Atwater Commons-Original Landscape Plan

Categories: History

The landscape architects for the Atwater Commons project was Andropogon Associates, in Philadelphia. Working with KieranTimberlake, they drafted the landscape plan for the entire area, from the roof right down to the path to the commons house at 275 Weybridge. Their excellent work and attention to ecological details can be seen in the landscape drawings for the project, which we have made available for download below.

So what went wrong with the landscape, why does it not reflect the plan? We believe the main problem was that of a changing environment. As is readily apparent walking the site, a significant amount of blasting had to occur to place the buildings where they presently sit. This blasting fractured the bedrock, creating fissures, taking the groundwater away, and this dried out what was previously a fairly moist location. The plans called for extensive swale plantings, and utilized plants suitable for a moist environment throughout the commons area. These plantings could not adapt to the dry conditions found there at present, and the plantings now languish.

Much of the theory, however, and some of the plantings still remain relevant today. In particular, look to the retention pond east of the dining hall, next to the Atwater loading dock, as a very successful bit of both landscape and engineering. The roof as well, although tricky to get established, is the most northern green roof we know utilizing such a broad variety of native plant material. Both retention ponds, as well as the rubble walls at the north end of Johnson parking lot, are part of the permitting for the site, and must stay at their present location.

The overall drying of the site, as well as changing use patterns on campus, now dictate a change in use for Atwater Commons. Do you see a very urban setting as seen by Professor McLeod on the site visit? Do you see a town green, like traditional Vermont towns? Can you do both?

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