Sharing Research: The ASLA
Campus Resiliency Series

August 27, 2020
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Principal Kevin Petersen joined a panel of experts presenting as part of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) Campus Resiliency Series. Discussing the ways in which colleges and universities could adapt campus outdoor spaces in response to COVID-19, this panel of experts included landscape architects and planners in both the private sector as well as those working for colleges and universities. These events are excellent opportunities to share our expertise and learn from our peers and clients. We are thankful to the ASLA for the opportunity to participate.

Outdoor spaces have always been a memorable part of the collegiate experience, helping to define the character of a campus and providing iconic places for students to gather. In unknown times, open spaces can be adaptable and offer solutions that are effective in the short term but can also be long-term improvements.

Kevin shared results from our recent survey and spoke to the ways that COVID-19 is accelerating shifts in campus outdoor spaces that are already underway, and the ways in which a campus can harness existing assets. There is a natural tension between the desire to have a vibrant campus environment, which so frequently depends on density, and the need to have the safest environment. Kevin looked closely at what could be operational changes and the ways a campus could leverage assets into long-term solutions based on thoughtful planning and design.

The campus experience, and the place of open spaces, can be thought of as a collection of three major components: wellness, learning, and student life.

Wellness

Over the past two months, many of us have found solace in nature while social distancing. We’re reminded of the power of the outdoors. Dating back centuries, the idea that outdoor spaces offer a remedy for students away from academic rigors can be seen in the original plan for the academical village of the University of Virginia.

Landscape enhancements can have a powerful impact with modest investment. Outdoor spaces provide a therapeutic and calming escape, and gathering outdoors with appropriate distancing practices may offer reduced risk.

Learning

Every institution has difficult decisions to make concerning reopening. Social distancing can inhibit experiential learning, community building, and research. Although there are many opportunities to expand learning outside, it is not viable in all cases, particularly when academic programs require specialized tools and equipment. Campuses need to think carefully about how to categorize and prioritize learning experiences and environments. There is no one-size-fits-all solution. In many cases, it’s unclear what will and will not work, as there are very few–if any–proven precedents. However, keeping in mind the trends that COVID-19 has accelerated, an institution can target investments toward near-term solutions that will still be viable long-term. For instance, prioritizing flexibility and adaptability in learning environments–both interior and exterior–to support different pedagogies and learners has been an ongoing trend; multiuse spaces will likely see more utilization for the foreseeable future. For programs that are not equipment-dependent, establishing an outdoor classroom or other landscape enhancement can serve the campus well now and become established as a flexible gathering space on campus experience years from now.

Student Life

Finally, when we think about a campus as providing a place-based experience, student life and recreation is important in rounding out that experience. Landscapes can offer safe outside recreational experiences. We are all witnessing how parks, cities, and institutions are using their outdoor spaces, waterfronts, and other natural resources to reimagine recreation in the COVID-era. Collegiate landscape can similarly rely on their recreational spaces to inject levity into an otherwise challenging experience.

Many campuses will have a rare opportunity during the transitional period: lower parking demand. This might be an opportunity to experiment with pilot projects, like closing a parking lot or road to vehicles and repurposing it for recreational uses like cycling, fitness classes, or outdoor seating for dining. As with learning environments, these do not all have to be temporary. These could be the start of new outdoor experiences that become intimately tied to the identity of the campus.

Amelle Schultz, PLA, LEED AP is an Associate Principal in the Landscape Architecture practice group and serves as Professional Practice Network Co-Chair of Campus Planning and Design for the ASLA.

Ayers Saint Gross at SCUP 2019

July 11, 2019
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The SCUP 2019 Annual Conference is being held in Seattle this year, and we are pleased to have an abundance of good news to share in the Emerald City.

Ayers Saint Gross has won the SCUP Excellence Award in Landscape Architecture for General Design for the San Martin Drive Pedestrian Improvements at Johns Hopkins University. The project highlights a natural asset while improving the safety and well-being of students. The landscape design incorporates four major elements: defining a continuous pedestrian connection the length of the corridor, developing clear and safe crossings of the roadway, creatively resolving the need for pedestrian connections in an environmentally sensitive area, and establishing clear entry gates to the University. We are happy to announce the honor and proud of this project and our design team for their incredible and life-changing work.


A new year at SCUP also means a new Comparing Campuses poster. Since 1998, Ayers Saint Gross has annually published this poster featuring campus plans from leading institutions around the world. After a number of years focusing on specific themes, this year’s poster is a recall to our original style and features eleven new additions to our collection. Featuring a mix of large and small campuses and punctuated with sustainability facts, we’ve assembled this collection as a tool for institutional planners in the belief that understanding campus organization and data will lead to the creation of even better spaces in which to live, learn, and teach.

We look forward to seeing everyone at the conference. Come and visit us at booth 401.

