Landscape Architecture
and Planning

The Plaza at the Railyards

for the City of Albuquerque

Location: Albuquerque, NM

Completed: 2019

The plaza has quickly become a dynamic venue for a wide range of events, creating the spark for community support of large-scale improvements.

The Plaza at the Albuquerque Rail Yards is a key component of the revitalization of one of the City's most iconic spaces. The derelict site needed something to generate public interest. The plaza has quickly become a dynamic venue for a wide range of events, creating the spark for community support of large-scale improvements. The design reflects the industrial character in ways that embrace the past while looking forward to an exciting future. 

The Rail Yards played a key role in Albuquerque's growth. In the early 1900's the site was the City's largest employer and a major economic engine. With the advent of diesel engines and post-war economic shifts, the influence of the Rail Yards gradually waned, which had a devastating impact on the surrounding communities. 

The design team intensively researched the history of the site to draw inspiration for the plan. The Rail Yards were utilitarian and little space or effort was given to providing comfortable, flexible plaza spaces. Given the lack of this programmatic use, the nature of materials and adaptive reuse became the guiding principles of design. Design details were envisioned as solutions that would have been constructed with materials that were quick to fabricate and readily available. Existing concrete paving and rails were retained in situ with minor alterations to remove trip hazards. The modular paving and wall units were color matched to other masonry used in the site and architecture. Large sandstone boulders that were excavated during construction were repurposed as natural seating and jumping from one to another has become a favorite activity for kids.

The gentle sloping lawn gracefully ties the lower ponding areas with the surrounding upper plaza. Concern about the plaza becoming inundated provided the basis to propose a number of green infrastructure solutions as a way to protect the more heavily used areas. A collection and infiltration gallery are located at the point of discharge of flows coming from the adjacent parking lot. This fore-pond has a layer of wood mulch under gravel that serves as a biologically active layer that aerobically digests petrochemicals in the runoff. This solution has proven so successful that it has been incorporated by the City of Albuquerque in other public works projects to mitigate stormwater quantity and quality issues.

What was originally envisioned as a temporary solution that would create public interest has proven to be a huge success. The overwhelming response has not only secured the permanence of the plaza, but it has also inspired greater development of open spaces on the property, a streetscape to connect the Rail Yards to the adjacent neighborhood, and a multi-modal Rail Trail to connect to downtown Albuquerque.