Emancipation Park Laurel, DC
Laurel, Maryland is a city rich in history. Established as a small, semi-urban center with thriving cotton mills and foundries, the area also attracted a close-knit African American community in the late 1800’s. At its heart was St. Marks Methodist Church, still standing at the edge of the library site in what was once known as The Grove.
The design team explored a number of options to site the new building and its amenities to maximize its visual presence, ease of access and relationship to Emancipation Park. The dynamic lines of the architecture are drawn out into the landscape in strong diagonals and accentuated by bold, textural plant masses. Sculpted landforms undulate across the site to relieve a flat topography. The plant palette was selected to provide year-round interest.
Like the library building, the site offers a variety of settings for reading, learning, gathering and meeting. Its numerous sustainable design features make the site itself a teaching tool. Bioretention areas with native plants showcase innovative stormwater management techniques and attract birds, butterflies and other wildlife. Pervious pavement systems and dark sky-rated lights contribute to sustainability.
Amenities on the park and library grounds include a dog park, a small amphitheater and lawns for performances and the annual Emancipation Day festivities. The amphitheater plaza becomes a splash pad on summer days, activating the space throughout the season. The water park, playground, play mound and basketball court provide a dynamic set of recreational facilities.