Taylor Park: H3 Studio - 2011 Merit Award

Overall Project Summary

Taylor Park is an urban, unique, multi-generational play space and multiple-use community gathering space located in the Central West End in St. Louis, Missouri on the site of a former dog park on Taylor Avenue roughly 1/5 acre in size. Meetings were conducted with many of the local residents to determine the program and character of the playground.  It was decided that the playground should be unique in approach and design; it should be handicapped accessible; it should be as safe as possible; and that it should offer creative recreational opportunities to multiple age groups. Their ideas were translated into the design concept of a multi-level ramping plays pace where the natural landscape & the built environment operate in harmony blurring the traditional notions of how and where one can play and what is & is not formal play spaces. The specific solution includes a steel structured and wood finished “enclosing play-frame” arranged along the perimeter of the site which ascends from grade to become a two level play space at its peak overlooking the street. As the sloping walkway ascends (counterclockwise), the age groups & types of play increase to finally match the demands of a 12 year-old. The structure also, acts as containment for a bamboo screen, two “tree houses”, a tunnel, shade pergolas, and attached formal play equipment. Augmenting this is a free-form central space with climbing rocks, sensory gardens and a pea gravel play-area, and an overlook for the community gathering area. Since the playground will operate at night, there is a “starlight canopy suspended over the entire playground that highlights and focus’ on the adjacent glowing dome of the St. Louis Cathedral.


Project Purpose I Program - concept, scope, guidelines, or design intent

The basic program is a Children’s Play Space including sloping walkway, tree house, lookout and adult seating areas. Exterior spaces include gathering spaces, play equipment, and interactive fence. As the only playground for children (aged 5-12) in the neighborhood, the residents assisted the design team in developing a program anchored in Mitsuru Senda’s theory of play and the desire that it should also be a multi-generational urban community gathering space. The theory of play ensured a playground with a great variety of forms of play including: formal structured vs. informal play; collective vs. individualistic play; active vs. contemplative play; and determined vs. inventive play. To facilitate this the playground includes various types of play environments, such as: places of nature; adventure places such as hideouts, tunnels, overlooks, and sky-frames; small-large open-closed spaces; storied places of discovery; places of dizziness and symbolic high places all spatially linked through the multiplicity & porosity of the pattern of flows of play.

Role of the Landscape Architect - regarding leadership and planning/design involvement

 The role of the landscape architect in this multi-disciplinary project was to develop the concepts of the landscape containment systems within the context of the playground and multi-functional spaces; and provide the planting plan and according landscaping details. Leadership on the project was exhibited in the creation of details to incorporate the concrete foundation systems of the main steel structure with the ground level containments system for the bamboo; as well as details relative to the green screen wall and cable systems for supporting the bamboo.   

Special Factors & Significance - uniqueness, special problems, budget constraints, etc.

In its current inception, the design features a one-of-a-kind “tree walk”, multi-level play opportunities, and several vine and ivy covered shade structures; also combining playground products, as well as custom built equipment to create an experience. The main structure consists of a Structural Steel Post & Beam System with Wood Decking, Poured in Place Concrete Foundation Walls, and Custom Wood Framing. Enclosure System Includes Custom Steel Railings & Fencing, Custom Wood & Steel Framed Components, and a Custom Fabricated Sculptural Steel Fence. Green Systems include a 100’ Green Screen Wall and a Cable System for Supporting the 17’ tall Perimeter Bamboo Wall. Specific to the landscape component of this project, the bamboo wall was unique in that it’s function was tri-fold: to contain the bamboo, to assist in supporting the structure, and to affix the enclosure system.  

H3 Studio accepting Merit Award. L-R Bryan Robinson H3, John Hoal H3 Principal, Caroline Gaidis H3, Anne Lewis Chapter Past President

"Pioneer Courage" & "Spirit of Nebraska" Sculpture Park: Boody Fine Arts & JVR - 2011 Merit Award

Project Name and Location: “Pioneer Courage” & “The Spirit of Nebraska’s Wilderness” Sculpture Park, is an excellent example of a private / public collaboration providing a unique gateway into the CBD of Omaha, Nebraska.  


