Tom Lee Park

Tailout zone: In the park's southernmost zone, an outdoor classroom, experimental garden, and other hands-on opportunities give youth and adults a chance to connect with and learn about the unique ecology of the Mississippi River.

Location
Memphis, TN

Status
In design

Client
Memphis River Parks Partnership

Type
Civic

Size
30 acres

Tags

Designed by Studio Gang and SCAPE, the new Tom Lee Park will transform a flat, grassy field at the edge of the Mississippi River into a signature public park for Memphis where community life can flourish year-round, grounded in the river’s dynamic rhythms and local ecology.

Tom Lee Park was one of the five zones included in Studio Gang’s 2017 Memphis Riverfront Concept, a master plan for six miles of the city’s Mississippi riverfront that was shaped through a series of community engagement workshops, meetings, interviews, and surveys. The park’s design incorporates the ideas and input of Memphians from across the city and aims to honor and elevate their ambitions for Memphis’ future by connecting the city back to its starting point—the Mississippi River.

The design of each of the park's four zones is informed by different natural river formations or behaviors. Plan by SCAPE.

Model photo of the Riffle zone, where curving, intersecting paths and topography are anchored by a set of activity courts and threaded through with soft, shaded places to rest.

Architecture and landscape work closely together to make the park a welcoming, comfortable place for all Memphians and visitors, whether they’re taking part in outdoor activities or relaxing alongside the Mississippi. The park’s 30 acres are laid out as a series of four distinct zones—defined by topography, vegetation, pathways, and architecture—that flow together to support a range of active and passive uses. The landscape design of each zone is informed by different natural river formations or behaviors.

Throughout the park, regionally-specific plant species are selected to provide shade and beauty for people as well as habitat for wildlife. Hearty and well-adapted to life at the Mississippi’s edge, these trees, shrubs, and other plants make the park an ever-changing place that marks the passage of the seasons.

Gateway zone: A terraced pathway cut into the bluff provides a new gateway connection between downtown Memphis and the new Tom Lee Park.

Gateway zone: A welcoming entry plaza with water features and bright swaths of native plants evokes the winding oxbows of the Mississippi River and accommodates art installations, public gatherings, and festival tents.

The architecture—which floats above the landscape like vessels on the water—is inspired by historical structures that once operated on the Memphis riverfront, from the terminal buildings to grain elevators and barges. Their material aesthetic embraces the patina that will come with time and their structures merge with the natural environment.

Riffle zone: Near the river’s edge, a Central Canopy floats above a set of activity courts, framing the river beyond and protecting the courts below that can be used for basketball and other sports, as well as events like concerts or weddings. Café concessions, lockers, storage, and bathrooms are located nearby.

Tailout zone: Near the park’s southern end, where its landscape becomes wilder, a Lookout Tower rises out of the sloping riverbank. Marking the park, whether seen from the surrounding neighborhood or a passing river vessel, the tower’s structure provides attractive space for birds to nest and rest as well as a viewing platform where park visitors can feel as if they’re hovering over the Mississippi.

Consultant Team

SCAPE, Landscape Architect

Kimley-Horn, Civil Engineer

Thornton Tomasetti, Structural Engineer

Applied Ecological Services, Ecologist

A public exhibit of the park model, renderings, and other materials is currently on display at the new Tom Lee Park Engagement Center located at Memphis' Beale Street Landing. Photo by Doug Carpenter and Associates.

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