Fayetteville, Arkansas, USA
Stephen Luoni of the University of Arkansas Community Design Center presents the Framework Plan for a Riverine Commons and Institute for Watershed Conservation Resource Center (WCRC), the restoration of a 98-acre riparian wetland landscape near downtown Fayetteville.
The WCRC and the city co-own and manage the site as a commons under a permanent conservation easement.
The WCRC will integrate riverine ecology with culture, heritage, and science in an inclusive and accessible environment that promotes public education and stewardship.
Framework Plan for a Riverine Commons and Institute has recently been awarded a 2023 Green Good Design Award by The Chicago Athenaeum: Museum of Architecture and Design and The European Centre for Architecture Art Design and Urban Studies.
Heritage landscapes with outdoor exhibitions will interpret the riparian lifeways of Native American, African-American, and Euro-American settler populations who foraged and cultivated food and fiber along the region’s waterways.
A collaboration of urban designers, architectural educators, ecologists specializing in stream restoration, and state archeologists have developed content for interpretive exhibits, habitat structure, and edible landscapes highlighting regenerative resource management technologies among indigenous and settler lifeways.
The Framework Plan operates at the intersection of anthropology, ecology, and design in developing a lasting and robust riverine knowledge fund across space and time.
The commons is a shared management structure for collective benefit and entails horizontal cooperation among non-governmental, grassroot, and public-sector actors alike.
Specific to cultural and natural resource systems, the commons flattens and socializes governance, in this case facilitating watershed stewardship through equitable and resilient community decision making.
The Framework Plan combines watershed restoration with architecture to house a river education center, a visitor interpretive center, walking trails, passive recreation facilities including bird watching and canoeing, an inter-city water trail, and outdoor heritage exhibitions.
Watershed urbanism is critical in reversing “urban stream syndrome”, dysfunctions related to flooding, erosion, and the general depletion of ecosystems.
A key objective is to restore the 17 life-affirming ecosystem services delivered by healthy ecosystems.
Three principles guide development of the Riverine Commons and Institute, and its unique visitor experience.
The commons facilitates professional and volunteer restoration of riparian functioning in the river and its associated wetlands.
Reclamation of ecosystem services is occurring through restoration of rivercane patches and Ozark meadows, removal of competitive invasive plants, rebuilding healthy spoils, and reconstruction of stream banks.
Native-American, African-American, and subsistence settler populations in the Ozarks were riparian cultures. Outdoor exhibits recall indigenous lifeways where the “primitive” is reconceived as innovative, technologically sophisticated, and environmentally regenerative.
Foods are technologies cutting across social, ecological, and economic spheres. Demonstration gardens curate indigenous plant assemblages and growing strategies, recalling their various levels of symbiosis with nature.
Project: Framework Plan for a Riverine Commons and Institute
Architects: University of Arkansas Community Design Center
Lead Architect: Stephen Luoni
Client: Watershed Conservation Resource Center
Photographers: Courtesy of the University of Arkansas Community Design Center