Ayers Saint Gross at ASLA 2018

October 15, 2018
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If you’re in Philadelphia this week, please make time to catch one of the terrific sessions that Ayers Saint Gross will be leading at the 2018 ASLA Annual Meeting and Expo. Here are the details:

Academia in Arcadia: Design, Sustainable Stewardship, and Pedagogy on Swarthmore’s Campus

As Swarthmore’s Scott Arboretum prepares to celebrate its 90th anniversary as an arboretum and home to one of the most prestigious liberal arts colleges, this field session explores the intersection of campus planning, sustainable stewardship, design, pedagogy, and community outreach in the art and science of a public garden. Learning objectives include:

  • Gaining insight into how a large scale and diverse landscape is planned for the 21st century mission of the college with a focus on horticulture, education, sustainability, and public outreach.
  • Learning how specific landscape values and planning strategies have been translated into an environmental framework for stormwater management.
  • Seeing how experimental horticultural and soil strategies are being employed to diversify the landscape while reducing long-term maintenance demands.
  • Discussing how these strategies inform the collaboration among the design professions, particularly landscape architects, engineers, horticulturists, and educators.

Presenters
Richard A. Newton, Partner, Olin
Amelle Schultz, Associate Principal, Ayers Saint Gross
Steve Benz, Founder/Consultant, SITEGreen Solutions
Dennis McGlade, Partner, Olin
Claire Sawyers, Director, The Scott Arboretum
Jeff Jabco, Director of Grounds, Swarthmore College
Rodney Robinson, Founder, Robinson Anderson Summers
Kristen Loughry, Senior Landscape Architect, Olin

Details
Friday, October 19, 2018
7:45 AM – 4:35 PM
Meeting Location: N. 13th Street and Arch Street
Philadelphia, PA 19107
Note: Preregistration required.

Credits
3.25 PDH, LA CES/HSW, FL, NY/HSW


Where Land Meets Water: Rethinking the Shoreline in Urban Waterfronts

In many cities, the threshold between land and sea is abrupt and impenetrable. Baltimore’s Inner Harbor is no exception. A new paradigm is emerging, motivated by aquatic conservation and social justice. This session looks at design interventions that are transforming human and ecological interactions across the divide. Learning objectives include:

  • Identifying key design drivers and factors that contribute to ecological health in sensitive shoreline environments.
  • Sharing strategies designers can use to collaborate with scientists and other non-designers to frame experiments and develop prototypes that test ideas and collect data.
  • Prototyping tests ideas for fine-tuning before scaling up and learning how the design process can be structured to allow adaptation of design concepts in response to discovery.
  • Learning how ecological visioning plays a constructive role in unlocking the transformative potential of existing sites.

Details
Friday, October 19, 2018
10:30 AM – 12:00 PM
Location 120
Pennsylvania Convention Center
1101 Arch Street
Philadelphia, PA 19107

Presenters
Jonathan Ceci, former Principal, Ayers Saint Gross
Jacqueline Bershad, Vice President of Planning and Design, National Aquarium
Christopher Streb, Bioworks Practice Leader, Biohabitats

Credits
1.5 PDH, LA CES/HSW, AIA/HSW, AICP, FL, NY/HSW


Designing a Laboratory Landscape on the Chester River

By embracing budget constraints and harnessing the rich landscape history of our site, we are proposing a light but ambitious landscape for Washington College’s Semans-Griswold Environmental Hall, a Living Building Challenge project. We will share the lessons of how you can make the most when your client insists that you do the least. Included in our project are nursery gardens, stormwater management plantings, a novel ecology created by a river flow-through outfall stream, and custom-designed meadows all along the Chester River on two remediated brownfield sites. 

Details
Sunday, October 21, 2018
10:00 AM – 10:45 AM
PPN Live stage, Expo Hall
Pennsylvania Convention Center
1101 Arch Street
Philadelphia, PA 19107

Presenter

Margaret Baldwin, Landscape Designer, Ayers Saint Gross

National Aquarium Waterfront Campus Plan Wins AIA Maryland Award

October 27, 2016
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Ayers Saint Gross is pleased to announce that the Waterfront Campus Plan for the National Aquarium in Baltimore recently won a 2016 AIA Maryland Excellence in Design Honor Award for Urban Design and Master Planning. The jury lauded the design for “creating dynamic, welcoming, educational public space while restoring ecosystems and providing a living lab as a model toward resiliency in the built and natural environment.”

Our team proposed a design for the 2.5 acre space between Piers 3 and 4 in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor that challenges existing urban waterfront models. It merges aquatic and terrestrial communities by softening existing engineered bulkhead barriers, including amphitheaters, vegetation shelves, and an oyster reef that serves as a natural water filtration system.

“Located on the historic piers of Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, the National Aquarium is ideally situated for demonstrating how its conservation mission can be applied at its own doorstep,” Jonathan Ceci, PLA, Director of Landscape Architecture, said.

Our Waterfront Campus plan also highlights the water’s movement with a network of floating wetlands that return native plants to the Inner Harbor. The design team gave careful analysis to ephemeral conditions like tides and how those conditions affect the user experience. The result is a series of installations that engage visitors and connect them with authentic Chesapeake Bay watershed habitat. The design advances the economic success of the Inner Harbor and of the entire city of Baltimore with renewed civic infrastructure.

The National Aquarium is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to inspire conservation of the world’s aquatic treasures. It welcomes an average of 1.3 million visitors annually. The Waterfront Campus Plan is expected to be fully implemented by 2019.

“Ayers Saint Gross’ work on behalf of the National Aquarium and our waterfront campus is deserving of this award,” said Jacqueline Bershad, National Aquarium Vice President of Planning and Design. “Our vision – one we are diligently working to bring to life with Ayers Saint Gross – is that the Waterfront Campus will be an accessible green space for people of all ages to engage with and enjoy.”

For more on Ayers Saint Gross’ award-winning designs, visit our Awards page.