Alluvial Decoder (City of Raleigh Storm Memorial) - CODAworx

Alluvial Decoder (City of Raleigh Storm Memorial)

Client: Raleigh Arts / Raleigh Stormwater (City of Raleigh)

Location: Raleigh, NC, United States

Completion date: 2022

Artwork budget: $50,000

Project Team

Co-Lead Artist

William H. Dodge

A Gang of Three

Co-Lead Artist

Lincoln Hancock

A Gang of Three

Co-Lead Artist

Will Belcher

A Gang of Three


Raleigh Arts

City of Raleigh


Raleigh Stormwater

City of Raleigh

Fabricator / Installer

Cricket Forge

Cricket Forge


Luke Buchanan


Signage Fabricator

Ryan Pound

RAD Graphics


Alluvial Decoder is a site-specific intervention along the City of Raleigh’s greenway trail on the banks of Crabtree Creek. While historically, the site has primarily been encountered along the greenway path, the design of this particular installation/memorial makes the site visible to a much broader audience by bringing awareness of the floodplain to both vehicle and pedestrian traffic on surrounding streets through the use of groves of color-coded pylons that mark historic flood heights. Graphic elements used within the greenway underpass allow site visitors to decode the markers and their associated storms while a reinstituted native meadow landscape along the site’s edge creates a natural riparian zone, therefore enhancing biodiversity and greatly reducing the ecological impact of the surrounding roadway infrastructure. In addition to serving as an immersive reminder of storms past (and those most certainly yet to come), this project also hopes to shed light on the pitfalls of irresponsible development, the wonder and fury of nature, and the simple steps we might take to mitigate such challenges both now and in the future.


The original project RFQ called for a floodplain/flooding “educational” project along Raleigh, NC’s Crabtree Creek greenway trail. The rest was open ended. The site itself was nearly two acres, and the budget was minimal ($35K originally, $50K after the city decided to expand the scope). Considering two of our three partners are from Raleigh and were both deeply familiar with the area and aware of the issues and resulting tragedies (one of William’s friends sadly drowned in the Crabtree Creek floodwaters resulting from Hurricane Fran in 1996 and both Lincoln and William knew people who had been permanently displaced due to the constant flooding issues), we decided to pursue the project. Throughout our professional lives - as artists and in our roles and architects, landscape architects and designers, we have always endeavored to do more with less and appreciate working within constraints. We looked at the budget and site size as an opportunity to create an immersive experience, not simply an object to be viewed. Through this approach we were better able to tell the story of storms past, those yet to come, and the lives that have been affected as a result. We did not take any artist fee on this as 100% of the funds went into making the project the best that it could possibly be.


As a team we worked extraordinarily close with our clients (Raleigh Arts and Raleigh Stormwater) as well as numerous other city departments, community stakeholders, and other local artists, in order to both develop the overall design as well as the actual construction of the piece itself. We partnered with longtime friend and local muralist (Luke Buchanan) and a local metal fabricator (Cricket Forge) to help bring this project from an idea to reality. At the official opening we handed out native plant seeds for participants to spread within the meadow, much to their delight, especially the children. Through this engagement the community itself feels a sense of pride and ownership of the piece as they themselves were integral to the actual final built product and have in a sense become ambassadors for the project. Since completion Alluvial Decoder has generated renewed interest along this section of the greenway, raised awareness of flooding and stormwater issues, reduced stormwater runoff (due to the meadow), improved biodiversity by providing additional native habitat, and invited long overdue conversations about how we develop near waterways - all while becoming a destination for visitors seeking out the project purely for arts sake.

**Recipient, 2022 Raleigh Medal of Arts

Additional Information

"Alluvial Decoder is an excellent example of how public art can be created to educate and invite conversation surrounding critical issues. Investing in artists to create a visual storytelling experience is one of the best ways cities can communicate a message and meaningfully engage our communities. The impact of an immersive experience in particular is much greater than simply printing a sign or telling a story. As an artwork, Alluvial Decoder was designed with careful attention to concept, aesthetics, and the history surrounding the site - all while being executed on an extraordinarily tight budget and with significant site constraints." - Kelly McChesney, Public Art Director, Raleigh Arts (Client) --------------------------------------------- “Through the Alluvial Decoder project, the artists have invited the curious to seek an understanding of Raleigh’s flooding history, and through this journey participate in conversations surrounding the environmental and public safety benefits of critical issues such as floodplain management and ecologically sensitive development.” - Wayne Miles, Raleigh Stormwater (Client) ------------------------------------------- Recipient, 2022 Raleigh Medal of Arts (first project ever honored in the award’s 40+ year history)