Heritage Park Plaza, then and now. - photos by John Roberts, AIA and Susan Allen Kline
Tour M: Heritage Plaza
Friday, November 8, 2013
7:45 am - 9:15 am
Class Code: 41
Room / Location
Grand Lobby / Convention Center First Floor
Early: $50.00 Advanced: $50.00 Full: $50.00
Downtown Fort Worth - Supporting Sponsor
Project: Heritage Park Plaza Restoration
Landscape Architect: OLIN
Tour Guide: Randy Hutcheson, City of Fort Worth
Heritage Plaza sits atop the 112-acre Heritage Park adjacent to the Paddock Viaduct in Downtown Fort Worth. The Plaza is located on the bluff, above the Trinity River, near the site of the original Fort Worth military outpost. It was designed by renowned landscape architect Lawrence Halprin and was the city’s official contribution to America’s Bicentennial Celebration in 1976. Halprin was also responsible for the creation of the Trinity River Vision report in 1969 and the Central City Business District Plan in 1971. Halprin’s unique landscape designs can be found across America, from the FDR Memorial in Washington, D.C., to Freeway Park in Seattle. In 2010, Heritage Plaza was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Originally clean with freshly poured concrete and sparse vegetation, Heritage Plaza visually appeared as a disparate object dropped on the bluff. Over time, the concrete aged and developed a patina, vegetation became overgrown, and the Plaza now resembles a decadent abstract modernist interpretation of the original fort. Large poured-in-place concrete walls are the primary form of enclosure, and flowing water was the organizing element. Beginning at a cistern near the main entrance, water once flowed through channels to several water walls and falls located in various rooms within the Plaza. When active, the main water walls at the entrance effectively reduced sound and views of downtown while focusing attention north to the river. Scripted lettering adorns the north-facing wall, while a site plan of the original fort is embedded on the west interior water wall. Towering, closely spaced live oak trees create the feel of a river Bosque in the largest interior space, and an oasis to escape or retreat from the city. At the north end of the Plaza, a belvedere juts out over the bluffs. This design feature contrasts greatly to other areas of the Plaza because it provides a clear view of an ever-changing city. The structure ends at the lowest level of the Plaza, unresolved, with a natural path to the Trinity River. Due to budget constraints, the sequential experience never reached the banks of the Trinity River as originally designed.
Time and weather have taken a toll and created public safety issues that must be addressed. In 2007, the City of Fort Worth closed Heritage Plaza due to these issues. Repairing, reopening, and restoring this historic site requires thoughtful study and consideration. With support from the Amon G. Carter Foundation, Sid Richardson Foundation, and Streams and Valleys Inc., the City of Fort Worth and Downtown Fort Worth Inc. have been working with the public to move forward with a deliberative approach to reopen the Plaza. Currently, Phase I geotechnical analysis is underway, and Phase II interim design improvements should begin in late 2013.
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