City of Lincoln, Sunken Gardens Renovation

City of Lincoln, Sunken Gardens Renovation

Clark & Enersen completed a $1.7 million renovation of Sunken Gardens, which had fallen into disrepair after 74 years of use and was largely inaccessible for those with physical disabilities. Completed in 2005, our design team approached the project with a light touch to account for the community’s memories and love for the Lincoln landmark. The intent was not to change the character of the gardens, but rather to enhance and reinforce its identity.

Although Sunken Gardens has long been a popular venue for weddings and other events and outdoor activities, the location lacked restrooms and a formal entrance to properly support them. Our firm responded by designing a pavilion that serves as an easily-identifiable main entrance. The dominant form, a dome, resembles a tree canopy with columns that represent tree trunks. It also depicts the seasonal changes that occur within our climate zone, including the local flora, fauna, and significant city landmarks.

Our team also replaced an aging fountain with a new water feature highlighted by a “Rebecca at the Well statue that serves as the origin of life. Subtly sloping paths were created that follow the patterns of the original design, but are accessible for all users. The new paths provide access from the uppermost to the lowest elevations of the park where large, open lawn spaces surround the water lily ponds and planting beds.

The planting scheme at Sunken Gardens changes each year to exhibit various colors, textures, and massing. To support these plantings, a new highly-efficient irrigation system was installed. The terrace walls were replaced with either salvaged stone or segmental retaining wall units to minimize damage to the soil and plantings. Perennials were preserved or replanted, and sustainable, environmentally-sensitive design and construction concepts were practiced throughout the project.

Stats and Results
Location Lincoln, Nebraska
Awards and Recognition
  • ASLA Great Plains Chapter, President’s Award of Excellence, 2010
  • Lincoln Arts Council, Mayors Arts Awards, Enersen Urban Design Award, 2006
  • ASLA Central States, Honor Award – Design and Constructed, 2006
  • AIA Nebraska, Architectural Detail, 2005 (Entrance Pavilion)
Sunken Gardens 1

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