Like a shady backyard for the Harmon Library in Phoenix, River of Shade creates a space for gardening, walking, and hanging out.


Harmon Library Park, Phoenix, Arizona


Crushed glass, Palo Verde trees, steel, concrete, lighting bollards and poles

Dimensions variable

In collaboration with architects Richard+Bauer and landscape architect David Green

Supported by the Harmon Neighborhood Associations, the community, City of Phoenix Office of Cultural Affairs,

Phoenix Public Library, and the Department of Recreation

Connecting the new Harmon Library and the neighborhoods of South Phoenix, River of Shade becomes the library’s backyard. In this extremely hot and open landscape, the design creates an asset of dappled shade. Part of the project was the forming of a new community garden, with beds and water sources surrounded by an artful but protective fence. This new garden encourages the diverse local population to grow a myriad of vegetables together.

Palo Verde trees create a river of shade in the hot Arizona sun.

Plan of the park showing the library to the left and community gardens on the upper-right corner connected by a curving series of glass inlaid paths. Grassy amphitheater gives a place to read books in the “backyard” of the library.

Corten steel fence protecting the community garden and also becoming a trellis for future vining vegetation.

Whereas many parks create play spaces for young children or for organized sports, this park makes shaded spaces for neighbors to walk and meet in the outdoors. A small amphitheater serves as a place to read, socialize, and put on impromptu performances. The librarians even utilize this space as an outdoor reading room.

Curving garden beds and paths between make an orderly and useful garden layout. Sources of water and even lights for night time gardening in the cool of the evening are part of the design.

On summer nights after the heat of the day diminishes, both the garden and the park are fully awake with visitors of all ages.

The park is built for speeding through the curvy paths on bicycles or the contemplative labor of gardening.

The vines and the gardeners utilize the art fence. Here an Asian squash variety thrives in the community garden.