W Architecture & Landscape Architecture transforms a former parking lot into a family-friendly waterfront park that encourages a diverse range of active and passive experiences and culminates with artist Jane Echelon’s “curved arch” floating overhead. above the central lawn


St. Petersburg, Florida, United States

Covering 5,300 feet (1,615 meters) of the Tampa Bay Florida waterfront, The Pier Approach is a monumental and historic civic park with three interconnected pedestrian experiences designed by Barbara Wilks and David Ostrich of W Architecture & Landscape Architecture LLC with Wannemacher Jensen Architects and a sculpture by Jane Echelon for the city of Saint Petersburg.

The Pier Approach is a 20-acre space between downtown and the pier, which has become the new heart of the city.

For its inspired and eco-friendly design, Pier Approach recently received a 2022 International Architecture Award from the Chicago Athenaeum: Museum of Architecture and Design and the European Center for Architecture Art Design and Urban Studies.

Originally a vehicle-oriented parking area, the goal was to create a pedestrian-oriented plaza, with integrated vehicular and bicycle circulation, that engages people in renewed civic life.

The implemented plan reduces roadway and parking, while increasing attractive pedestrian places including gardens, playgrounds, gazebos, restaurants, markets and ecological landscapes to bring together diverse communities.

Three interrelated pedestrian experiences encourage people to enjoy the area on foot: an urban pedestrian column that stretches from the town center to the pier, a family park and the edges of the waterfront.

Stormwater management provides native wetlands that attract wildlife.

The oval-shaped landscape and trails are inspired by the unique karst/sinkhole landscape of the Tampa Bay area.

The native live oak trees that were in the parking areas remain on site and are supplemented with the addition of trees to provide a shaded native pine/oak forest with a native understory.

The pedestrian backbone stretches from the town to the Pierhead.

At the start of the urban pedestrian spine, the reception square offers both a self-service bicycle and tram service for the pier area.

A flexible market pavilion stretches along the central axis, drawing foot traffic with local food and produce, as well as shade.

The canopy is made of solar panels.

Palm trees line this iconic entrance, flanked by existing Podocarpus trees from the old driveway.

A diverse range of active and passive experiences are encouraged in this new family park: picnics by the water, walks through native gardens, a unique play area for all ages and a pond for local management of storm water, home improvement with an observation deck.

The centerpiece is a sculpture by Janet Echelman suspended above the central lawn, called the “Bending Arc”.

It has become a meeting place for a diverse population of ‘St Pete’ and the heart of the park.

It is also a reference to the decision of the Supreme Court, which created integrated beaches in Saint Petersburg and elsewhere.

An inviting waterfront connects people to the water.

A new gazebo with seat steps, a viewing edge with an informal amphitheater, a promenade along a new transitional marina, and a monument to the first commercial airline, are connected by a North Promenade and a South Promenade, lined of gullies.

The loops take you from the southern edge to the center of the park and to the far north, creating a nice contrast to the spine of the pier.

Project: Pier Approach
Landscape Architects: W Architecture & Landscape Architecture LLC.
Collaborating architects: Wannemacher Jensen Architects
Lead designers: Barbara Wilks and David Ostrich
General contractor: Skanska USA
Client: City of Saint Petersburg
Photographers: Maria Flanagan and Brian Adams


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