Situated at a dramatic narrowing, Water Mark crowns the Indian Bend Wash and Scottsdale’s innovative flood control greenbelt. Encompassed within the flood basin on both sides of Indian Bend Road, the artwork consists of a roadside landmark and earthworks. Five 14-foot aluminum equine gargoyle sculptures grace a drop structure to the north. During flooding, the gargoyles activate. In the south basin by a cycle and pedestrian pathway are the earthworks. Six walls, plus a triangular planter, with notches similar to flood markers, transition into naturalistic mortared stone berms with plants. Each becomes an island during flooding.
Historically, Indian Bend Road would close during flood events. The project improvements consisted of roadway widening, flood control improvements, multi-use pathways, landscaping and public art. Improving safety, meeting the demands of travel, and creating an area that matched the greenbelt made these improvements a top priority.
Integrated into the improvements, Water Mark expresses the dichotomy of flooding with the otherwise peaceful urban desert oasis of natural and man-made habitats, captures the drama of desert floods, marks water levels, and enhances the desert oasis that attracts wildlife.
Art marks the flow of floodwater from the golf course north of the site, down a concrete “drop structure,” under a new roadway bridge, into a control basin, through to an existing natural mesquite grove and lake. The waters continue through Scottsdale’s greenbelt of parks. The art accompanies landscaping, specialty lighting, multi-use pathways, sidewalks and bike lanes. These elements support a safe and attractive multi-modal environment that encourages viewing of it whether you are walking, biking, or driving, and meets the criteria for a “complete street” in Scottsdale’s Transportation Master Plan. There are no seams between the art and the overall design and goals.
Through public outreach and focus groups that involved collaging, the artists identified the community desire to integrate and enhance the existing desert oasis with the roadway and flood control improvements and heard their memories of flooding events, including cars getting stuck in the wash. Working in tight collaboration with the design/construction team throughout the entire process, artists Haddad and Drugan coupled the community desires and memories with the stated City goals of the improvements.
The artist team kept their inspiration in the forefront with the City team throughout the multi-year design process. They created architectural details that demonstrated marking floodwaters not only for the art elements but to the bridge elements as well, thus achieving an overall aesthetic for the project. The artist team was present either in person or by phone conferencing for every design team meeting, met all team deadlines, and followed through with strong personal communication on details. The artists took suggestions on materials and design to make the concept affordable and aesthetically strong. They listened. They engaged the key personnel on the team in their fabrication process, including site visits, keeping enthusiasm for the total project high.
Water Mark‘s equine gargoyles and large earthworks are an aesthetic mirror of a desert wash and integrates the flood improvements with Scottsdale’s greenbelt of parks, recreational amenities and pathways. There are many layers to be discovered. The sculptures engage the horse, the gargoyle, and stylistically automobile hood ornaments to celebrate the history of the Arabian horses that were first introduced in the area in the early 1900s, to draw on the iconic history of gargoyles as guardians and protectors from rain water, and to reflect the memories of automobile hood ornaments that once peeked out of flood waters.
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