Water, water, everywhere

XTreme LA Challenge explores water strategy in Wells Goodfellow; design presentation Nov. 8

Map of St. Louis County waterways.

Water is the key to life. But for city planners, water poses a profound question: How do we ensure residents a constant supply of fresh, clean water while also protecting vulnerable areas from flooding?

On Nov. 6, 7 and 8, design professionals from around the country will gather in St. Louis for the ninth annual XTreme LA (Landscape Architecture) Challenge. Hosted by the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts at Washington University in St. Louis, the three-day charrette will explore water strategies relating to Project Clear, a Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District (MSD) initiative that aims to improve water quality and reduce sewer overflow.

“River rise has historically been an issue for the city of St. Louis, and climate change is now worsening the situation,” said Rod Barnett, professor and chair of landscape architecture. “Large-scale rain events can overwhelm the system.

“How water is managed here is linked to what is occurring on a global scale,” Barnett said. “As in many places around the world, inundation in St. Louis occurs in low-lying areas primarily occupied by underserved and poor communities, making it both an environmental justice issue and an ecological urbanism challenge.”

The XTreme LA Challenge competition site in St. Louis’ Wells Goodfellow neighborhood.

This year’s XTreme LA Challenge will focus on the Wells Goodfellow neighborhood in north St. Louis, in an area that MSD and the Green City Coalition have earmarked for conversion to public open space. The visiting designers will work with Sam Fox School students and faculty to develop a series of actionable plans to address flood mitigation, biodiversity, habitat and public health — and to engage the local community as active partners in the design process.

“Long term, this problem will require nothing less than a wholesale reformulation of water-based urbanism,” Barnett said. Participants hope to generate “ecologically appropriate designs that do the job and offer a vision for constructive transformation.”

The XTreme LA Challenge is co-sponsored by the Landscape Architecture Foundation and Landscape Forms. A public presentation of workshop designs will take place at noon Wednesday, Nov. 8, in the Sam Fox School’s Lewis Center, 721 Kingsland Ave. For more information, visit samfoxschool.wustl.edu.

A map of Wells Goodfellow showing the sites of existing and proposed green spaces and water basins, as well as vacant parcels and properties.

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