"The Watershed” A Numinous Garden – Chelsea Pocket Park
“The Watershed” A Numinous Garden where Community Memories Flourish and Future Connections Blossom.
In Central El Paso, a nostalgic chapter of community life is set to be rekindled as the long-inactive Chelsea outdoor Pool undergoes a transformative evolution into the vibrant Chelsea Pocket Park.
For more than fifty years, the Chelsea Outdoor Pool stood as a lively center of summer delight, drawing families and youth from diverse neighborhoods. Yet, in 2012, mounting maintenance costs and structural issues forced the City of El Paso to make the decision to close this cherished community asset.
Enter “The Watershed”, a visionary project designed to breathe new life into community gathering and outdoor enjoyment. Spanning a 2,817 SF site on Chelsea Street, the park aims to seamlessly integrate into the neighborhood's fabric. Inspired by the concept of the Numinous, where an appeal to aesthetic sensibilities and the sublime creates a spiritually elevated ambiance. The Watershed at Chelsea aspires to be a place where contemplation of nature, recreation, and social interactions harmoniously converge.
Design inspiration comes from the Karesansui (Rock Garden) Gardens of Enkoji Nanzenji Temples of Kyoto, Japan as well as the Skyspaces by James Turrell. The universally designed park — accessible from multiple sides — is designed as a Chihuahuan Desert Karesansui. Creating a place of contemplation in the Chihuahuan Desert first means creating a place of refuge from the strong glare of the sun.
The design forms a central plaza organized along a primary view axis to the iconic El Paso Star atop the Franklin Mountains from the site. Along this central axis a path enters the plaza from both Chelsea Street and the parking lot. Over the central plaza, a shade canopy takes the massing form of the gabled roofs scattered about the low-rise Chelsea neighborhood. This canopy is strategically oriented lengthwise along the primary axis framing a view of the Franklin Mountains' Star.
The linear canopy acts as a gathering device. As it gathers the people of the Chelsea neighborhood under its protective shade, it also gathers the rainwater it into oversized river rock beds to capture water, which is then diverted to surrounding trees, adding a sustainable touch to the park's environmental ethos. These trees are a native Chihuahuan Desert oak tree (Chisos Mountains Oak) that will form an urban forest canopy over time as their treetops grow into one another.
A meandering stabilized chat pathway meanders its way under this tree canopy – offering select places of refuge to sit along the way. The surrounding landscape areas provide a variety of native grasses, shrubs, trees, and flowers, creating a balanced fusion of shade and vibrant colors.
The Watershed at Chelsea is not merely a physical transformation but a testament to the commitment to community well-being. Beyond providing a recreational escape, the park aims to contribute to neighborhood revitalization and environmental enhancement.
Location: El Paso, Texas
Project Area: 2,817 SF
Services: Complete Architectural Service including Construction
Program: Pocket Park / Urban Design