CSU Hydro Landscape Architecture

The CSU Hydro Building is one of the integral components of the SPUR campus at the National Western Center redevelopment, located just north of downtown Denver, Colorado. Within this dynamic campus, dedicated to the exploration of animal health, food, and water, each of the three CSU buildings possesses a unique thematic focus. The overarching mission of the SPUR campus is to serve as a vibrant crossroads for research, education, artistic endeavors, and social gatherings.

The Water Resources Building comprises two distinct structures: a brand-new, expansive four-story building spanning over 100,000 square feet, and a meticulously renovated two-story structure encompassing 16,600 square feet. These buildings encompass an engaging alleyway, flanked by an artistic wall that beckons pedestrians from National Western Drive into the “Backyard”. Importantly, this alley retains its functionality as a critical truck access point for various research projects.

The HYDRO Building’s location hosts an interactive “Backyard,” which serves as an educational haven where visitors can delve into the intricacies of Colorado’s four major watersheds. The backyard’s design is inspired by these watersheds and is realized through its form, educational offerings, and the inclusion of native and adaptive low-water plantings representative of the unique characteristics of each watershed. These four major watersheds are vital as they serve as the headwaters for rivers that flow through 17 downstream states and Mexico. Each watershed is thoughtfully represented through dedicated plazas, interconnected by pathways. At the heart of it all lies a mounded central “Continental Divide” trail, where visitors can use a hand pump to manipulate water flow, determining whether it cascades to the eastern or western side of the continental divide.

The HYDRO Building and its surrounding site embrace a multitude of sustainable “one water” strategies. These strategies encompass grey water recycling, the collection of roof runoff for research purposes and irrigation, the incorporation of off-site stormwater for bioretention research, and a green roof adorned with solar panels for agrivoltaic studies.

In addition to its educational aspects, the Backyard also serves as a versatile social space. It accommodates large-scale events and provides intimate dining areas, offering a multifaceted experience for visitors and the community alike.

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