RIVERFIRST / Kennedy & Violich Architecture and Tom Leader Studio

Scherer Park aerial

The bi-coastal urban and landscape design team TLS/KVA-Tom Leader Studio (Berkeley) and Kennedy and Violich Architecture (Boston)-were named the winning design team of the Minneapolis Riverfront Design Competition just last week. RIVERFIRST stood out as particularly well suited to the Upper Riverfront in Minneapolis. The team grounded their proposal in proactive outreach to the community, demonstrated extensive research, and posited several multi-­layered solutions unique to these 11 miles of riverfront and the habitat, communities, businesses, infrastructure, and culture intrinsic to the region. More images and project description after the break.

The TLS/KVA RIVERFIRST proposal offers a comprehensive remediation of the city’s storm water management system and its conceptual transformation into a system of ‘tributaries’ that are naturally cleaned with planted bio‐filtration landscapes and returned to the river. The topography of the RIVERFIRST design is guided by the dynamics of the river. Where water scours and erodes, carving design principles are used to create water remediation ravines and terrace overlooks on the northeast bluffs. Where the river deposits new material, accretive principles of design are used to mold and shape land berms for the new park.

night view of Scherer Park

The recovery of Northside Wetlands, and the design of storm water remediation ‘ravines’ on the northeast bluffs integrate public parkland with municipal eco-infrastructure and a wide range of recreation activities. The TLS/KVA design uses site topography to reconnect the Northside’s historic Farview Park with the river, urban agriculture and new skilled jobs in a proposed River City Innovation District. The site’s sloped cross-section provides for a compact footprint for a green port and green economy industries. Sculpted landforms enable pedestrian and bike/ski river shore trails to rise above existing barge terminals allowing for immediate, continuous public riverfront access. The RIVERFIRST design for Scherer Park restores Hall’s Island with public swim/skate and a kayak launching facility and provides for sustainable housing, live/work studios and an arts center. At Sherer Park, the river produces its own dynamic landscape of sand bars and shallow pools that shift according to winter melts, patterns of sediment deposition and river flows.

view from Lowry bridge

Real time water monitoring from the Minnesota USGS website is made public with energy efficient, smart illumination along Knot Bridges which link the creative energy of the northeast Arts District with the River City Innovation District and downtown. Floating Biohaven Islands made of recycled water bottles anchored to existing bridge piers provide seven acres of protected riparian habitat for migrating birds and endangered wildlife. The River Talk mobile phone app and solar powered Park wifi network create unprecedented opportunities for local and national public education about river ecology attracting world-class institutional, corporate and organizational partners to the Minneapolis parks.

green port looking north

The transition to the Minneapolis riverfront initiative with their selection as the winning team, TLS/KVA will be awarded a riverfront parks commission and become part of the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board’s Minneapolis riverfront initiative, of which the design competition was the first phase. While the team’s RIVERFIRST proposal contained many specific design schemes, no particular location, project or feature has yet been identified for development. As the design competition concludes, the Park Board and its partners will engage in a four-month transition phase to identify next steps.


During the transition phase, the Park Board will establish a steering committee made up of individuals and organizations with experience stewarding large-scale, multi-disciplinary public projects or who have a vested interest in the riverfront. The steering committee will work along several parallel tracks: development, planning, design and construction, resource identification, and on-going community engagement and two-way communication. In June 2011, the Park Board will announce the process for the next steps in the initiative.

With their riverfront initiative, they are well award of their responsibility to uphold their heritage and create a parks-centered riverfront worthy of both their great river and the people who live, work and visit it now and into the future.

The TLS/KVA team comprises 14 additional firms, including nine Minnesota partners: Kestrel Design Group. St. Paul on the Mississippi Design Center, SRF Consulting,  LBG-Guyton Associates, Donjek, Economic Development Services, Mortensen Construction, Inter-Fluve, and Solid Gold.

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Cite: Alison Furuto. "RIVERFIRST / Kennedy & Violich Architecture and Tom Leader Studio" 16 Feb 2011. ArchDaily. Accessed . <https://www.archdaily.com/112055/riverfirst-kennedy-violich-architecture-and-tom-leader-studio> ISSN 0719-8884

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