Community and habitat intervention in the West End neighborhood in St. Louis

Academic project
Washington University in St. Louis
arch 312 / Spring 2019
Instructed by Jacqueline Margetts

ASLA St. Louis Award of Excellence (Highest Student Award)

Birds are a charming yet vital component of the biodiversity within the urban realm. This intervention is designed specifically to encourage the purple martin, a bird species that prefers human-made habitats, to nest within the West End neighborhood.

The main axis of the intervention is a boardwalk, lined with striking martin birdhouses found commonly in the rural midwest. The boardwalk connects the greenway to the elementary school and senior home. Avian species, especially the sociable purple martin species that thrive in human-constructed habitats, may provide ecological learning and social opportunities. Complementing the social programming is an ecological wetland intervention that simultaneously acts as a storm sponge and rich food source for the birds. Underneath the metal-grated boardwalk is a bioswale that gradually widens into a small wetland pond adjacent to the tracks. The bioswale collects stormwater and pollutants from Maple Avenue and directs it toward a wetland pond dense with pickerelweed, plants that are highly effective at cleaning soil, air, and water by uptaking excess nitrogen and phosphorus. The pickerelweed wetland pond, the most intense area of habitat, is adjacent to the Hodiamont Tracks Greenway, the most active area of social engagement. Rows of gabion basket seating line the greenway and signals the entrance onto the boardwalk from the greenway.

Branching off from the boardwalk are narrower paths that lead to gourd trellises, functioning as 'birdhouse trees.' The gourds, once hollowed and drilled, are transformed into small birdhouses that attach to the trellises or to the martin birdhouse poles lining the boardwalk. These activities are an emergent opportunity for the neighborhood, fostering an intensified sense of community and appreciation of the ecological systems that enhance the health of the urban realm.