A Part of the Sculpture Garden You Won’t See in 2017

Back in May, we wrote about breaking ground on the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden’s $10 million reconstruction effort. The new sculpture garden, which is set to re-open in June 2017, will include a number of sustainability improvements. The MWMO is investing $1.5 million in new stormwater infrastructure at the site, including a reuse system that will also capture the area’s runoff along with excess water from the Spoonbridge and Cherry and use it for irrigation.

Panoramic views of the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden taken prior to construction and during construction.
Don’t call it a “before and after” photo — more like a “before and during” photo. The sculpture garden on June 12, 2015 (top), and October 17, 2016 (bottom).

This month, a construction crew installed the centerpiece of that system — an 80,000-gallon underground cistern that will store the captured runoff. This series of interconnected tanks will serve as a reservoir of stormwater that can be pumped through irrigation lines and used to water the garden’s landscaping as well as the adjacent baseball field. (The system is similar in both function and appearance to the one used at Edison High School.)

Workers hit an interesting snag during the construction process when they unexpectedly excavated down into the water table, which caused the pit to fill up with groundwater. It’s actually not a total surprise, since — as we wrote about in our first blog post — the entire sculpture garden was built on a former wetland. In some ways, it even underscores the reasons the sculpture garden needed to be redesigned in the first place, to better accommodate the site’s particular hydrology and environmental needs.

After a brief delay while the construction team secured the necessary permits, the site was drained and the cistern was assembled. This week, the crew began backfilling around the tanks, which will soon disappear forever from the public’s view. Not that they’re especially pleasing aesthetically (especially compared to what’s going into the sculpture garden when it’s finished), but we still didn’t want to miss the opportunity to show you a major piece of the sculpture garden’s sustainable new design.

Sept. 30, 2016: The excavated storage tank location, filled with water and waiting to be drained.
Sept. 30, 2016: The excavated cistern location, filled with water and waiting to be drained.
A view of the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden's underground stormwater cistern.
Oct. 17, 2016: The cistern, under construction. Note the Spoonbridge and Cherry at left and the “lily pads” in the background. The sculpture garden’s new landscaping plan includes a “fresh meadow” filled with native plants that will act much like a rain garden.
A closeup of the underground stormwater storage tanks.
A closeup of the underground stormwater storage tanks/cistern. The runoff captured in these tanks will be used to irrigate the sculpture garden grounds  as well as the adjacent baseball field.

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