Sunken Gardens Renovation

Sunken Gardens Renovation

The Sunken Gardens is one of Lincoln’s most iconic places, but after 74 years of use, its infrastructure and accessibility called for improvement. This was the stimulus for a $1.7 million renovation. Because of the community’s love for the place, we approached the renovation with a light touch. The intent was not to change the gardens’ character but to enhance its identity.

Our design is rooted in themes of life and the love of life. The Gardens have always been a popular venue for activities, including weddings, but lacked restrooms and a clear entry. We responded by creating a pavilion that serves as an easily identifiable main entrance. The dominant form is a dome, which resembles a tree canopy, depicting seasonal changes amid a skyline of city landmarks.

We replaced an aging fountain with a new water feature. A “Rebecca at the Well” statue, a metaphor for the origin of life, was placed at the fountain’s genesis. The water flows in a serpentine manner across rough-hewn rock, representing the active years of life, and into a basin where it becomes serene – a metaphor for life’s later years. We also created new subtly sloping paths that follow the patterns of the original design but are accessible for all users.

The planting scheme is changed each year to exhibit different color, texture and massing. A new, highly efficient irrigation system was installed. The terrace walls were replaced with salvaged stone or segmental retaining wall units, which minimized damage to the soil and plantings. Perennials were preserved or replanted. Sustainable and environmentally sensitive design and construction concepts were practiced throughout the project.