River of Shade, Harmon Park
Corner of South 5th Avenue and West Yavapai Street
Commissioned by the Phoenix Office of Arts and Culture
River of Shade creates something that is rare in the South Phoenix neighborhood: a tree-lined shady environment to walk and gather. The sculptural landscape has a main path which establishes a walking ‘mainstreet’, its sinuous lines shaded by a bosc of Palo Verde trees, connecting the residential community to its library.
Through the collaborative design approach of artist, Stacy Levy, the library’s architects, Richard+Bauer and landscape architect David Green, the park took on a new life for people who had not been served by a more sports-centered space. A bosc of Palo Verde trees creates a shady and cool place to gather and to stroll. The park’s primary path becomes a shaded place to walk and to hang out, with meandering paths that connect the neighborhood directly with the library’s courtyards and doorways. Long lines of brightly colored crushed glass inset into the paving echo the stained glass windows in the building.
Dark blue leaf-like metal benches give pleasant places to sit under the dappled shade of Palo Verde trees. A small amphitheater serves as a place to read, hangout and put on impromptu performances. It is like a grassy couch just outside of the doors of the library, and is utilized by the librarians as an outdoor room, especially for the teen patrons.
The existing community garden had been lively but small. This garden was re-designed to give a cogent visual form and make it a centerpiece of the park. A decorative art fence makes the garden safe from stray bikes and balls, but also gives an organizing frame to the horticultural activities. In this garden, many cultures come together to grow a myriad of vegetables from all parts of the world. The artist who is an avid gardener, carefully planned the garden to have well-ordered paths to contain the profusion of vegetation as well as places for compost and hose bibs for watering. Because many people garden in the cool of the night, the lighting plan was carried through the garden, creating a glowing green gem in the midst of the park.
Along this well-lit path, with new lighting bollards and pole lights, the neighborhood can find a safe and walk-able outdoor space. The spaces have been designed to promote a viewshed into the park, making all parts of the park visible to the police cars monitoring the park from the adjacent road. But it is the ‘Mainstreet ‘ feel of the park that keeps it most safe. On summer nights, when heat of the day diminishes, the park is fully awake with parents with strollers, older people sitting on the benches to talk, kids riding bikes around the paths, and kids sitting on the slopes of the amphitheatre.
The partnership that created this project included the Harmon Neighborhood Associations, the community, City of Phoenix Office of Cultural Affairs, Phoenix Public Library, and the Department of Recreation.