Water Treatment Facility

NEW HAVEN, CT

Designer: Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates

CONTEXT
Located in the suburbs of New Haven, the facility is a reserve water source for the South Central Connecticut Regional Water Authority. The landscape around the facility is not a public park, yet its grounds are open to the single-family residential neighborhoods that flank its north, west, and south edges. To the east, the facility draws water from nearby Lake Whitney at the base of the Mill River Watershed.

FRUGAL ELEGANCE
On a limited budget of around $5 per square foot, this project uses the most elemental tools of landscape architectural—soil, water, and plants—to offset the sleek profile of the new building. Swales replace an engineered drainage system, and the planting program, inspired by restoration ecology, is both primal and sophisticated in
its seasonal variation in color and texture.

ECOLOGICAL INTEGRITY
The new topography, generated from the building’s excavation, is stabilized using bio-engineering methods. Site runoff is filtered as it moves through the landscape. The planting scheme uses native species that require no fertilizers or pesticides, reducing the facility’s impact downstream.

A WATERSHED IN MICROCOSM
The landscape is designed to be a didactic microcosm of the regional watershed. The swales guide runoff through a series of discrete landscapes—farmland, meadow, and valley stream—before collecting it in a pond that recharges the groundwater table. Meandering footpaths allow visitors to move through this narrative and consider how water interacts with the land.

COMMUNITY USE
By transforming a formerly flat lawn into a dynamic, ecologically diverse public space, the design improves longstanding community use of the grounds, and integrates the site with its suburban surroundings.