Situated at its dramatic narrowing point, Water Mark crowns the Indian Bend Wash and Scottsdale’s innovative flood control greenbelt. Encompassed within the flood basin on both sides of Indian Bend, the artwork is both a roadside landmark on the north and an earthwork on the south.
A series of five 14-foot high aluminum equine gargoyle sculptures spaced 125 feet apart graces the drop structure in the north basin atop stepped charcoal gray concrete plinths. Directed towards the passing traffic, each gargoyle strikes a different pose and stands sentinel, some with ears pricked back to hear impending flows, which can envelope but never overtake them. During dramatic flash flooding, water pours from the gargoyles’ mouths. The equine forms recall the historic McCormick Arabian Ranch, once adjacent to the site. At night, the sculptures are subtlety up-lit with blue lights on the east side and yellow lights on the west side, representing water and the sun.
In the south basin, a series of earthworks is reachable via the multi-use pathways underneath the roadway—a discovery for users of the greenbelt. Six stadia walls and flow berms measure changing water levels during flows. The stadia walls include sculptural square notches and protrusions that form various patterns as the waters rise, and lines of red tile inset at one-foot vertical increments mark the water level of the basin. These walls transition into naturalistic flow berms, constructed of mortared stone with linear native planters along the top. A related triangular delta planter in the center of the basin holds ironwood trees. Each becomes an island during times of flooding. The flow berms and delta planter were inspired by existing mesquite groves that also become islands in flooding, which are dear to the local community and are home year-round to wildlife, including migrating birds such as egrets and herons.
The five equine gargoyle sculptures were fabricated by Charles Wiemeyer Design Company. Wiemeyer has collaborated with Haddad|Drugan on several projects spanning ten years, including Seattle’s Fremont Peak Park, Millennium Plaza in Kent, WA, and Lineage in San Jose, CA. The Water Mark gargoyles were a big challenge requiring over fifty sheets of aluminum and over seven miles of welding stick on each sculpture.