Visions of Ackert Walkway

By David Linzee (excerpt from The Pacer, April 2011)

Ackert Walkway is one important component of the Parkview Gardens parks rehab plan, and students in Professor John Hoal’s class At Washington University have been working on it all term. They presented their concepts to a large and curious crowd at Parkview Towers March 26. The Walkway has great potential for connecting Heman Park to our neighborhood to Delmar to Washington U., now that it is becoming part of the Centennial Greenway. At present, though, it is little used.

Six student teams drew up plans for drawing people in. Team One concentrated on replacing or concealing fences with plantings and putting walking and bike trails side by side. The team liked Vito’s garden and wanted to extend it with an orchard. The second team suggested a “meandering” sculptural ribbon running all the way from Vernon to Delmar, changing form and function as it went. They planned on extending Vito’s with a terraced garden. Team Three called their project the “brightway.” They wanted to paint the fire escapes and woodwork of apartment buildings along the trail in varying colors with complementary plantings. Colored light-sculptures would mark all entrances along the walkway. In the central space, an amphitheatre would replace the playground. The fourth team wanted to use “porous pavers,” a horizontal lattice of concrete filled with grass, instead of concrete walkways. They would move the bike path to Leland to make more room for artists—drummers, street painters, video artists and dancers—to show their work or perform along the walkway. Team Five suggested replacing chain-link with green fences, sweetgum trees with native plantings. They’d put a picnic lawn in the central area. The last team’s concept was ripples. The ground would undulate along the path. The parking lot at the south end would become a multi-use space for sports, games, art and film fairs.

The students asked for feedback, and after the presentations, residents and other guests were happy to provide it. The problem confronting any redesign of Ackert is that it is mostly lined with spaces and fixtures—parking lots, alleys, security fences and dumpsters—that are ugly but useful. Those of us who live here recognize how difficult it will be to replace the utilitarian with the charming. It’s good to hear from young people with fresh ideas.