With at least four major building projects across campus, a visitor might easily miss some the more subtle and immediate campus improvements – landscaping projects that just might make everyone, including visitors, feel a little serene amid the construction.
The new traffic circle at the north end of campus, for instance, has blossomed with color. Viewed from above it becomes clear that the color embodies five gently curved “blades,” like those on a windmill, each arching toward an entry point on the rotary.
Each of the blades is planted with a designated seasonal annual against an outside arch of white coneflower with dusty miller at the tip.
The project was designed and executed by undergraduates Natasha Layney, Nick Copp and Chris Phillips as part of the Horticulture Internship sponsored by Physical Plant, the Stockbridge School of Agriculture and the Landscape Architecture and Regional Planning Department. The students raised the plants on campus and did all the physical work associated with the project, according to assistant Physical Plant director Pam Monn.
There is a logistical, as well as aesthetic, method to the project, according to the designers.
“Using the blades as our main color template, we distinguish each entry point in the rotary from its neighbor,” wrote the student trio in its proposal. “Using the 12-foot center bed as the centralized viewpoint, a dwarf evergreen tree with seasonal summer blooms provides color and depth without limiting visibility.”
Also in the center is a water tank with a solar-powered drip irrigation system.
Then there is the return of the Physical Plant’s SWAT team, disbanded several years ago due to budgetary constraints. Actually, its new name is the Landscape Special Projects (LSP), but like its earlier incarnation, this five-member quick response team is all about tender loving care (TLC) rather than special weapons and tactics (SWAT).
“Our scope of work hasn’t changed much from the days of the old ‘SWAT’ teams – general clean-up to enhance curb appeal and overall aesthetics – but there have been a few changes,” says Monn “Where time permits, we are changing or removing small areas, shrub beds, islands, and blighted areas where nothing grows. Thompson lowrise, as an example, will eventually have pavers and Belgian block all around the outside of the building under the overhang that keeps everything but weeds, from growing.”
The list tactical targets for clean-up and replanting is daunting, but the team – which includes skilled laborers and working foreman David Pielock under the supervision and advice of Gary Glazier, manager for Landscape and Construction Services – has been making rapid progress.
“Our goal when starting a new building is to decide how much work needs to be done,” says Monn, “how much work can be done on our first run through, while breaking the scope of work into three phases for each building. By the third phase we should have cut down the amount of time needed to keep each building area maintained sustainably, and still be aesthetically appealing to the building’s occupants and the rest of the campus community.