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2017 Florida Urban Forestry Council Outstanding Project Award: Windows on the Floating World

The tropical wetland garden is a collaboration between installation artists, landscape architects, and a botanical garden’s fulfillment of its master plan.
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We are pleased to announce that our collaborative Palm Beach County Art in Public Places commission, Windows on the Floating World: Blume Tropical Wetland Garden was awarded “Outstanding Project” by the Florida Urban Forestry Council.

The tropical wetland garden is a collaboration between installation artists, landscape architects, and a botanical garden’s fulfillment of its master plan.

WGI worked in concert with Harries Heder Collaborative – artistsMags Harries and Lajos Heder general contractor Hedrick Brothers Construction, and waterfall designer Heartsong Waterscapes, to create the tropical oasis, developed to provide visitors with an opportunity to walk on water, adding a new interactive experience to Mounts Botanical Garden.

To create a sense of discovery, the design concept offers a first glimpse of the wetland from an existing upper walkway, where the waterfall can be heard but not yet seen. Preserving existing vegetation that buffered wetland view further enforces the sense of discovery.

“Windows on the Floating World educates visitors and inspires them to learn more about the role and importance of wetlands and what can be done to protect them,” says WGI’s Kirsten Siegel PLA, ASLA and senior project manager. “As the artists of Harries Heder Collaborative say, ‘this tropical wetland garden is about water, immersion, and experience.’ WGI helped design, develop, and transform a conceptual experience into a vibrant reality, and this award is a great testament to all of the talented people who were involved.”

Creating multiple access and viewing points provides varying perspectives via either a gradual path running adjacent to the littoral zone, or a choice of stairways. One offers arrival and discovery through a threshold created from rocks and a large existing oak tree, while another runs directly beside the waterfall for a sensory experience. Preserving all specimen trees onsite was key to the feeling of discovery, buffering views until key vantage points are reached.

Following a meandering path towards the water’s surface, visitors encounter interpretive elements, called viewers, strategically placed for casual discovery while blending into the site. They enforce the educational messages, directing focus to specific wetland’s qualities through written information and imagery etched on glass. The viewers educate about cypress knees, the littoral zone, and the role plants play in cleaning and filtering the water. Other interpretative elements include a rain gauge and a weir that convey rainfall, water-level fluctuations, and how they can affect wetlands.

The main feature is a geometric walkway designed to allow walking on the water’s surface. Four display windows are formed from the structure’s negative space, showcasing aquatic plants. Installed in removable fabric pots, they allow staff to change displayed plants for evolving exhibits that enhance the garden’s educational outreach program with local schools. The walkways are also designed to periodically flood with the retention pond’s fluctuating water level. The temporary flooding is an educational experience demonstrating the effects fluctuating water levels have within wetland ecosystems. Ultimately, the water recedes due to a control structure regulating the pond’s water level, and the water surface lowers to the design intent of six inches below the walkway’s surface.

All of the existing specimen trees on site were preserved and incorporated as integral elements of the design, marking multiple garden entries, leading visitors to the floating walkway and playing a significant role in Mount’s educational outreach program, Ambassadors of the Wetlands, so Palm Beach County students learn about the importance of wetlands and their ecological functions.

By respecting and complementing the garden’s existing conditions, just six months after the project’s completion, the tropical wetland garden looks like it has always been there.

The Florida Urban Forestry Council promotes the value, enhancement, and sound management of urban forests through leadership and education.

Artists: Mags Harries and Lajos Heder, Harries Heder Collaborative
Landscape Architect: Kirsten Siegel, PLA, ASLA, WGI
Project Contractor: Hedrick Brother Construction
Landscape Contractor: A Cut Above Landscape and Maintenance, Inc.
Civil Engineer: Adam Schildmeier, WGI
Structural Engineer: Chris LaForte, WGI
Environmental Scientist and Certified Arborist: Rick Harman, WGI
Irrigation Designer: Jason Mihalovits, WGI
Construction Project Manager: Sean Kauffman, Hedrick Brothers Construction
Construction Foreman: Doug Thomas, Hedrick Brothers Construction
Horticulturists: Joel Crippen, Matt Boyston, Mike Page, Mounts Botanical Garden
Project Administrator: Elayna Toby Singer, Palm Beach County Art in Public Places
Operations Manager: Tony Leavitt, Heartsong Waterscapes, Inc.

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