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City Foundry STL’s Outdoor Inspiration

by Rebecca DeZeeuw

City Foundry STL is the reinvention an urban historic industrial space into a place where creativity, collaboration and entrepreneurship will thrive. The space will provide St. Louis with a new center for food, fashion and innovative thinkers, and the landscape design reinforces this new economy, environment and social culture.

Holistically, the project’s design calls back to its history with an industrial aesthetic, utilizing raw materials such as corten steel, concrete and asphalt. Details such as handrails and bollards will be painted yellow to accent the industrial look. These yellow pipe-like structures create the machine-like look that reminds us what this building’s original purpose was. Playing with that aesthetic, there are outdoor walkways, flexible event spaces with movable finishes and patio spaces framed by corten steel planters with benches. This allows for easy navigation and creates an inviting space for the community. The team drew its inspiration for the planting palette from the wild post-industrial site, inventorying plant species that had survived and thrived once the site was abandoned. Complementing these plants is a plant palette that is rooted in resilient and native/adaptable plants, including grasses, sedges, wildflowers, shrubs and trees. Two key sources they referenced were: “Planting in a Post-Wild World” (Rainer and West) and “Planting: A New Perspective” (Oudolf and Kingsbury).

Lawrence Group’s landscape architecture team – John Iffrig, Tyson Marinis and Josh Barragree – developed several planting palettes for year round interest. There will be eight different native plant communities, each with species selected to complement one another both ecologically as well as aesthetically. Many of these plant communities are rooted in a dense planting of sedges — a diverse species of plant which thrive in various microclimate conditions — that create a ground cover limiting the need for mulch. There are seasonal interests in which different plants will pop during the spring, summer, fall and even winter. The winter interest is seen through branching and berries with snow and ice lingering on the ends of them, creating a beautiful aesthetic. It will take about two years for the plants to fully flourish. Once established, our design goal for the different communities is to merge into one another by spreading rhizomes and self-seeding, thus creating an ever-changing plant community where the strongest and best suited plants survive.

Such a complex project brought many opportunities along with unique challenges to satisfy everyone’s vision and goal. Barragree explained his experience with working on the City Foundry STL project saying, “The postindustrial, adaptive reuse of the building is awesome and inspires and excites me in pursuing my career in landscape architecture. Being a young incoming landscape architect, I learned a lot about the process of a design project by meeting and getting to know consultants and product vendors while working with the Lawrence Group team.”

This blog was originally written by Anna Chowning, emerging professional.