The Steel Yard | Providence USA | Klopfer Martin Design Group

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


About Damian Holmes 5735 Articles
Damian Holmes is the Founder and Editor of World Landscape Architecture (WLA). He is a registered landscape architect (AILA) working in international design practice in Australia. Damian founded WLA in 2007 to provide a website for landscape architects written by landscape architects. Connect on Linkedin at