This study revives the forgotten vision for a national water/botanical garden by renowned mid-century architect Edward Durell Stone, a native Arkansan. Stone designed a monumental cliffside park to accompany the Greers Ferry Dam in 1962. The dam was part of a reservoir-building program to generate hydroelectric power in tandem with economic development and new town development for this rural area. Influenced by the hydraulics in Roman and Persian water gardens, Stone’s masterful vision deployed late modernist tropes combining monumentality and glamour across the 269-acre (109 ha) site. Despite the site’s 240-foot (73 m) drop into a ravine, Stone’s schematic vocabulary left gaps on matters of visitor passage over the terrain, place-making with native planting, and water as an experiential medium. Nor did Stone’s design account for ecological fit or visitor-centered approaches to support park operations. The updated plan introduces a robust botanical function—the collection and display of plants in what will be Arkansas’ only formal botanical garden. Architectural structures, botanical displays, and walkways engage and educate the visitor about plant guilds and their ecosystems in non-traditional ways. The updated plan shifts Stone’s overreliance on Roman and Persian garden imagery toward a more place-based expression of each of the garden’s four territories: Formal Ridge Garden, Ravine Passage, Lower Formal Garden, Circular Terminus. Essentially a heritage preservation project despite not having been built, the updated plan shows that preservation can be an innovative platform for reframing and refreshing the contemporary.
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