I’ll dive right in, and quote directly from the proposal-“Our proposed site plan creates several clearly defined ‘outdoor rooms’ between the Atwater building and creates a buffer between the Northern edge of campus and the Atwater parking lot and nearby residences.” As a touchstone, the plan references the original concepts of the Kiernan Timberlake proposal for Atwater Commons, and seeks to re-landscape the area meet this vision. The team uses 4 elements to meet their goal, a seasonal platform, a terrace with a surrounding ramp, a tree garden and a gravel quad. They state “the contrasting open and closed spaces complement one another as a whole and allow for a stronger awareness of the spaces”. I’ll attempt to remember and write some of the comments and concerns raised in the presentation’s question and answer period, as well as mention some of my own.
The seasonal platform, located at the present location of the retention pond on the north end of the site, references the Maya Lin elliptical in Michigan. The multi-use programming of the space is intriguing, from skating in the winter to a potential stage in the summer. Some concerns in Facilities that have been raised directly concern the pond itself. This pond is a needed retention pond, and was permitted by the Act 250 process. Changes to this pond will probably require more permitting. Personally, I also wonder about the size of the pond. While at present it would make a great sized stage, I think as an ice rink it may be much too small to be of use. Not that any of these problems can’t be overcome, however.
The ramp terrace separating the two sections of lawn is a neat idea as well, and this part of the proposal seemed well liked by the audience. This part of the proposal raises two thoughts in my mind. The first is a matter of engineering. While there is topography there to work with, there may not be enough to make the terrace read as truly separate from the ramp. Furthermore, building a ‘car ready’ ramp surrounding the terrace is as complicated as building a road, and may quickly eat into the budget.
And this brings up the second thought raised in the presentation, that of vehicular access. This plan proposes and encourages use of vehicles by students. This has its pluses and minuses. The sidewalks are planned as fire lanes, and are used as service vehicle accesses as well. But do we want to encourage students to use this as well? The team did state that at present students do enjoy being able to drive up to their dorm, but we should ask if this is part of the programming that we envision in this space. The plan calls for two usable spaces on the north and south ends of the project, a stage and a seating area respectively. Can cars safely be introduced into this type of programming?
In contrast to the urbanity of the terrace/ramp, they propose a Tree Garden, to “extend the vegetation from the east side of Coffrin Hall and plant trees to create a close environment that will contrast with the patio and terrace.” This will present an interesting landscape design challenge, that of going from a wild and unformatted tree planting next to Coffrin to a close, gridded tree layout in between two programmed sections. (I am a sucker for trees in a grid, though).
The final major part of the proposal is a patio behind Chateau. Consisting of crushed stone, this large expanse uses the entirety of the quad behind Chateau, and eliminates the problem of pathways and travel associated with this location at present.
The plan talks of a major visual axis from Pearson hall to Chipman Hill north and east of the Town, and how the design of the dining hall was planned and acknowledged this axis. The stone patio would align with this axis, breaking apart the existing paths that don’t acknowledge the corridor. And as a recreational spot, this would well adapt to its present uses, particularly with the large quantities of tables and chairs placed there for language school.
Our landscape department had a discussion on the stone patio, and whether it is a sustainable solution for the site. While stone is a good choice for drainage, and would not contribute to the college’s storm water profile significantly, weeds such as crabgrass have infiltrated into similar areas on campus, and at present our only effective maintenance solution is herbicide, which granted can be organic. Permeable pavers, though, may not read right, and there might be some loss in reading the axis written of above.
I like this plan, and like the way they break the long rectangular space up into smaller, more usable rooms. They effectively broach the problem of excessive wind with the tree garden, and create two usable spaces. One commenter at the presentation liked the idea of the ramp/terrace, and had the idea of combining it with the bridge idea of the scholar garden, and this is an interesting thought. Elevation is a great element to add to any landscape.