Custom Bridge Railing, Custom Benches
“Building community and connectivity” is how the Village of New Albany’s website describes Rose Run Park, which opened in November of 2019. Matt Kellogg, urban designer and landscape architect and an associate with Columbus-based MKSK describes the connections the park now provides. “On one end of the site is the city’s learning campus and on the other is the town’s civic core. Prior to the redesign, the park was underused; there were limited connections to and through the park,” Kellogg says. Now a network of walkways connects the community’s schools to its library, health center, arts center, and downtown shops and restaurants. It also has created opportunities for residents to engage with nature and the Rose Run Creek that traverses the park.
The buildings within the New Albany campus and civic core feature Georgian architecture, and MKSK’s design reflects the simplicity and symmetry of this architectural style. “The community prides itself on a consistent architectural aesthetic that isn’t grandiose or over-designed,” explains Kellogg. “We spent a lot of time discussing what needed to be edited out of this project to keep it as simple as possible. The park offers moments that are interesting but not over the top. Everything is tied to the character of the community.”
The park’s pathways take visitors to “parklets within the park, each with its own diverse character,” says Kellogg. “The plaza has a more refined character, but the rest of the park connects people to the river and nature and is simple and light in character.”
The primary walkway connecting the campus and civic core includes a pedestrian bridge. The 150 feet of custom railing on the bridge and the custom benches on the bridge and adjacent plaza were a collaboration between MKSK and Landscape Forms’ Studio 431. “Landscape architects can design custom furniture to a certain point but then we tend to over-engineer or not understand the full scope of what may arise,” says Kellogg. For that reason, MKSK engaged with Studio 431 early in the process, soon after it had finalized the railing design and form.
The railing pattern reflects the town’s Georgian architecture “without being too literal,” explains Kellogg. The refined yet simple pattern of elongated figure eight spindles creates a lyrical design. “The main access to the park is a large, rectilinear formal plaza. We wanted to soften the edges of the adjacent bridge with a light and continuous railing,” says Kellogg.
The railing incorporates a novel approach in its use of Ashbery area light cover plates as railing posts. MKSK was attracted to the aesthetic of Ashbery area lights, but when the decision was made to use another light fixture for the four area lights on the bridge, MKSK saw that the Ashbery design could still play a role in the railing. “Ashbery lights spoke to us because they are a modern take on a traditional form. Incorporating cover plates as posts let us move forward with that vernacular,” says Kellogg. The Ashbery posts also complement bollards throughout the park and site elements in the library’s reading garden.
Kellogg and Studio 431 have collaborated before, and Kellogg knew he could depend on them to help the MKSK team make decisions on details such as railing construction, attachment approaches, and connecting light fixtures. “We shared an overview of the site elements with the Studio 431 team and asked for their feedback,” says Kellogg. “They figured out the best approach to attaching the spindles and integrating the Ashbery posts.” Small pins, rather than welded beads, connect the cast metal spindles to each other and the ipe handrail and bridge structure. “The pin attachment kept the aesthetic lighter, like MKSK’s design itself,” says Studio 431’s Mark Haase. “Early involvement and an understanding of MKSK’s design intent helped us make the best decisions.”
The 12 benches on the bridge and in the plaza have ipe seats and metal supports and share a design aesthetic and materiality with the bridge railing. “Like the bridge railing, we wanted to maintain a classical form without being literal,” says Kellogg. “There is an intention between the railing and the benches to keep the palette and language as simple as possible. The spindles and benches speak to each other.”
The park’s overlook area features two very different custom benches. Stacked laminated timbers of Alaskan yellow cedar have a natural, contemporary design, fitting of the woodland setting that surrounds them. “These benches are simple in form but also connote strength and weight,” says Kellogg. “They feel like they’re of the earth and will be here for 100 years.”
After the quiet winter months, Rose Run Park came to life in the spring. Whenever Kellogg visited it, he was amazed at the number of people using the park. City leaders were happy to see that park activity was more than they had imagined. “People are having picnics on the lawn, kids are playing in stream,” says Kellogg. “People are using the park the way we imagined and hoped they would. Our goal was to make connections, and the park is really achieving that.”