This international design competition challenged entrants to provide 'watermarks' to raise awareness of flooding in their communities. Jesus Diaz, Phil Zawarus and Ken McCown produced two entries into the competition.
The first design on this page is a design for the Flamingo Wash just off of the strip by the Hard Rock Hotel where the wash daylights.
This high traffic area for tourists and residents has baffles to reduce the energy of the water; making the site ‘more safe’.
Las Vegas has extreme flooding; one must divert all runoff to Lake Mead; no water harvesting is possible. The valley has hardpan; the native landscape is basically impervious. Flooding has a profound impact although it only rains three and a half inches per year. It is important to ‘water mark’ in Las Vegas.
We took advantage of a platform above the debris catch. From this point, people can see the cleaning out of the debris from flooding. This area sets up a view of ‘seed walls’ we designed. Etched patterns of native vegetation into existing walls are stocked with seeds at different levels inside a set of holes. Flooding at different heights may move native riparian vegetations’ seeds down the daylit area of the site, and further down the wash. With different seeds placed a different heights, seeds washed out of the walls can become markers of flood levels downstream.
These ecological marks of flooding along the wash teach about the role of flooding in Southwestern riparian communities and let people see the life these plant communities bring. Native plants grown from deposited seeds will establish habitat inside of the city boundaries.
Gabions made from shopping carts (commonly abandoned in washed) provide areas to catch sediment and seeds. Over time, native vegetation established will provide shade and an interesting native plant community within the heart of the city. This reads as a 'desert diptych' of exotic design and native desert vegetation.
Our second scheme lies just north of the UNLV campus. In this scheme, we do not provide any abstract 'marks', but let people see the power of flooding on real material - we set up a three dimensional canvas to witness the effects of urban flooding.
Our design integrates into the fluvial context at the intersection of two major washes in Las Vegas, the Tropicana Wash and the Flamingo Wash. This site has a great view of the Strip properties to the West and is surrounded by housing and the University of Nevada, Las Vegas to the south.
Recently, these washes were buried, we dig up the pipes, and cut the site back down to the grade of the water flow along the Flamingo Wash; and incorporate a ‘drop off’ of the Tropicana flow - a few feet higher.
The cut down to the grade of the wash will allow daylit flooding and let people to see the power, risk and reallocation of material by water. We create a promenade/overlook to observe the floods and their effects on a very large undeveloped site in the heart of Las Vegas with the actual material of the desert as the ‘mark.’
Our design palette comes from immediate, local and regional context. The idea of the cut, and the direct engagement of the material comes from Michael Heizer’s ‘Double Negative,’ just over an hour away.
Immediately to the South of our site is the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and the Desert Research Institute’s Solar Arrays. We use a solar array as a shading device and to provide power for site infrastructure (night lights, etc.) and a crane. We would seek a partnership with these institutions to make this shading structure a research structure (latest solar energy gathering materials) and seek research funding for its construction.
The crane is a remnant of the bust in Las Vegas. Idle cranes standing by unfinished buildings populated the skyline of Las Vegas for years after the economic bust. We appropriate one of these abandoned cranes to help us make, remove and fill the wash as necessary. The Clark County wetlands and other riparian sites in Las Vegas use the imploded material (concrete) along washes. We reuse this material for the paving along the promenade.
The new promenade, and potentially the north side of the site protect a right of way for a planned future bike corridor along the washes to expand transportation and recreation options for Las Vegas residents.
The shaded promenade may be used for markets, passive recreation, classes, urban play and active recreation. The cut wall on the side of the promenade is concrete construction. We expect the water to move towards the north as it emerges from the concrete channel of the Flamingo Wash. The confluence of the Tropicana dump should create a point of turbulence on the east-west center point of the site. The point of greatest action lies in the center of the site. Our angled cut should result in the general creation of terraces migrating up the slope of the cut, with two points of vertical cut banks at the emergence of the Flamingo Wash and Tropicana Washes into the Site. The crane lies on the East side of the site to deal with anticipated material accumulation on the downstream side.
This site may also be used by the University of Nevada, Las Vegas to see how the modeling of the wash flow and erosion actually happens in a real life situation.