UMass Amherst Projects Win Boston Society of Landscape Architects 2023 Design Awards
Community-engaged research projects by faculty and students in UMass Amherst’s Department of Landscape Architecture and Regional Planning, as well as Facilities & Campus Services staff and contractors integral to the transformative UMass Amherst Campus Core Revitalization plan, have received Boston Society of Landscape Architects (BSLA) Design Awards for 2023.
Receiving the Student Merit award for their community-engaged research are Rebecca Bagdigian-Boone, Li-Ting Hsu, Remington Pontes, Muskaan Handa, Abby Derick, Jake Harlow and Suzanne Warner, students in associate professor of landscape architecture Frank Sleegers’ Graduate Urban Design Studio class.
The students took a focused look at the Springfield, Mass. neighborhood of Indian Orchard and provided strategies for urban design and landscape architecture to support residents’ visions for its future—one that would make Main Street more beautiful, safer and more accessible for pedestrians. Partnering with the Indian Orchard Citizen’s Council, Grow IO (Wellspring Harvest), and the Springfield Office of Planning and Economic Development, their overarching goal was to create a cohesive, phased plan for redeveloping Main Street around the Oak and Main intersection and Parker and the Ludlow Bridge. Special attention was requested for exploring traffic calming measures and ways to support the local businesses present.
In announcing the award, the BSLA said “The jury felt it was refreshing to see a project that centers on community engagement, getting the community involved in real solutions. The before and after photos were very compelling. Demonstrated great examples of working with people and engaging the community, like the creation of the mosaic bench.”
Also receiving an Honor Award was Abby Derick for her “Discovery Forest” project, which envisioned a playground with “sound swings” that represent animals commonly found in New England forests, such as a hawk, owl, frog, coyote and cricket. When children swing together, they create a full soundscape of forest habitat. Derick also designed a “fungal-themed playground” under a canopy of mature trees, with chanterelle climbers, mushroom towers and a mycelium web for children to explore.
BSLA said the jury “liked the fresh ideas used to connect the users and nature with innovative, fun, immersive yet detailed focus design solutions. The representations are very clear to challenge the traditional play equipment.”
The Campus Core Revitalization plan, a comprehensive upgrade to the center of campus from the Worcester Dining Commons to the Student Union, received a Merit Award for General Design from the BSLA. The project included waterproofing underground levels of the Campus Center Garage, utility improvements, new landscape designs and the re-establishment of Ellis Way as a main pedestrian corridor. Additionally, most pathways in the area were brought into ADA compliance. The Student Union renovation project revitalized the facility as a modern hub for student activity and interaction, reconnecting the building to its surrounding natural landscape. As a “global campus living room,” the design embraces student entrepreneurship, organizations and events to support collaboration, multidisciplinary learning and leadership.
The BSLA jury felt this project provided significant improvement and transformation for the campus, prioritizing pedestrians and landscape. “The design brings a pedestrian scale to campus spaces and circulation, with the spine organizing the path network,” the judges said. “Very transformative design that changes how people use and interact with the landscape, buildings and each other.”