New York Landscape Architecture firm Field Operations has won the commission to design a 4,500-acre park in Memphis, Tenn. Known as Shelby Farms, the space is roughly five times the size of New York's Central Park but has, in recent years, suffered from neglect. Presentations by the three short-listed firms—which included Hargreaves Associates and Tom Leader Studio— had been on display in Memphis throughout March. After public input and design jury deliberations, the Shelby Farms Park Conservancy announced the winner on April 9.
James Corner, principal of Field Operations, says the firm's priority was “to retain the scale of the place—to keep it big.” The design designates space for 12 different landscapes, including a meadow, a bison range, an art mound, a lake, and hills that will support a variety of programs. It also calls for 1 million new trees, which will not only help the park's ecological sustainability but will also define discrete spaces and views. The Shelby Farms Park Conservancy will work with Field Operations on the new master plan, scheduled to be unveiled this August.
A penal farm until 1964, the park has remained a space without clear identity and has been threatened several times with development proposals that would have parceled it into smaller areas. Field Operations' plan will ensure the park's physical integrity and longevity. Touting the public involvement, Shelby County Mayor A.C. Wharton Jr. says citizens “should be proud of the integral part they've played in shaping the park's future. Now, we all have an amazing opportunity to watch imagination turn into reality.”