Pracht Wetlands Park Opens to the Public
Pracht Wetland is a rare site: an urban wetland in Wichita, Kansas, which was preserved and has never been drained, removed, or over-developed. Our design solution focuses on protecting a remnant urban wetland, improving water quality entering and exiting the wetlands, and increasing overall wetlands awareness and appreciation through the development of a minimally invasive, flood resilient boardwalk into the existing wetlands. Water is the connection between the site-specific history of this location, the surrounding residential community, and the increased commercial development poised to occur.
Special effort went into not only maintaining the site but developing a program which will increase the public appreciation for wetlands. This will not only protect this wetland in the future but encourage protection for other sensitive environments as well. Significant work went into understanding the history of this Playa wetland, both to better understand its hydraulic function and to gain appreciation of the rarity of the wetland in its urban context. This background research included careful studies of aerial photos, analysis of previous reports, and comparisons to other urban wetland projects across the county.
The new “Boardwalk” is more than a dramatic gesture that reaches out into the wetland. It is an invitation to enter this environment and see it anew. The boardwalk is a sculptural thread that ties the park together. The overlooks, which will hover over the water to provide views of the subtle changes in the landforms, represent three distinct moments and visual perspectives to contemplate the wetlands, in context with everything around them.
The project integrates artful interpretation into the boardwalks. Placement of beautifully designed interpretive panels occur at various intervals along the board serving to highlight the flora and fauna that can be found in the Pracht Wetlands.
Water in the Pracht Wetland Park is not an “object” to be looked at, but instead, something to be “experienced” in a sensory and tactile way. Our response to the Pracht Wetland was informed by the flat characteristics of the play environment, a sense of openness, transparency, and a “light” footprint. The overlooks, with enclosures made of metal gauze, will be softly lighted to glow from within, their structure reminiscent of nest, basket, or blind.