Falls Park Design Competition

October 2021   Sioux Falls, SD
Key Points

The Falls Park Design Competition envisioned how a 130-acre city park could meet the needs of South Dakota’s largest city while maintaining the wild and exploratory spirit of the Falls and Big Sioux River ecology.

Respect the Falls

An interpretive loop trail connects key viewsheds around the falls while grading, buffers, and planting strategy protects water quality and human safety around the river.

Park Connectivity

New trails and bridges, reorganized site programming, and proposed park development guidelines positions Falls Park as a critical passage for moving through and gathering in Sioux Falls.

Landscape Rooms

Designing the park as a series of interconnected smaller parks allows for increased site access, utilization, and enjoyment by Sioux Falls residents.

Over the summer Asakura Robinson participated in the City of Sioux Falls, Falls Park Design Competition! The challenge was to create a comprehensive vision for the entirety of Falls Park, addressing both current demands, as well as future uses. The City of Sioux Falls selected five design teams to participate: Asakura Robinson, Confluence, ISG, Inc., RDG Planning and Design, and Stockwell Engineers. You can learn more about our design below.

Falls Park is where we gather. It is a place that brings all people together to experience an extraordinary moment at the Falls. The park design builds upon the layered past of the geology and region, and the existing conditions of the site.

For thousands of years, Dakota and other Indigenous peoples have used this place for seasonal gathering. Over centuries of European colonization and American settlement, Falls Park accumulated more layers of historical significance. The city has worked to preserve remnants of its industrial past along the Big Sioux River, and identify different aspects of the site’s historic story. Residents and visitors come to connect with the natural world and the city’s history. They come to gather, to play, and to explore. As we re-imagined this park, we also re-imagined how people will experience its complex history and ecological value as well as its meaning for people and communities over time. Falls Park honors the past as a historic gathering space.

Our design process was rooted in observation and partnership. Intensive site discovery and external meetings revealed some key observations about the city and park. From this exercise, five main design values emerged to guide our approach:

LISTEN!, REPAIR!, ACTIVATE!, DISCOVER!, and SHARE!

With these values in mind, three big design moves emerged:

The creation of landscape ROOMS that act as gathering places where we connect, learn, gather, and explore the park and the Falls.

The development of strong CONNECTORS that knit rooms together, as well as facilitate easy access to the park from the city.

The establishment of FRAMES that provide guidelines for contextual economic development and create a plan for successful implementation and maintenance of the park through strategic partnerships.

Through this organizational framework the future of Falls Park is a connected, open hub of activity for residents of Sioux Falls and visitors alike. The design also sought to serve as a development example for open space for South Dakota by centering carbon neutrality at the heart of design decisions. The proposed design created more than 11 acres of wetland ecosystems and provided O&M recommendations to help the site achieve carbon neutrality within 20 years.

We presented our Falls Park design solution to the client and stakeholder team in October, 2021. Ultimately, we were not selected as the winning team, but the client lauded our unique and focused commitment to the environment. Congratulations to the winning team, Confluence!

You can view our final plan for the park here.

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