A catalyst for urban vitality, and a model of environmental sustainability
This project is on a 1.5-acre streetscape and urban plaza in Richmond, Virginia. The LEED Gold project transformed a pair of underutilized surface parking lots at a prominent intersection at the edge of Richmond’s central business district into an energizing new entrance for Downtown.
Gateway Plaza derives its name from its prominent location, situated between the historic State Capitol and the James River, at the crossroads of two major highways, serving as a portal to Downtown. The site is now home to an 18-story multi-tenant office tower, with ground floor street-oriented retail that brings vitality to an area formerly regarded as left-over space, with a streetscape design that converts a landscape once dominated by cars into a dynamic pedestrian environment.
LJC’s landscape architectural team led the overall design of the Gateway Plaza site, which was conceived to support the project’s overarching objectives as an economic generator, a catalyst for urban vitality, and a model of environmental sustainability. On-street parking and inviting plaza and terrace spaces enhance the ground-level retail spaces and encourage pedestrian activity. Sculpted landscape areas provide oases for a quiet respite while mitigating stormwater runoff and urban heat island effect.
The planting strategy incorporates both native and adapted species and employs these plants through a layered matrix planting style, wherein a handful of species dominate the planting, forming a matrix into which other plants are blended. In this case, two to three species of low grasses and sedges become the field into which other ecologically compatible forbs blend. In this “new naturalist” approach, plants do not merely occupy a corner of the bed, but rather emerge ephemerally out of an ever-changing base. This blend of the design and nature results in an ever-changing site, hour by hour, day by day.
LJC collaborated with a pair of renowned artists to develop a design vocabulary for the site centered on the concept of “flow,” connecting the nearby State Capitol to the James River, through the Gateway Plaza project. The flow of water, ideas and commerce are embodied in stainless steel ribbons that trace paths across the site and through the building’s lobby, drawing visitors in and reinforcing the notion of the Gateway. The undulating landscape planters are shaped by the flow, echoing the forms of nearby islands carved by the James. These planters provide generous seating spaces and showcase native flora from the Piedmont and Coastal Plain eco-regions, which meet along the Richmond Fall Line.