Bass River Park: Responding to Changing Environmental Conditions

Stoss Landscape Urbanism

Architects: Stoss Landscape Urbanism.
Location: West Dennis, Massachusetts. USA.
Area: 2.5 acres.
Photography: Jessica Langlois and Stoss Landscape Urbanism.

Bass River Park is a sustainable ecological park that responds to changing environmental conditions. The site is filled salt marsh—compacted and deadened. The ambition is to re-ignite social and ecological dynamics.

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The strategy looks to establish a varied landscape field—an earthen carpet of hillocks— that supports short- and long-term competition among four vegetal communities characteristic of the region: red cedar meadow, sand plain, wet meadow, and salt marsh. Long-term environmental changes, short-term disturbances, and even use or maintenance practices can subtly or radically shift the balance among vegetal types, allowing one or another community to establish predominance—if only temporarily.

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Human activity is accommodated straightforwardly, yet flexibly. A thirty-foot-wide arcing boardwalk is situated along the river, mimicking the constructed but now ecologically fragile shoreline. Planted concrete pavers enter the site as a driveway, but quickly expand as a broad field that spreads to touch the nearby hillocks; in doing so, they create a permeable yet reinforced field that alternately or simultaneously hosts parking and public events. And a series of land-based structures (showers, changing screens, restrooms, shade structures, kayak rental hut) and water-based structures (docks and piers) are scattered across the site, momentarily intensifying the landscape field.

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Design Team: Chris Reed, Design Director; Scott Bishop, Project Manager; Stoss Team: Chris Muskopf (co-project manager), Tim Barner, Adrian Fehrmann, Kristin Malone, Graham Palmer, Megan Studer.
Collaborators: Davis Langdon, and Nitsch Engineering.
Client: City of Dennis, US.
Budget: $1 million / Phase 1 ($1.6 million total).