- Project Name
- Shelby Farms Park
- Marlon Blackwell Architects
- Project Types
- Project Scope
- New Construction
- Year Completed
- Shared by
- Project Status
From the May 2019 Issue of ARCHITECT:
A large-scale park brings programmed public space to Memphis while connecting residents to nature.
Two outstanding design practices—one specialized in landscape and the other in architecture—have come together to produce a new public space of exceptional ambition and ingenuity. Located just east of Memphis, Tenn., Shelby Farms Park is the work of New York’s James Corner Field Operations (JCFO). At work on the project for nearly a decade, the firm tackled a truly mammoth site: about 4,500 acres total on both sides of the Wolf River.
Once a work farm for state prison convicts, the sprawling campus was first divided by the designers into manageable chunks, with a central swath—while still vast, at 275 acres, it’s only about 5.5 percent of the whole—earmarked for the first phase of redevelopment spearheaded by Shelby Farms Park Conservancy to bring public space to the area. JCFO paired with Fayetteville, Ark.’s Marlon Blackwell Architects (MBA) for this initial segment: Featuring a half-dozen new buildings from MBA, the area now plays host to structures for eating, meeting, and entertainment. It serves as an activation zone for the park as a whole, funneling visitors to the center and then channeling them out again to the extremities.
To help draw people in to circulate around and throughout the environment, JCFO (which also conceived the overall master plan) has fashioned miles of gently undulating paths, which wind past lushly planted fields and alongside the banks of a newly expanded lake—even crossing the water at one narrow inlet via a scenic wooden footbridge. Scattered throughout this idyllic setting, additional facilities—including a farmhouse, boathouses, bike rental, and horse stables—provide still more ways to get close to nature, as well as generate revenue for the park, which will help keep up the momentum of its redevelopment so that it can eventually realize its full potential.
Project: Shelby Farms Park, Memphis, Tenn.
Client: Shelby Farms Park Conservancy
Prime Firm/Master Planner/Landscape Architect/Urban Designer/Public Engagement/Project Manager: James Corner Field Operations, New York . James Corner, Richard Kennedy, Tsutomu Bessho, Megan Born, Kim Cooper, Sanjukta Sen, Baewon Suh, Doug Meehan, Donghyouk Ahn (project team)
Architect: Marlon Blackwell Architects, Fayetteville, Ark. . Marlon Blackwell, FAIA, Meryati Johari Blackwell, AIA, Jonathan Boelkins, AIA, David Jaehning, AIA, Kertis Weatherby, AIA, William Burks, Stephen Reyenga, Justin Hershberger, AIA, Bradford Payne, AIA, Stephen Kesel, AIA, Spencer Curtis, Assoc. AIA (project team)
Interior Designer: Marlon Blackwell Architects; Semple Brown (restaurant and café design)
Civil/M/E/P/Structural Engineer (Site): Pickering Firm
M/P Engineer (Buildings): Halton Engineering
Electrical (Buildings): Canup Engineering
Structural Engineer (Buildings): Engineering Consultants; Guy Nordenson & Associates
Local Landscape Architecture: JPA
Ecologists/Water Quality Engineers: FTN Associates
Water Feature Engineer: Fluidity Design Consultants
Irrigation Consultant: Northern Designs
Cost Estimating: Faithful+Gould
Lighting Design: Renfro Design Group
Building Furnishings: Fleming Architects
General Contractor: Montgomery Martin Contractors
Size: 275 acres (Heart of the Park); 34,978 square feet (total buildings)
Cost: $52 million (Heart of the Park); $8.35 million (total buildings)
Materials and Sources
Structural System: Tri-State Iron Works (manufacturer of any structural components unique to this project)
Exterior Cladding: Schwartz Stone (masonry); Peterson Aluminum Corporation (metal panels); Tubelite (metal/glass curtainwall); Sunrise Builders Supply (wood); Alcoa Architectural Products (Reynobond Aluminum Composite Material); BASF Construction Chemicals (moisture barrier); P&R Metals (other cladding unique to this project)
Roofing: Carlisle Syntec Systems (Sure-Weld TPO); Peterson Aluminum Corporation (Pac-Clad)
Windows: Tri-State Iron Works (metal frame);
Glazing: Vitro Architectural Glass (Solarban glass)
Doors: Tubelite (entrances); Steelcraft (metal doors); Eggers (wood doors)
Hardware: Corbin Russwin (locksets); International Door (storefront closers); Corbin Russwin (closers, wood and metal doors); First Choice Building Products (exit devices); Tubelite (pulls); Stanley (security devices)
Interior Finishes: Armstrong (Lyra Square Lay-In acoustical ceilings in Tegular Smooth, with Suprafine suspension grid); Millwork Specialty Contractors (cabinetwork/custom woodwork, buildings); ImageCraft Commercial (cabinetwork/custom woodwork, visitors center and gift shop); PPG (paints and stains); Sunrise Builders Supply (cypress paneling); Formica (plasic laminate); Caesarstone (solid surfacing); American Olean (floor and wall tile); Interface (carpet); Allen Concrete Stains (polished concrete)
Furnishings: Knoll (Generation task chairs, Spark chair, Reff Profiles tables, Marc Krusin side chair, Harry Bertoia bench, and Eero Saarinen executive arm chair and small round side table); Davis (Sola walnut chair); Halcon (Stria desk and credenza); Source (Tier chair); Loll Designs (Adirondack rocker and outdoor side table); Mitylite (multipurpose tables, event space tables); Izzy (Dewey Lectern); Clarus (Go Mobile glassboard); Landscape Forms (trash cans, recycling center); Design Within Reach (Lim C table lamp, Baton table lamp)
Upholstery: HBF (Bow Tie); Bernhardt Textiles (Drift); Eykon (Source One in Buckingham)
Lighting: Solas Ray Lighting (interior ambient lighting); Luxen (downlights); Tivoli (task lighting); Traxon Technologies (exterior lighting); Lutron (dimming system/controls)
