Creating Entertainment Spaces from Environmental Remediation Features

Posted by Sasha Bailyn on Friday, July 15th, 2016

When people visit a theme park, mall, or other entertainment space, the parts they see are only a tiny fraction of the design work that went into a site. Every well-designed public space also contains hidden features designed to control the atmosphere, protect the environment, and minimize impact on the soil and water of the surrounding region. However, these environmental remediation features don’t have to be hidden from view. Some innovative designers are exploring ways to protect the environment while creating fun spaces for visitors.

Lake at Rio Washingtonian Center in Gaithersburg, MD

It’s hard to believe that this was once a required drainage ditch.

The trend goes back as far as the 1990s, when suburban designers decided to turn mandatory drainage ponds into visual features, rather than peripheral eyesores. For instance, the Rio Washingtonian Center in Gaithersburg, MD, created a lake that now forms the centerpiece of a major shopping and entertainment development. What was initially a simple park with jogging trails, Rio now boasts a lake with swan boats, a carousel, and waterfront dining and entertainment venues, with the lake serving as the destination’s primary focal point. It also serves as a draw to consumers, making Rio into a well-known landmark instead of one suburban mall among many.

Designers in Birmingham, Alabama recently took the concept of turning necessary environmental remediation features into entertainment spaces even further when they turned an urban water filtration project into a public park. With support from the local Rotary Club, Goodwyn, Mills and Cawood created an award-winning park that has already, 2 months after opening, become a vital part of Birmingham’s downtown.

Rotary Trail, Birmingham Alabama

This park is actually an environmental remediation project.

Rotary Trail’s designers used natural features like soil, gravel, and rock to filter water. The landscaped trail and greenspaces provide areas for jogging, biking, enjoying nature, and picnicking. The park even takes the needs of downtown workers and tourists into account with solar charging stations for USB devices. Visitors can refresh themselves in natural surroundings and charge their phones and tablets at the same time.

The Alabama Wildlife Federation acknowledge the Birmingham Rotary Club’s vision and achievement in 2015, when it awarded the club the “Water Conservationist of the Year” award for their support of this essential environmental remediation project.

Portaventura World in Tarragona, Spain

In Spain, an amusement park features water without waste.

Porta Aventura World in Tarragona, Spain has moved beyond mere water filtration to water conservation in its unique entertainment design. The park’s drainage systems are designed to collect nearly all rainfall in the large, man-made lake that forms a focus for the whole amusement park. The park also uses state-of-the-art water filtration technology to render this run-off safe for recreational and landscaping uses. As a result, the park is able to be nearly water-neutral in spite of all of its aquatic features like lakes, pools, flumes, and water slides.

As entertainment designers focus more on sustainability and environmental remediation, they’ll continue to come up with innovative ways to combine necessary ‘green’ infrastructure with enjoyable experiences for their guests. Environmental systems don’t have to be a wasted space  in an entertainment venue. With a bit of vision and creativity, they can instead become a valued part of the overall experience and atmosphere.


Images Courtesy of:
Courtyard Marriott, Gaithersburg Washingtonian Center.

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