Project Summary: The design team’s vision was to create an interactive sustainable sculpture park with the public not only observing America’s history, but becoming a participant and member of the wagon train, walking in and around the wagons, animals and birds. The team’s intent was to shape a modern urban park, engage the city’s architecture, restore 2 large city blocks to green space, utilize native plants and materials and set the standard for future figurative sculpture monuments in America.

The project unveils the story of life on the morning of May 21, 1841, long before the current urban landscape was created. The contextual use of the city’s architecture (private and public) as the canvas and the urban landscape (building facades, sidewalks, planters, traffic lights, streetlights, and an atrium) provide a unique setting for the largest installation of site specific bronze and stainless steel figurative works of art in the Country.


The optimism and courage of the families are captured as they embark on a journey that will forever change their lives and transform our nation. That “can do” attitude is portrayed in each facial expression, body gesture, and group activity as they break camp and proceed west with all of their worldly possessions. The wagons meander through a dry creek bed, with the noise causing a herd of bison to stampede, flushing a flock of Canada Geese from their resting place on a nearby pond. The flight of the geese is portrayed during different stages, beginning with the birds taking off, then attached to 18’ bronze trees, a traffic signal, the corner of a building, a light pole and suspended in an atrium.

Role of Landscape Architect: The team, led by the landscape architect of record, included 3 additional landscape architectural firms, 3 of America’s finest figurative artists, 3 architectural firms, 2 contractors, 2 stone consultants, a fountain contractor, an art consultant and the client. Additional roles included specifying the 1¼ scale for the project, collaborating and unifying the visions of 3 creative artists, establishing lighting requirements, merging 2 independent sites and 5 city blocks into a cohesive “Big Idea”, and creating a stage for the art.


There have literally been dozens of team meetings, conference calls and visits to artists’ studios, quarries and foundries to discuss conceptual or collaborative issues, site concerns, technical problems and installation questions. Detailed measurements and digitizing the site allowed the team to design, sculpt and install the project without major issues. Meticulous recreations of the architectural facades were created in the artists’ studios to insure a seamless installation and minimize their time on site during installation.

Significance: The Client’s Goals for the Sculpture Park included: (1) to provide a contribution to the City of Omaha and the State of Nebraska exemplifying the client’s commitment to the area, and capturing the milestones associated with the 150 years of partnership between the entities; (2) to unify their downtown campus of 9 city blocks by using a cohesive artistic style, similar materials, art mediums, signage, etc. throughout the monument; and (3) to commission a world-class team to create one interrelated park defining a corporate identity to be shared with the community. The park required 11 years to complete, utilized traditional materials of granite, limestone, native plants and prairie grasses to capture the essence of what once was. Sustainability was at the center of the design processes with efforts retain runoff, use native materials and minimize future operational and maintenance expenses.

Special Factors: The team was not given a budget, site parameters or subject matter specifications; it was, in fact, given a clean slate and through the charette process individual ideas were merged into a story line honoring the historical events of the area.


Returning two large parking lots into green space has provided visitors and individuals living and working in the downtown area an oasis in the middle of a concrete environment. The client provides a variety of musical performances throughout the year and invite everyone to enjoy the space throughout the year. The revitalized public space provides a setting for professionals to discuss business issues and, perhaps most importantly, a personal space just to reflect and to relax in the middle of the hustle and bustle of today’s fast pace environment.

The response and comments from visitors and residents alike on the site’s design, craftsmanship, detail, quality, scale and the historical accuracy of the sculpture have been overwhelmingly positive. Eleven years of filming will produce a TV documentary to be aired this fall, with an educational component being created for distribution to schools at all levels. The philanthropic gift to the region harkens back to the patronage of Italy’s Medici family.