Burgeoning Creative District Breaks Ground
A flexible approach to arts infrastructure in the public realm begins to take shape
In March 2020, Ogden City hired Sasaki in partnership with local firms Io LandArch and Union Creative Agency to lead the vision and design of the Nine Rails Creative District’s public realm.
Nine Rails Creative District, founded in 2015, will create new opportunities for the community to engage with the arts while supporting creative businesses and programming. The Sasaki team developed a concept design for the district’s thoroughfare, 25th Street, while bringing the Dumke Arts Plaza, Ogden Avenue, and the 25th Street Beacon from concept design through construction. Construction is expected to be completed in October 2021.
The new public realm is part of a public-private partnership between Ogden City, the Dumke Foundation, Ogden Contemporary Arts and Weber State. Together, $8.3 million was dedicated to this arts endeavor and will serve as the centerpiece of the developing creative district in downtown Ogden and further transform a once abandoned section of 25th Street. The plaza, at the heart of the district, is envisioned to function as a gateway between the downtown and the east-central neighborhood and serve as one of the main attractions of the Nine Rails Creative District — an effort the city has been working on for nearly three years.
The design process for the quarter-acre Dumke Arts Plaza began with an elemental look at the larger geography and geology of the Salt Lake Basin. Working with Sasaki’s in-house group Data & Design Tools, the team built a custom quantitative viewshed analysis tool to precisely understand the visibility of the district’s iconic Wasatch Mountain Range. This analysis informed the function of the plaza while the deep dive into the region’s common geologic formations inspired the three-dimensional forms of the space.
Sitting at a prominent corner in Ogden’s Nine Rails Arts District, the plaza serves to create opportunities for sculpture, arts, and music. The plaza is a true marriage of landscape and architecture, as an elevated plinth gets people up to higher for views of the Wasatch mountains while providing coverage over a video art screen, structural support for large sculptures, and electrical support for performances.
To maximize the flexibility of art on the site, the design team created an art infrastructure system that could host performances and static art in a variety of capacities. A myriad spatial conditions were layered into a relatively small space, allowing individuals and groups to select their own experience.
The Beacon — emerging from the northeastern corner of the plaza — is meant to be seen from afar, beckoning people to the arts district to experience it up close and visit the plaza. It will be constructed of perforated metal, a material seen elsewhere in the plaza, and illuminated from within. The Beacon folds up from the plaza to frame this corner entry and create a space for meeting or pop up performances. Suspended from this frame, a cantilever magically floats 40 feet over the street, and is visible from all over Ogden. At night, light will glow from the patterned perforated skin, a constellation from afar, and a lightshow up close.
The 1,500-feet-long portion of 25th Street serves as the main thoroughfare for the Nine Rails Creative District, connecting the vibrant historic 25th Street and the residential community. However, the 65-feet wide asphalt road exacerbates the split of both sides, demonstrating a highly vehicle-oriented environment. The Design Team’s response:
The intertwined walk-stay-play spaces create a dynamic pedestrian experience, which makes 25th Street a unique art corridor as well as a future destination for all.
Despite the challenges of collaborating with clients and communities during the COVID-19 pandemic, Sasaki and our partners Union Creative found new, creative ways to work with our clients, gain community input, and ultimately develop a design for the Dumke Arts Plaza that meets the needs of multiple stakeholders. From low-tech pop-up engagement to online surveys, the design team reached thousands of people in Ogden.
The Engagement effort, led by Union Creative, was envisioned as a “Welcoming Campaign” and conducted as a collaborative and accessible approach to community engagement. The campaign provided input opportunities through multiple channels, built collective awareness of the project, and aimed to instill a sense of community ownership of the future community arts plaza. The campaign recognized that in order for the project to be a true success, the plaza design must represent the Nine Rails Creative District and the larger Ogden community in the most equitable way possible.
Before creating any design concepts, the team developed Guiding Principles to capture findings from the first phases of engagement. These principles served as the foundation for the future design and ensured that the original goals set by the Ogden community were met within the project.
Given the plaza’s proximity to the breathtaking views of Utah’s mountains, the design team worked with Data & Design Tools, Sasaki’s in-house group of data analysts and software developers, to study the potential to create beautiful mountain views across the site. Data & Design Tools used a variety of tools to conduct this analysis, quickly importing over 150km2 of topographic maps and modeling the downtown core from GIS data in order to build out the surrounding context.
Two studies were conducted. The first asked the question, Where on the site can I see the mountains? This study revealed that although portions of the mountains are visible at eye height across the site, the view dramatically improved with just a few feet of height increase. This improvement was uneven across the site, however, indicating that building up certain portions of the site would yield better views than the same construction at other areas.
The second study asked, What parts of the mountains can be seen as the height increases? This analysis showed that while the mountains to the north dominated the view, those to the east and southeast did indeed become visible above a certain height.
To visualize these takeaways, the team put together a presentation of diagrams, snapshots, and animations illustrating how the process was conducted, what the results were, and how the resulting views actually changed at the points indicated. This analysis directly informed the heights and view corridors in the plaza.
For more information contact Anna Cawrse.