Waterfront Botanical Gardens

Louisville, Kentucky
A Global Icon of Sustainable Design

In Louisville, sights are set on River Road, where a major revitalization initiative is transforming the old landfill into the Waterfront Botanical Gardens. As the designers of the Master Plan, we saw a once-in-a-generation opportunity to reground a city’s growth and show the world what sustainable landscape design can really do. The vision is an iconic destination that establishes Kentucky as a leader in localism and stewardship of the land.

Our design synthesizes the natural advantages of the site into an interactive landscape. We conceived the landscape to mitigate soil contaminants and evolve into a layered local-habitat experience. We curated the interaction to promote learning and well-being from many perspectives. With the
opening of the Graeser Family Education Center in 2019, the plan’s first phase is complete, and the Gardens’ ambitious course is set.

From children to researchers, from educators to chefs, from gardeners to artists, the garden offers a story that will resonate with people of all different backgrounds and interests.
“We are building a world-class botanical garden, and design is very important to our success, which is why we selected Perkins&Will. The organic design of the first building in Phase 1 has inspired the community and specifically, donors.”

Kasey Maier, Waterfront Botanical Gardens, Inc.

Discovery, Health, Transformation

These three themes frame the rich program of experiences cultivated by the Waterfront Botanical Gardens Master Plan. We used them to guide our design and appeal to different audiences throughout the site. There are play spaces and learning environments for children of all ages. There are settings to celebrate weddings, graduations, or any big occasion. Classrooms and educational gardens can host workshops and summer camp. Gallery spaces will exhibit art and history. Integrating the experience is the idea that visitors choose their own adventure. As they follow their interests through nearly every kind of garden imaginable, they fall in step with our plan to catalyze the revival of one of the most storied places in Louisville.

We designed the gardens to offer experiences both grand and intimate. Plazas, trellises, water features, and classrooms will captivate children and researchers, educators and chefs, gardeners and artists.

Project Team

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Zan Stewart
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Leo Alvarez
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Mark Walsh
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Bryan Schabel
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Katie Janson