New Direction for Southwest
Concourse is warm, attractive, and environmentally friendly
As a two-year resident of Pierpont Hall, James Royce ’88 clearly remembers his countless treks through the Southwest Concourse and how “stark, wintry and foreboding” the area was. “It was in disrepair, dominated by the architecture, and not very pedestrian friendly to students,” he recalls. Those first-hand experiences helped guide Royce some 20 years later, when, working with fellow UMass landscape architect alumnus Stephen Stimson ’83, of Stephen Stimson Associates, he was project director for the Southwest Concourse renovation. The project was completed this summer and Royce has since partnered with Lynne Giesecke, project manager for the Southwest Concourse, to launch Studio 2112 Landscape Architecture in Boston.
Design for the renovations began in the fall of 2008 and construction started the following spring. The goal was to redefine the scale of the area to be warmer and friendlier, and foster places where students could gather and hang out in small groups.
“We wanted to make it more sustainable and pleasant, soften up the look and feel,” says Bruce Thomas, landscape architect and campus project manager. The area, built in the 1960s and virtually unchanged for four decades, has been transformed from mostly pavement and concrete to 30 percent paved and 70 percent green. The original granite was reused and green space was increased with the planting of new native trees, shrubs, and grasses.
“We saved as many trees as we could,” says Thomas, “and we added trees—sycamores, white pines, tupelo, poplar, red maple, bald cypress and willows.” Thousands of shrubs and perennials add to the texture of the area. Plantings included American holly, clethra, fragrant sumac, yellowroot, blueberry and butterfly bushes, ferns, lawn and ornamental grasses, and a wide variety of flowering perennials.
Ipe, a sustainably harvested tropical hardwood, was used to construct the decking, and rain water that previously went into storm drains is now redirected to the green areas and absorbed into the ground.
Trees and plantings help define the spaces, reduce long sightlines, and make the areas more inviting. The big open spaces that had been the scene of large gatherings and riots over the years have been broken into smaller, more intimate areas.
“It looks like we have been successful,” says Royce. “We see students using the areas as we had envisioned.”