• Wetlands and Bouncy Castles: A Juarez Nature Park Along the Us-Mexico Border

      Nuno-Whelan, Mario (The University of Arizona., 2020)
      What the heck do wetlands and bouncy castles have to do with each other? Usually, absolutely nothing. This project proposes that maybe they could. The focus here is the design of a constructed wetland park in the city of Juárez, Chihuahua, Mexico, that uses treated effluent to create wildlife habitat that once existed in the floodplain of a meandering Rio Bravo/Rio Grande prior to channelization. However, there are two broader design challenges that make it unique: 1) the site is adjacent the Juarez-El Paso border and directly across the river from an existing 372-acre Rio Bosque Wetlands Park in El Paso, constructed in the 90s and irrigated by the effluent of a wastewater treatment plant; and 2) the site is an undeveloped patch of agricultural land nearly surrounded by compact, single-family housing in an overlooked community. And this is where bouncy castles fit in. The goal is to integrate undeveloped wetland habitat with much-needed recreation space for a dense, urban neighborhood in a growing Mexican city. If you’ve ever been to a big public park in a Southwest city around graduation season or summer birthdays, you’ll know that shade ramadas and bbq grills get a lot of love. Families - and I mean families: grandmas, grandkids, aunts, neighbors, friends, every age group - go all out with food and lawn games...and sometimes, for big occasions...bouncy castles. Public parks are used similarly in Juárez. Families often visit parks in big groups. In order for this park to work, that kind of visitation needs to be designed for. The bouncy castle is a symbol. No, the park doesn’t come with bouncy castles and they will probably seldom be there. But they could be. And the design allows for it. It even welcomes it. It allows for people to use the park the way a lot of people actually use parks: in big groups, with food and family and games, with coolers and tables and camping chairs. The bouncy castle is a poofy pink stand-in for future graduation parties, family reunions, and Sunday family picnics in a park that also has wetlands and trails and unprogrammed nature.