Downtown Fargo – R.R. Square

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A proposed urban “crossing” plaza built upon Fargo’s railroad origin story. Broadway and Northern Rail intersection, Downtown Fargo, ND. 2004.
Size: One plaza’s spanning the railroad crossing at approx. 3,000 sf each
CONCEPT : A treed park slopes gently upward from Main Avenue to a low platform set parallel to the railroad tracks. On that rise, two small conservatories frame a view up Broadway. On the east side of the park, a grade-level walk connects Main Avenue to the pedestrian rail crossing. Tapered steps knit the edge of the walk with the sloped park (see plan). The raised platform, while it affords a superior view up Broadway and along the tracks, covers a cistern that provides moisture and cool air to the conservatories in summer.

The two conservatories are articulated translucent cylinders housing lemon trees. Visible from Main Avenue, they form a gate marking this central intersection of Fargo. At night, the cylinders are lit from below and become lanterns for the city. By season and time of day, the cylinder walls open and close to keep conditions suitable for their greenhouse use and to accommodate visitors. These transformations bring variety and life to the park and provide a warm haven in winter for pedestrians.

The square is paved in sandstone and tight-packed, decomposed granite. The paving stones are used for the walkways, the platform, and for the irrigation channels running between trees. The walls that retain the park and the tapered steps along the grade-level walk are also built of (terracotta-colored) sandstone. City standard concrete sidewalks run along Main Avenue and on the east side of the square The trees planted in the park come in three varieties. Lemon trees are housed in the conservatories. On the east side a line of columnar evergreens (perhaps cypress) line the walkway. In the center of the square, a formal grid of flowering crabapple is connected by the irrigation channels: quiet in their east-west direction and rippling in their north-south (downhill) direction.

FARGO AND THE RED RIVER : The sinuous twisting of the river denotes the flat character of the landscape. The lakebed nature of the ground holds water. This proposal for Broadway Square tilts the land up slightly, affording a superior elevation in this very flat land. The cistern below the platform is a reminder of the nature of the valley floor and it provides an ameliorating influence to both the lemon conservatories and to Broadway Square visitors. Built on transportation by rail and river, Fargo is a center for freight distribution. Lemon conservatories sit on the park platform like big containers just arrived or just departing. They stand in the park providing a mediating influence to the harshness of the seasons.

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