Lawrenceburg, Indiana city officials saw an opportunity in redeveloping an underutilized parking lot which was centrally located between the City’s most prominent destinations – the City’s Event Center, downtown retail core, and Casino. They believed that a new multi-purpose civic park could be the centerpiece of a new “entertainment district” and ultimately a catalyst for new development in downtown Lawrenceburg. The design developed by MKSK has transformed the area into a green and vibrant urban landscape composed of gardens, bosques, grasslands, water, and rolling topography. The design of the park draws inspiration from its location along the Ohio River corridor and pays homage to the City’s rich history. The composition of form, site materials, and landscape were carefully Informed by and respond to the native Indiana Ohio River corridor landscape.
The design was shaped by a community-led process involving several public meetings and workshops with city leadership and key stakeholders. Initial planning and urban design studies looked beyond the edges of the site and explored potential impacts and recommendations for future development within the emerging “entertainment district”. How would this new landscape interface with surrounding development and architecture? What type of development would this urban civic space promote?
The composition of form, materials, and flora is informed by and responds to the southern Indiana Ohio River corridor landscape—the flow and currents of the river, the iconic native limestone found throughout the region, the movement of people walking, running, and playing through and within the space, and the waves of sound that stream from music, voices, and migrating birds and wildlife that participate and animate this urban context. Early conceptual design explored the distribution and expression of program and spaces.
The parking lot site was the location of the City’s well-attended weekly summer music series, Music on the River, so officials planned to invest in a significant stage and green room as the architectural anchor to the new public space. The stage was planned to host the summer music series and expand the programming opportunities at the Event Center. The design of the stage draws from the industrial bridges that are typical along the Ohio River and the ceiling of the stage is clad in old whiskey barrels, celebrating Lawrenceburg’s “whiskey city” heritage and the nearby former Seagram’s distillery.
In addition to the summer concerts that often draw over 1,000 spectators, the park is programmed to accommodate everyday activities like strolling or picnicking and smaller events such as farmers markets and fitness classes. The north and south event lawns are connected by a field of granite pavers within the downtown’s main street. Surrounding the event lawn are a series of gardens and tree bosques that provide refuge space within the plaza creating moments of color, shade, and seating opportunities. Low, mountable granite curbs provide a gentle transition for pedestrians and vehicles to traverse the entire park during large events.
The northwest end of the park is anchored by a pop-jet fountain, where textured granite paving makes a subtle “river” motif on the ground surface. North of the fountain is a grove of trees in paver grates that provide refuge for families from the hot summer sun. On the south side, limestone boulders step up onto the event lawn, reminiscent of the levee that connects the park to the Ohio River.
The transformation of the impervious parking lot site to a public greenspace provided a desirable amenity to the community while also reducing stormwater run-off and improving the public perception of Lawrenceburg as a “river town.” The event lawn encourages outdoor activity and larger community gatherings. Native trees and plantings provide shade and refuge within the urban downtown setting.
The meandering form of the park is inspired by river currents, the flow of people, and sound waves. While the non-orthogonal forms may seem out of place within a historic downtown, a pedestrian scale and contextual materials like limestone, concrete, wood, and red brick make the park feel appropriate to the fabric of Lawrenceburg.
Celebrated as a regional destination and center for the community, the new Lawrenceburg Civic Park dramatically represents the once fragmented vehicular landscape into a unified series of settings for people, nature, and programming.
City officials are confident that the new civic space will be a catalyst for growth and development. Since the park’s opening in 2019, attendance at the Music on the River has soared, and the park is regularly programmed with community activities including a farmer’s market, mobile library, Shakespeare performances, movies, and fitness classes. The park successfully draws the community of Lawrenceburg toward the Ohio River and celebrates the City’s rich “river town” history.
Lawrenceburg Civic Park
Location: Lawrenceburg, Indiana
Date of Completion: 2019
Designer/Landscape Architect: MKSK
Consultant Team: Strand Associates (Engineer, Lead); MSA Design (Stage Architect); Southern Aquatics, Inc. (Fountain Designer-Builder)
Client: City of Lawrenceburg
Photographer(s): Krider Photography; Mike Cairns/Infinite Impact