Natural Water as Cultural Water


Location: Lafayette, IN, USA
Status: Plan completed in May 2013
Award: The highest honor from the American Society of Landscape Architects - Award of Excellence in the Analysis and Planning Category 2013



︎ ASLA
︎ WLA
︎ Bustler
︎ Archinect
The project seeks to find the balancing point between culture and nature along the Wabash River in Lafayette, Indiana, which is currently underutilized due to flooding, vacancy, and disconnection . The design solution embodies both cultural representation and the technology of stormwater management to achieve ecological and social resilience. With the potential for spontaneous use and dynamic programming, the site can be transformed into a sustainable infrastructure with a cultural identity that provides an active waterfront experience.
The general design of this project focuses on the relationship between culture and nature. By studying reports on people’s views of the river, and local geographic and demographic information, the concept of the cultural landscape serving as a sustainable stormwater management infrastructure was formed. The inspiration for the design comes from the region’s cultural and agricultural heritage - the transportation tool Native Americans originally used on the river: canoe and the primary agricultural product of the city: corn. The structure of the canoe and the matrix of the corn seeds were taken, hybridized, and re-conceptualized to reveal positive and negative landforms.  It  reroutes and collects water and serves as a buffer between the river and the city during flooding seasons. The plan provides a refuge for wetland plant and animal species, and it also creates a platform for water-related recreational actives. By doing so, it reinforces the city of Lafayette’s cultural identity.








Existing recreational facilities are built on floodplains. They can only be used at certain times of the year.
80% of the site is on 100 year floodplain while 20% of the site is on 500 year floodplain
































The inspiration for the design comes from the region’s cultural and agricultural heritage - the transportation tool Native Americans originally used on the river: canoe and the primary agricultural product of the city: corn. The structure of the canoe and the matrix of the corn seeds were taken, hybridized, and re-conceptualized to reveal positive and negative landforms.



© ZHICHENG DANIEL XU 2018