The Rio Salado in its current state is characterized by a raw, natural feature dividing the urban context both physically and socially. The past has left the riverfront sites as derelict landscapes and as a result, the health of the river and potential for community engagement has fallen to the wayside. How can architects, communities and policymakers design a site that improves the health of t he river, provide for communities and wildlife and produce economic resource(s) for future resilience?
The chosen site occupies a 150 acre plot of land along the Rio Salado’s southern edge. The architectural approach reanimates the site as an urban desertscape. By embodying the raw presence of the desert river, the site remains a sensory active landscape. One filled with the smells, sounds, sights, and textures of a desert setting. The proposed design responds to the question above with three strategies: storm water management, aquifer recharge via a web of acequias (canals) coupled with a grid of infiltration points, and the production of solar energy and water as economic resources. This network introduces an organization strategy for high-density and low-density zones. High-density zones exist along the acequias and consist of private and public typologies that contribute to the site’s business, residential and recreational diversity. In contrast, the low-density zones populate the desertscape in between the acequias. These zones are dedicated to habitat reformation, communal gardens and the production of solar energy and rainwater collection.
An underground circulation network for walking, biking, and tubing
Acequias intersect at these event spaces where water infiltrates the ground
Capture solar energy, store/filter rain water, and provide garden locations
Riverfront locks perform as pedestrian gateways to the project

The landscape and architecture interventions support three key strategies for a collecting solar energy, rainwater and bringing communities together. Every building is equipped with a solar canopy and catchment areas for harvesting rainwater. These three strategies culminate at the site’s flagship marketplace (shown below). The marketplace celebrates desert vernacular with earthen walls and shaded environments. Inside the market, a desertscape bridge spans between two structures. These solid structures are filled with permanent shops, restaurants, bars, etc. Outside, an array of ‘stalls’ parallel the marketplace. The stalls perform as temporary shelters for merchants during marketplace events.
The proposal manages storm water via a web of occupiable acequias (canals) that burrow into the landscape. These acequias flow to a series of vertices defined by a dome structure (shown below). Each vertice defines an optimal location for groundwater infiltration and aquifer recharge. During the summer monsoon season, the acequias come alive with pedestrian and water travel until the water infiltrates the ground. To control the water level,
locks along the site’s northern edge open to release excess storm water.
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