Typical concrete floodwall? 
Or integration of art that signifies place? 

These were the choices the City of Kent had when considering improvements to the Boeing Levee at Three Friends Fishing Hole Park.  As the city neared completion of flood wall design for the Boeing Levee, inventive thinkers proposed adding art to the wall’s face along the span of the park.

Six weeks of design time

We were brought into the project as the structural engineering design of the flood-wall levees was nearing completion; a short time remained until the project would be going out to bid.  The short time-frame required quick thinking and an organized process.  Our design team’s familiarity with designing aesthetic treatments for walls and bridges allowed us to go from zero to fully developed construction drawings for wall textures and surface treatments in the allotted time.

An initial brainstorming session with the client led our designers to develop two alternative themes.  A nature-based Green River Ecology theme could honor the ecological story of the river.  The second potential theme employed the history and geomorphology of the Green River Valley, from pristine river to agricultural and then modern-day industrial corridor.  In either case, a part of the river’s story would be told for passers-by on the adjacent bike trail, park visitors, and adjacent industrial landowners.

Working out the details

Multiple material and treatment possibilities were discussed for the expression of the considered themes on the wall face.  Options included

  • Standard and custom formliners, which would create bas relief sculptural elements integral to the wall face
  • Sandblasted aggregate reveal
  • Sawcut patterns
  • Glass fiber reinforced concrete
  • Green wall

In the end, cost was a major consideration.  Research made it clear that the best way forward would be with custom formliners.

Ecological Story

With cost information and design alternative sketches in hand, our client opted to tell the ecological story.  Our designers got to work developing a story board with appropriate images.  Meetings with the client further refined the initial choices and allowed us to move forward with detail design of the custom formliners required to make this vision a reality.  We generated CAD drawings that went into the bid package on time and on budget.

The final design celebrates the Green River with shapes, textures, and colors that are stylized representations of the life forms within the river system.  Recognizable images were selected: salmon, salamander, maple leaf, redtwig dogwood, and blue heron.

Custom formliner panels are 3’x3’, which are easily multiplied to cover the typical wall heights (front and back). The panels depict the wildlife/vegetation in detail surrounded with a subtle background texture.  Panels are designed so that they can be repeated in differing sequences and orientations, interspersed with standard formliner panels, thereby providing a rich and varying experience as one moves along the length of the wall.

In the end, our understanding of the aesthetic design process helped guide the client through a quick decision making process and resulted in a design that tells a place-sensitive story, turns a wall into art and enhances the park experience for all visitors.

The $2.65 million levee project is scheduled to begin construction mid August.

More information: Work to begin soon in Kent on $2.65 million levee project