High-Profile Focus: Landscape Architecture and Civil Engineering
University Landscapes Can Enhance Wellbeing
by Becky Nichols Landscapes for universities have to do a lot of work. Plantings need to be hearty, easy to maintain, and have low irrigation requirements. Stormwater management, especially in urban environments, requires intense planning and infrastructure. Beyond these important practicalities, landscapes offer an opportunity to enhance student and faculty wellbeing. Research tells us that being connected to high-quality landscape environments has stress-reducing impacts and improves cognitive function. At Yale Law School’s Baker Hall, the design of the exterior environment has an even bigger impact than in typical university environments. In addition to classroom and collaborative space, the building houses 110 residents. We implemented several strategies to engage landscape in supporting health and wellbeing. Active and passive activities are accommodated with a variety of outdoor
The apartments of Baker Hall at Yale University. Architecture and interiors by Pirie Associates Architects. / photographs by John Muggenborg
spatial character zones. A generous lawn offers a place for students to play frisbee or put out picnic blankets. A sports field drainage system was used to avoid having multiple drains that would make using the lawn in this way unsafe and unpleasant. There are nooks and crannies where someone can quietly study. There are café and picnic tables, and the courtyard was carefully designed to accommodate a tent for events. Plant selection is critical when designing to support wellbeing. Research shows that landscape material with
textural variety has a stronger impact on stress reduction than uniform species. An existing elm was able to be saved and offers the overhead canopy and dappled shade that has particularly stress-reducing effects. Shrubs with smaller textures such as inkberry and cherry laurel are combined with grassy textures like liriope and woodland textures like lady’s mantle. Blooming was planned for yearround interest with particular attention to the beginning of the school year and commencement. The courtyard is also home to sculptures meant to delight and
evoke. Rona Pondick’s “Granite Bed” is a 16-foot-long art piece that can be used for lounging as well as for provoking thought about contemporary issues. A canopy and plinth were added to the exterior of the building. This area allows people to enjoy being outdoors even during inclement weather. It also allows people to experience a sense of “prospect” over their surroundings. The comfort we feel when elevated above our immediate surroundings is biologically continued to page 40
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This is our annual landscape & civil focus and innovation & technology issue!