TBA was selected by the City of Tampa in an open design competition to help redefine its waterfront cultural center with a vital metropolitan park. The result of a successful public-private partnership, Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park is an extraordinary urban transformation of a barren and lifeless riverfront site into a space teeming with vibrant civic life.
Framed by the newly constructed Tampa Museum of Art by Stanley Saitowitz and the Glazer Children’s Museum, this new civic green boasts performance lawns and gardens, dramatic water and lighting displays, play areas, cafes, and a dog run; all hallmarks of Thomas Balsley’s unique design approach to enhancing urban life have been well received by the local institutions and residents, and have helped to stimulate downtown activity and waterfront connections.
Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park
Acting as a “front lawn” to the new Tampa Museum of Art and Glazier Children’s Museum, a new nine-acre park by renowned landscape architects Thomas Balsley Associates has transformed the city’s downtown waterfront district. Described as the “crown jewel” of Tampa, the new Curtis Hixon Park is the centerpiece of a plan for the area that fuses recreation, urbanism, culture, heritage, and entertainment, all in the city’s outdoor “urban living room” along the Hillsborough River. The firm’s bold planning and design have replaced the old museum and parking garages that blocked access to the river with a sparkling new civic park.
Says designer Thomas Balsley, “Successful 21st century urban parks must balance creativity and innovation with proven recipes for design programs. For [this project], we’ve created spaces ranging in scale from large open lawns to small intimate overlooks and garden rooms, able to accommodate large or small events.” Sculpted topography includes lawn panels stepping down from the museum terraces and garden promenade; the southern edge consists of a series of park and garden overlooks and a linear park pavilion with restrooms, café, and a visitor center.
Located along the river are a contemporary play area and urban dog run which take their sculptural cues from the Museum of Art. Louver jet and mist fountains at the park’s key plazas are child-friendly displays designed to capture the public’s imagination while cooling its feet. Timber lawn “rafts,” lounge chairs, and picnic tables with distinctive swivel loungers make up the innovative array of park furniture that is critical to the park’s success and a hallmark of Balsley’s design-as-public-amenity approach.
Masses of spartina and tree groves make up a large portion of the park’s native plantings. Lawns and garden areas as well as the fountains operate on a reclaimed water system. Distinctive LED fountain pavement lights and others throughout the park extend its nighttime curb appeal and downtown activity.
More than becoming the city’s cherished space to play and celebrate, the park’s place-making powers have made it a new landmark for Tampa and re-energized the city’s sense of civic pride.
Project name: Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park
Location: Tampa, Florida, United States
Type: Waterfront Park
Project year: 2011
One of “The Atlantic Cities”‘ Nine Best New US Parks of 2011.
Client / Owner / Developer: City of Tampa
Landscape Architects: Thomas Balsley Associates
Project manager: Shigeo Kawasaki
Text Description: © Courtesy of Thomas Balsley Associates
Images: © Thomas Balsley Associates