Community interaction with water can feel surprisingly limited in the District of Columbia, despite its historic setting along the confluence of two rivers. The opportunity to reconnect people with this resource is realized by The Wharf’s 7th Street Park and Recreation Pier, which draws visitors over and into the Washington Channel. In an intensive design effort that resulted in numerous studies and sketches, the client and landscape architect collaborated to develop a playful atmosphere in a place that accommodates a wide range of programming opportunities. In doing so, the landscape architect established a visual language that evokes the soft geometries of gentle waves. The experience starts at 7th Street Park, which is located within a mixed-use development. The landscape architect affixed this place to its surroundings with a public stair that climbs into a multi-restaurant dining court from its western edge. Careful attention was paid to materials and paving throughout this design to blend the space beautifully into its architectural context.
Meanwhile, the park itself provides a transitory threshold between southwestern Washington’s dense urban environment and the open atmosphere of the Recreation Pier. It offers a sense of tranquility to visitors with waving grasses and smooth, elliptical pathways that bow toward the water. The greenspace slopes from a high point at its northern end into a rain garden closer to the pier, subtly initiating the wave motif present throughout the site. To get from 7th Street Park to the Pier one must cross the Promenade, a shared vehicular and pedestrian passageway that slows traffic and promotes a dynamic atmosphere. At its edge, an interactive fountain arcs into the air beside a gathering area that draws visitors closer to the Washington Channel. This space is covered with a large shade structure made of 2” diameter piping and painted white. Its L-shaped form whimsically bears a modern, wavy expression.
Below the shade structure, a one-story kiosk houses boat rental and the control system for the Pier’s lighting network, which boasts 10 different illumination zones. This enclosure is constructed of a mixture of painted steel on its upper portion and wood bulkhead below the counter. Stadium and movable seating options are located beside it for lounging and dining. The Pier itself is crescent shaped, corresponding directly to the geometry of the curvilinear pathways of 7th Street Park, and consists of a main fixed portion and a lower floating dock that lie at varying elevations. The Pier meets the bulkhead at its northern end and descends into a saddle at the midpoint of the structure. From here, a straight metal gangway leads to a lower, floating dock for kayak and paddleboard access, while the main portion rises to its terminus. These movements provide a flowing form that mimics a rolling tide and ensures ADA accessibility throughout the design.
The entire structure extends approximately 432 feet into the Washington Channel and spans 23,500 square feet. It is primarily constructed of Kebony, a highly-durable natural wood material. An innovative approach to installation made it possible to bend Kebony around the cantilevered, curved belvedere overlook at the end of the main pier, creating the sloped area down the structure’s center that divides its eastern and western halves. Past the eastern edge of the Pier, visitors enjoy varied views of the water and a series of floating wetlands. In addition to providing visual interest for pedestrians and recreational boaters, these wetlands help dissipate and filter water from a 9” outfall. Their 1,650 square feet of native plantings pay homage to the site’s ecological history and provide critical juvenile habitat for aquatic organisms among their root growth. Plants deemed unappetizing to waterfowl are employed to ensure establishment and ongoing growth of vegetation. Encased in aluminum frames, the wetlands are durable, adjustable for varying conditions, and easily accessible for maintenance.
Across from the floating wetlands, the western side of the Pier hosts a series of wooden benches, swings, and light fixtures that follow the alignment of the structure to the belvedere, where a 14-foot-high fire feature affectionately known as The Torch acts as a beacon at the edge of the water. This sculptural detail is surrounded by a seat wall and movable furniture for gathering and enjoyment. All of these elements help enliven Washington, DC’s waterfront, encouraging an accessible experience that follows the rhythmic rise and fall of a rolling tide. 7th Street Park and Recreation Pier’s popularity in all weather and seasons is a living demonstration of the dialogues between people, land, and water.
Other designers involved in the design of landscape (if any):
Architect: Perkins Eastman, PLLC;
7th Street Park Structural Engineer: The SK&A Group;
7th Street Park Contractor: Clark Construction Group, LLC;
7th Street Park Irrigation: Lynch & Associates, Ltd;
Marine Engineer: Moffat & Nichol;
Recreation Pier Contractor: Cianbro Corporation, Inc.;
Lighting: C.M. Kling & Associates, Inc.;
Water Features: Fluidity Design Consultants, LLC, Kusser FountainWorks;
Sustainable Design Advisor: Heller and Metzger, PC;
Floating Wetlands: Biohabitats, Inc.;
Swings and Railings: Gutierrez Studios;
Fire Sculpture: Fire Features, A Division of Colombo Construction Corporation;
Tree Nursery: Ruppert Landscape
700 Water Street SW
Washington, DC 20024
Design year: 2012
Year Built: 2016