Plumbing/Water Fixtures: American Standard (flush valves); Zurn (faucets); American Bath (shower surround); Elkay (sink bowl); Bradford (water heater); Eemax (instant electric water heater)
Energy: Geothermal mechanical system
Landscape–Hardscape: Wausau Tile (detectable warning tile); Unilock (unit paver); Landscape Structures (safety surfacing)
Landscape–Lighting: Bega (pole and bollard fixtures); FC lighting (in-ground fixtures); Moon Visions (tree up-lights and downlights)
Landscape–Furniture: Streetlife (bench, chaise, and bollard); Landscape Forms (bike rack); Haws, Halsey Taylor (drinking fountains); Keeler Iron Works (swing structure)
Landscape–Drainage/Erosion: Colbond, American Excelsior Co., Tensor, Profile Products, Hanes Geo Components (geotextiles); Motz Enterprises (geotextile with concrete block)
Landscape–Fences/Gates/Walls: Merchant Metals (picket fence and gate)
Landscape–Irrigation: Hunter (irrigation head); Rainbird, Weathermatic (irrigation valves)
Landscape–Lumber/Decking/Edging: Permaloc (aluminum edging)
Landscape–Water Management/Amenities: Bison Pumps (water feature pump); Crystal Fountains, Fountain Supply Co., APEM Fountain (water feature nozzles)
This project won a 2019 AIA Institute Honor Award for Regional & Urban Design
On the site of a former penal farm on the east side of Memphis, the 4,500-acre Shelby Farms Park blends pastoral landscapes with an active central park to form the lynchpin for the greening of the region. A true 21st-century urban park that recently saw the completion of phase 1, it has already boosted the quality of life for citizens of Memphis and western Tennessee.
A master-plan process for the park began in 2007 through an international competition sponsored by the Shelby Farms Park Conservancy and won by James Corner Field Operations. The nonprofit approached the process with a clearly defined set of principles, and turned to the design team to suss out a program that resonated with the conservancy’s vision. Through thorough analysis of the site and its character, the team identified the major challenges that threatened the park’s long-term viability and role as a driver of the region’s economic and environmental health.
The final plan directly addresses those challenges—including the absence of a strong identity, fragmented habitats, and deficient public access—to transform the park into a showcase of the region’s geography and ecology. It calls for embracing the city’s vibrant culture and food scene, creating gathering places for all members of the community, and developing a hub for nature-based recreation.
At more than five times the size of New York City’s Central Park, the project’s scale was simply too large to spread resources and social energy throughout its entirety. To that end, the team programmed nodes of concentrated activity, allowing for quiet spaces to remain as such and for active areas to bustle with energy. Investment and infrastructure is focused on Heart of the Park, the 195-acre core that opened in 2016. Following several early projects, Heart of the Park is the jewel of the master plan. Centered around Hyde Lake, which was expanded from 50 to 80 acres, it is ringed by a two-mile pathway filled with seating, pavilions, and plantings. A new boathouse, visitor center, and restaurant bring people closer to the water than ever before and offer discrete architectural spaces that clearly mark key locations around the lake.
The team brought a threefold approach to the park’s sustainability. Perhaps most critically, Heart of the Park is designed to be revenue neutral, ensuring its success. The conservancy is not able to raise operating funds to support so large a park solely through charitable support and business capital. Earned revenue from rental events and additional sources covered nearly 60 percent of the operational budget within the first year of operation, a figure the conservancy expects will continue to climb.
Landscape Architect and Master Planning: James Corner Field Operations
Architect: Marlon Blackwell Architects
Local Landscape Architect: JPA, Inc.
M/P Engineer: Haltom Engineering
Electrical Engineer: Canup Engineering
Civil Engineer: Pickering Firm Inc.
Structural Engineer (Conceptual Design, Architecture): Guy Nordenson & Associates
Structural Engineer (Engineer of Record, Architecture): Engineering Consultants, Inc
Structural Engineer (Site): Pickering Firm
M/E/P Engineer (Site): Pickering Firm Inc.
Interior Design (Restaurant and Café): Semple Brown
Environmental and Adaptive Management: University of Memphis Ecological Research Center
Soil Science: Pine & Swallow Associates, Inc.
Ecologists and Water Quality Engineers: FTN Associates Lake
Water Feature Engineers: Fluidity Design Consultants
Irrigation: Northern Designs
Cost Estimating: Faithful and Gould
Architectural Lighting: Renfro Design Group
Furnishings: Fleming Architects
General Contractor: Montgomery Martin Contractors
FROM THE ARCHITECTS:
Shelby Farms Park, one of the largest urban park in the country, has implemented a master plan, developed by James Corner Field Operations (JCFO), to revitalize the Park into a unique, 21st century park. An ensemble of buildings and structures is located around the 80 acre Hyde Lake; together, the buildings, lake, and landscape are imaged as the “Heart of the Park.”
Marlon Blackwell Architects developed a unified architectural vision for six new buildings, knitting the projects together across the broad park landscape with a shared material palette. Each building, including the Visitor Center, Restaurant and Event Center, Boat House, Event State, and Lakeside Pavilions, connects directly to the surrounding landscape and supports the rich experiences in Shelby Farms Park.