Carson Parklet connecting Las Vegans to nature in multiple ways

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This project is a parklet for downtown Las Vegas. Downtown Las Vegas is undergoing a renaissance. Businesses and people are moving back into downtown. A substantial challenge for downtown is the lack of park space. This parklet, to remain in place for a year or two, offers people a chance to relax outside and connect to nature in multiple ways.

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The clients for the project are a developer located in downtown, RRG, and The Nature Conservancy. These clients shared a passion for getting people outside downtown, and connecting them to nature. Our design met their needs by providing a parklet space in the downtown to allow people to be outside in a non-commercial setting. We also used imagery and information related to the Mojave Desert – the ecological context of Las Vegas.

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The parklet has a shade and wind canopy on the south end, a deck with planters filled with native plants of the Mojave Desert, and a table and chairs covered with Corian. The sturdy construction of the planters, deck and canopy create a protective barrier from traffic.

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The table and chairs have laser-etched Corian surfaces. On the seats and table legs are the signature species of the Mojave Desert. A map of Las Vegas on the surface of the nearly three-meter long table shows parks inside of and adjacent to the city where these species may be seen. The Corian is a durable and lasting material, which optimizes the ability to mark the surface with great detail, and have it still be strong enough to resist weathering and vandalism. The surface is easily cleaned.

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The nature narrative is a critical program for the parklet. Younger generations are growing up in the core of cities; the parket is a means of getting nature on the minds of the city dwellers. In addition to the parklet having information about nature and where to connect with it in the local context, social media cues such as hashtags on the parklet lead people to websites where they may find more information about local parks and the species within them.
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The shade canopy is durable and malleable. Lexan sheets with translucent vinyl provide shade, shadows and evocative imagery meant to draw in users who see the parklet from as far as a block or two away. The panels allow the parklet to be boisterous, fitting into the context of downtown Las Vegas by standing out. These panels may be changed by the season to provide deeper shade in hotter months and relate to city or natural events occurring.

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Finally, the program of the parklet relates to the building it fronts, which recently opened as an adaptive re-use project. Inside of the building are several restaurants and businesses meant to support new downtown residents. Some of these restaurants have limited seating, and others are already popular enough to have patrons waiting for seating. ‘The Waiting Game’ has game boards etched on to the table. People waiting for a table, or wanting to eat outside after getting food or drink may check out games from the businesses.
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Also important to the relationship of the parklet to the businesses is the siting of the parklet. It lies on the east side of the building on a pedestrian-oriented street a block from Las Vegas Boulevard (‘The Strip’). The building gives the parklet shade from the mid-afternoon until sunset. As people come to the parklet in the late afternoon and evening to use the restaurants, the parklet will be a comfortable location to rest and relax in the city.

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The parklet was created and built through the collaboration of Downtown Project, Iowa State University (ISU), University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV), Resort Gaming Group, and The Nature Conservancy. Design teams for the 160-square-foot nature spot were led by ISU Landscape Architecture Chair Ken McCown and Jonathon Anderson of UNLV.

Images | Courtesy of Ken McCown
Text | Ken McKown