Parks/Open Space

Calder Plaza

Grand Rapids, Michigan

Honoring an icon, creating dynamic futures

The profession and medium of landscape architecture are increasingly faced with the dilemma of how to maintain the delicate balance between historic preservation and contemporary adaption. Calder Plaza embodies a community-led initiative and endorsed result grounded in research-based methodologies which represents a national model for the design professions, community advocates, and city officials navigating urban landscapes at critical periods of change.

In 1969, Calder Plaza emerged from the ideals of late-modernism as a signature of civic space in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Punctuated by Calder’s La Grande Vitesse, the design created a national paradigm shift in how public art and urban space interact as one. However, due to social and economic changes, the plaza today remains lifeless and empty. In 2016, a community survey revealed only one in ten citizens were satisfied with its current state, though recommendations were broad. Recognizing historical significance and emerging needs, Design Workshop and Marlon Blackwell Architects set forth a visionary, inclusive, community-wide planning process that built consensus towards a plan that adapts to contemporary conditions while honoring the integrity of internationally recognized art.

Services Provided: Master Planning, Public Engagement, Landscape Architecture


  • Merit Award for Planning, ASLA Michigan
  • Merit Award for Planning, ASLA Colorado


Downtown Grand Rapids, Inc. in Partnership with City of Grand Rapids and Kent County


Marlon Blackwell Architects, ETM Associates, Concept Lighting Lab, LLC, RWDI