a distinctive landscape that complements the architecture in a thoughtful and contextual manner, while serving the Port’s security and operational needs. Defined site lines, edges, and buffers are created through strategic plantings to reinforce site circulation, movement, and surveillance.
A night view of the entry façade. The seasonality and unique forms of the flagging gardens present comfortable, engaging, and attractive outdoor environments for Port operations and create a visually compelling spaces for both employees and visitors to the Port.
The landscape architect selected concrete paving materials for the roadway and pedestrian areas, a durable surface contrasting in color and texture with the flagging. The majority of this surfacing was designed with no curb or gutter to allow for more natural infiltration of stormwater. All buildings for the Port of Entry are contained within a heavy duty concrete pavement area, able to withstand substantial and sustained vehicular traffic.
The southwest gardens flanking the main building. Planted in native birch and sedum, these spaces form clear edges to highlight changes in circulation and speed and help define the non-occupiable areas of the site. The slate, a recycled byproduct material from a quarry in northern Minnesota, complements the horizontality of the architecture while the plant material signals seasonal cycles.
Birch trees and native sedum planted in slate flagging garden. Bold colors and textures pay homage to the greater northern midwest landscape; the reds and rusts of the sedum plantings, yellowing leaves of the birch in the fall, white of the trunks, and slate gray of the stone brighten and contrast in an autumn sunset.
Slate flagging garden with Primary Inspections Area beyond. The horizontality and strong lines suggested by the building’s materials are contrasted with and complimented by the textural layers of slate flagging and the softening influence of the plantings.
The Land Port of Entry site is located along the international border between the United States and Canada near Warroad, Minnesota.
The Land Port of Entry facility supports the mission-driven demands of the US Customs and Border Protection, the federal agency responsible for securing the nation’s borders and promoting legal trade and travel. The total site encompasses over 13.3 acres. The site and building program combined occupy 81,208 square feet of the total site area. The remaining 11.4 acres, or 89% of the total site area, have been restored using native and/or adaptive plantings implemented through the design of the landscape architect.
The site is situated within the large, flat Glacial Lake Agassiz plane and Laurentian Mixed Forest region of northern Minnesota. The context is naturally flat and surrounded by poorly drained peat lands which are dominated by bog forests of Tamarack and Black Spruce.
The design program for the facility helps manage a series of complex programmatic and operational issues including: security of the border; site circulation of commercial, private, and recreational traffic; long term cost and energy reductions through irrigation and maintenance; and site surveillance.
The landscape design established a functional, innovative, and distinctive site reflective of the region and dignity of the United States Government. The use of locally sourced and sustainable materials was highly successful and accomplished in a contemporary, beautiful, and cost-effective manner. The Port is reflective not only of the surrounding natural context and community, but of the modern era in which we live and work.
The final landscape has become an extraordinary setting serving the Port’s security and operational needs while welcoming citizens and visitors to the United States. The intervention was carried out with a clear design vision, modern aesthetic, and impeccable attention to detail, all while achieving delivery on time and within budget. In addition, the design strategically draws from and compliments both the regional environment and the building’s architecture, presenting the facility thoughtfully and compellingly. Materials selected are durable and low maintenance and help reduce long term costs and maintenance efforts.
Stone Flagging – Monolithic areas of slate flagging encompass the Port buildings while defining the non-occupiable areas of the site. The slate is a recycled byproduct from a quarry in northern Minnesota, both local and sustainable. The simple transitions between the flagging and concrete areas form clear edges while highlighting changes in site circulation and speed. The flagging is positioned and detailed to enhance the visual experience from within the vehicle, the manner in which most visitors will pass through the site. The uniformity and consistency of the flagging across the ground plane establishes a distinctive presence and sense of grounded permanence for the Port structure.
Site Paving – The landscape architect selected concrete paving materials for the roadway and pedestrian areas, a durable surface contrasting in texture with the flagging. The majority of this surfacing was designed with no curb or gutter to allow for more natural infiltration of stormwater. All buildings at the Port of Entry are contained within a heavy duty concrete pavement area, able to withstand substantial and sustained vehicular traffic, whereas a Light Duty Concrete with a distinct saw-cut pattern was used for all pedestrian areas and walkways.
Site Furnishings – Custom site furnishings were designed and integrated within the surrounding architecture and landscape, including custom cedar and stainless steel benches, cedar and stainless steel ash urns, and bicycle racks. The cedar site elements were treated with a stain to match the exterior of the Port building. In addition to being beautifully detailed, all site furnishings met the service demands and program requirements for the facility – durable, resistant to vandalism, safe, and comfortable.
Site Plantings – The planting design incorporates native plant material into the site design; selections were based on adaptability to the region, design effect, color, and texture. Growth habit, mature size, regional availability, and maintenance or preparatory requirements, were also considered. Plantings include rows of American Tamarack and Whitespire Birch, flagging gardens of native sedum, and seeding of a native meadow prairie, native wet prairie mix, and wetland plantings.
The landscape design played an important role in helping the project attain a LEED Silver rating. The site was designed and built using strategies intended to improve the performance of water efficiency, maintenance, stewardship of resources, and energy savings. The landscape architect addressed issues of water quality and quantity through a layered system of infiltration areas and reconstructed wetlands. The design also incorporates durable and low maintenance materials to help reduce upkeep efforts and long term costs. Finally, the strategic use of native and adaptive plantings was employed to reduce irrigation consumption by 75%. The planting design eliminated the need for any ongoing maintenance, with exception of the first two years, during which reseeding and fertilization is needed to establish a solid cover of plants.
The landscape architects were part of a collaborative design team that addressed a complex set of operational and programmatic issues for the entire facility. The design team worked together to address issues such as maximizing sight lines across the site for officers in the main interior workspace, improving water quality, reducing water runoff, use of local materials, use of native and/or adaptive plantings, long term energy reductions, geothermal heating and cooling, and the reduction of long term costs and ongoing site maintenance.
The Warroad Land Port of Entry project has received a number of honors and awards from the General Services Administration (GSA) and American Institute of Architects (AIA) for landscape architecture, architecture, and engineering.
“… [The landscape architect] was able to create an experience of moving through a native bog landscape, arriving from one precinct to another. The materials from local quarries to the local woodland… [came] together in a very seamless fashion. The landscape architects were very keen at looking at the [existing] site and trying to magnify that experience.” – Comments from Walter Hood, 2011 GSA Awards Juror
Landscape Architecture: Coen+Partners
Location: Warroad / Minnesota / USA
Photos: Paul Crosby