Lake Whitney Water Treatment Facility
Complementing architect Steven Holl’s striking steel water treatment facility, MVVA turned the 14 surrounding acres into a park and nature preserve on a limited budget of $5 per square foot. The finished landscape raises the bar for municipal infrastructure design. Located on the outskirts of New Haven, Connecticut, the facility draws water for the City of New Haven from nearby Lake Whitney at the base of the Mill River Watershed.
The landscape creates a microcosm of the surrounding regional watershed from mountain source to reservoir, with bioengineered swales stabilizing the site and capturing water. The planting scheme, calibrated for seasonal variation in color and texture, uses native species. It requires no fertilizers nor pesticides, and the combination of grasses, forbs, and pioneer woody species anticipates the evolution of plant communities over time.
While privately owned, the landscape and building work together to engage the public, with open edges and trails that invite visitors to enjoy the park-like setting. The site also hosts the historic Eli Whitney Barn, now used for community events. The barn and boarding house, which used to back up to a featureless, flat lawn, are now paired with a dynamic and ecologically diverse public space.