• CAMPUS HILLS & PLATEAUS
• HUNDRED YEAR FLOOD PLAIN
• CAMPUS OPEN SPACE NETWORK
• CAMPUS COMPARISONS
• PREXY'S RIDGE FOREST
• WAUGH ABORETUM
• INTERNAL VIEWS
• LONG VISTAS
The natural systems of the campus - the land, its features, and plantings - are fundamental context for its future design and development. For example, significant change in elevation is inherently part of the campus character and gives form and structure to its development. Preliminary observations about the natural opportunities and constraints of the campus suggest that due to soil conditions the perimeter of the campus is less than ideal for building sites. The campus open space is generally overpaved, underlandscaped, inconsistent, disconnected, and does not reflect the quality of the institution. Impressive view corridors to the mountains are a missed opportunity. New storm water management regulations will require the University to rethink how run off is collected and treated, which in turn may require a new philosophy for the campus landscape which advocates for native and drought tolerant plantings, and minimizes chemical use and maintenance.
This information will inform the planning process to create a Framework Plan that provides for the needs of the University's academic, research, and student life programs in a sustainable and responsible manner.
Water flows predominantly east to west across the campus. An exception is a low-lying area or bowl around the Pond defined by the Fine Arts Center and the area east of the Chapel and Library; water from this area flows into a ravine justsouth of Campus Center Way. While the Pond is not engineered for storm water collection, it serves this function by default. The resulting sedimentation impacts the Pond‘s water quality and appearance –adverse effects for what should be one of the campus‘ most picturesque features.
The combination of the floodplain, perched water tables, wetlands and silty substratum creates an area which is unbuildable on the west side of the campus. This area includes the playing fields west of Commonwealth Avenue. Additional information is necessary for further interpretation of soil data.
Three distinct areas of the UMass campus – upland, midland, and lowland – have been observed by previous campus planning efforts. Their impact on the campus is still evident today and the form of the topography is inherent to the character of the campus. Perhaps the most obvious impact that these plateaus have had on the campus is evident in pedestrian circulation patterns. In general, north-south paths along the plateaus are numerous and well-established, while east-west routes that cross multiple plateaus are more infrequent.
Significant change in elevation (260') across the campus contributes to its organization, character, and one its greatest assets –views of the mountains to the west. The flat, low-lying west edge of the campus is established by the Mill River, while the steep, east edge of the campus is defined by Orchard Hill and Prexy's Ridge.
The Mill River hundred year flood plain follows the western edge of the campus along Route 116 and across the Hadley Farm. These low-lying areas are less suitable for development than other parts of the campus.
Wetlands are most common within the Mill River floodplain but are present in other lowland areas across campus. While less suitable for development, these resources are opportunities for education, research, and public outreach about water quality and other environmental issues.
By definition, a campus is a collection of interrelated buildings and supporting facilities arranged around an open space network. While the UMass campus has adequate open space, the quality of the open space does not reflect the high quality and aspirations of the institution. Enhancing the existing open space and axes has the potential to result in a more cohesive and memorable campus.
College campuses are defined as much by the spaces between buildings as by the buildings themselves. The most iconic aspect of a campus is often a large quadrangle; Ohio State University, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and University of Maryland, College Park are home to such examples. These spaces vary in configuration, but they all share a monumental scale and simple landscape features of turf, trees, and pedestrian paths. Most importantly, each of these spaces is surrounded by campus buildings that work together to create a well-defined outdoor room.
At UMass Amherst, the area around the Pond is a grand open space, generally considered to be the heart of the campus. Strengthening this area would enhance the student experience. Improvements might include changes to the vegetation around the perimeter of the Pond to establish clear views; site furniture or other passive program elements to encourage activity; stronger connection to the Student Union and Campus Center to increase vibrancy.
Prexy‘s Ridge Forest is an old growth forest on the westward steep slope southeast of the intersection of Eastman Lane and North Pleasant Street. Part of the Waugh Arboretum, the Forest is a unique educational, research, and recreational asset for the campus and should be preserved.
Officially established before 1944 and expanded after 1965, the Arboretum is coincident with most of the campus and includes significant tree and shrub specimens. Some of the oldest trees were collected in the 1860s by the institution's first president, William S. Clark. A tree survey is in progress to document all specimens of interest. Currently, the Arboretum lacks adequate documentation and interpretation. The Arboretum has great potential as an educational, research, and recreational resource and should be considered as an integral part of the campus landscape.
There are also a number of intimate and picturesque views on campus. Examples include the west side of West Experiment Station planted with herbaceous perennials and shade trees; a spectacular Copper Beech tree in Durfee Garden; and the sunken courtyard at W. E. B. Du Bois Library. Views to the Pond are another important aspect of the campus. The natural bowl surrounding the Pond opens up the campus, however several buildings do not take advantage of the view by turning their backs to the Pond, including Fine Arts Center and Memorial Hall.
Significant topography on the campus results in a number of scenic vistas. For example, the height of Thatcher Way affords striking views of the campus with the foothills of the Berkshires beyond. Views to the south look over the Holyoke Mountain Range. The pedestrian spine provides dramatic glimpses to the west of the foothills.