King Street Gardens

1997 • Alexandria, Virginia

Collaboration with Laura Sindell, Mark Spitzer, and Becca Hanson

Stainless steel pipe and wire, granite, brick, and plants. 35’ x 250’ x 140’.

A garden park with three points of view: the tricorn Topiary Hat, a Hanging Garden gathering place among aromatic vines, and the Sunken Garden, a reclaimed marsh which returns area rain runoff into an adjacent stream. Each view point features a cast iron plaque and poem referencing the site.


It was ironic but appropriate to us that George Washington surveyed many of the streets in Alexandria and may have laid out the lines which define this park. This piece of his three cornered hat, a sculptural shape we liked, symbolizes his role in creating the grid of streets which has been imposed on the native wetlands. This large topiary shape also provides an entry marker to the west edge of town and can be seen as a plow or prow, symbols of the progress which made early Alexandria successful.


In the 1800s, when Alexandria was a bustling commercial town, but before the advent of air conditioning, summer business and social affairs were often conducted in the tea gardens of inns and restaurants, shaded by walls and vine-covered trellises. The trellised part of the site, paved with brick and furnished with seating, will, when the various aromatic and flowering vines have grown in, provide a similar outdoor social space for workers having lunch outdoors in the King Street Station area.  The pattern of the trellises derives from the street grid of the City.


Prior to the establishment of Alexandria, Hooff's Run flowed through the center of the site which is now the park. The history of that stream and its adjacent wetland, from floodplain to drainage creek to storm sewer, reflects the way in which our culture has looked at and developed low lying areas. The re-creation of the sunken marsh, as a visible reminder of Hooff's Run, tells part of the hidden story of the site.  It also reintroduces a small amount of native habitat as a green contrast to the developed property on all sides of the site.

© 1997 Buster Simpson, Laura Sindell, Mark Spitzer, and Becca Hanson

Site Design by Todd Metten

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