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Client: City of Wichita, Kansas

Location: Wichita, KS, United States

Completion date: 2019

Artwork budget: $405,000

Project Team

Artist

The Art Studio

RDG Planning & Design

Lead Artist / Architect

Doug Adamson

RDG Planning & Design

Landscape Architecture

RDG Planning & Design

Mechanical & Electrical Engineering

RDG Planning & Design

Civil Engineering

CFS Engineering

Ecology

Applied Ecological Services

General Contractor

Hutton Company

Glass

Goldray Industries, Inc.

Stainless Steel Mesh Systems

Jakob Rope Systems

Composite Decking

TimberTech / Azek

Lighting

Luminus

Hardware

3Form

Overview

The most productive wildlife spots of the Great Plains have been and remain its shallow wetlands called a playa, or playa lake. The Pracht Wetland is one of those remnants, preserved and uniquely situated in the middle of a sprawling urban landscape.
The park conveys an idea that the wetland is not an object to be looked at, but rather a sensorial and tactile experience. To that end, two wildlife blinds were conceived which hover over the water and represent two distinct moments and visual perspectives to contemplate the wetlands, while teaching us about the wetland’s plants and animals.

Goals

Our primary goal was to employ art to bring people into the wetland in a way that doesn’t negatively affect the wetlands and wildlife. We also wanted to educate people about how wetlands benefit us and wildlife and how wetlands reflect how we develop and use the watershed around them.

Two public art installations were envisioned to establish related opportunities for imagery and artwork. Rather than imposed “objects,” our intent was to reinforce the experience of the viewer, the visitor, as they enter and walk through the wetland. The overlooks, or “blinds,” represent the primary opportunity for wetland interpretation.

Lotus Blind
This wildlife blind is an abstraction of the form of the American Lotus. This native species is found in many wetlands across the United States including the Pracht Wetland. The lotus leaf and flower, interpreted as an undulating leaf form along its edge, culminates with a wall of bowed planks that evoke the lotus flower petals.

Linear Blind
Along the linear blind, visitors may stop to explore the wetland through dichroic glass panels that call out distinct wildlife inhabitants and visitors of the wetland, such as the Great Egret, that drop in as they migrate along the North American Central Flyway.

Process

The iterative design process consisted of sites visits with our ecologist, client meetings and design charrettes. During the site visits, ecologically sensitive areas were carefully mapped. A vision and goals were created during the many client meeting and through our design charrettes we explored many ways of interpreting the wetland. Our vison and discoveries centered around the idea of getting people “out into the water,” and as close to it as possible. The resultant objectives included:
• Tell the story of the importance of wetlands and their role in human existence while conveying the changing environment of the wetland and how people have used and modified it over time.
• Teach about the wetland’s plants and animals.
• Teach about the watershed’s influence on the wetland, and ways to hold back and slow down runoff, as well as clean up polluted water.
• Seek involvement of the surrounding neighbors in protection, management, interpretation, and watershed-wide management of runoff.

The “big move” of the project, a sensitively placed boardwalk becomes a dramatic gesture that reaches out into the wetland – an invitation to enter this environment and see it anew. A sculptural thread that ties the park together and provides a meaningful connection to the blinds.

Additional Information

At Pracht Wetland Park, water serves as the connection between the site's history and the surrounding community. Inviting visitors to engage in intriguing ways with several types of uncommon biomes, it teaches through quiet reflection how people can be good stewards of wetlands and the watersheds of which they are a part. The blinds draw on the idea that water is not an object to be looked at, but rather experience this in a sensorial and tactile way. Informed by the flat playa environment, the art creates a sense of transparency that seeks to get people “out into the water.”