Most cities with industrial pasts inherit problematic environmental futures. The Steel Yard’s cleanup is a showcase for regenerative design in a tough environment. Within industrial Providence, our project is a public intervention that upends commonly held notions of blighted neighborhoods and shows the potential for real, actively engaged – not simply ‘adaptive’—re-use. The Steel Yard’s landscape for learning embodies the non-profit’s mission through innovative (and necessarily inexpensive) brownfield remediation, stormwater filtration/reduction, purposeful design and placemaking.
In 2001 a forward-looking pair of 30-somethings devoted to Providence had the vision to purchase Providence Steel, a disused steel fabrication facility near the center of Providence. Their goal was to develop a non-profit organization focused on the fabrication arts by offering artist studio space, facilitating instruction in metal, ceramic, and glass arts, and providing job training to young people in welding in addition to a robust set of public-welcome programs and events throughout the year.
Competing interests of large paved surfaces for outdoor work space, events, and vehicular movement, balanced with the sustainable interests of reducing impervious pavement, are driving forces of the landscape design. The resulting design is centered on a paved plane, ‘the carpet,’ which is woven with heavy- and light-duty pavements, impermeable and pervious materials. The margins beyond the pavement act as ‘storm-water moats’ infiltrating stormwater runoff, and providing habitat for volunteer vegetation. Building the carpet over existing grade reduced excavate and allowed all contaminated soil to remain on-site in landforms.
The Steel Yard was recently selected for as a Finalist in the 2013 Rudy Bruner Award for Urban Excellence.
The Steel Yard | Providence USA | Klopfer Martin Design Group
Klopfer Martin Design Group | landscape architects
Environmental Engineering | EA Engineering
Civil Engineer | Morris Beacon Design
Structural Engineer | Structures Workshop Inc.
Contractor | Catalano Construction
Volunteer Planting Day | assistance from Groundwork Providence -Trees 2020 program
Photography | Christian Phillips Photography
Client | The Steel Yard, Providence (Drake Patten, Executive Director; Clay Rockefeller, Nick Bauta, Co-founders; Peter Gill Case, Board Chairman).
Text by Klopfer Martin Design Group