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“...Participation, wisely and fairly pursued, interjects our best objectives, among which is the pursuit of the sacred... Sacred landscapes...are places that are consecrated by sacrifice and special treatment and endowed by a community with the power of highly revered convictions, values, and virtues. These convictions, values, and virtues are experienced through the ritual use of those places.” Randolph T. Hester, Design for Ecological Democracy, 2006

“...In addition to preserving the past, we need a plan which will guide our hands in the future. A plan will help us locate new buildings, parking and roads, sculpture and memorial plantings. It will help us understand which open spaces must never be sacrificed and why. It will bring to the campus spatial and visual harmony, informed by the intellectual and political energy of women entering the 21st century.” Mary Maples Dunn, Landscape Mission Statement, 1995



Part One: Context


Evolution of the Smith College Campus


Analysis of the 1996 Landscape Master Plan


Analysis of Present Landscape Elements


Part Two: Action


Community Participation


Plans for Future Development

44 54



INTRODUCTION This past Spring, Professor Randolph T. Hester of UC Berkeley visited Smith College to share with students and faculty his perspective on community and environmental design. Trained as a landscape architect at Harvard, Hester infused design fundamentals with his interests in sociology and ecology. As a landscape activist, Hester strongly believes that designers have the capability and responsibility to practice “ecological democracy,” a process that demands the incorporation of the community into the design process as well as awareness of ecological processes. Practicing democracy in this way challenges and expands the definition of “sustainability,” suggesting that designs must respond to their social, cultural, and ecological contexts in order for communities to respect and maintain them. Inspired by Hester’s work, I designed an independent project that would conclude my undergraduate career at Smith. I decided to apply Hester’s ideas to a landscape I know well: the Smith College campus. Hester challenged me to consider whether or not Smith practices ecological democracy when making changes that affect the built landscape. In order to answer this question, I applied one of Hester’s strategies: working with community members in order to determine the sacred structure of the campus.

Hester identified the sacred structure of the city of Manteo, North Carolina in order to redesign the waterfront. This step helped Hester to create a proposal that would respond to the local context and to the ideas of community members.

Image Credit: Hester, Randolph T. Design for Ecological Democracy Cambridge: M.I.T. 2006.


This form of community participation led to the creation of a “sacred structure” representing the beliefs and values of the people that dwell within the Smith College landscape. From this “sacred structure,” I devised plans for preserving sacred spaces and for reviving meaningless and no longer sacred spaces. The feedback I received from students and professors was invaluable: participants demonstrated an impressive awareness of the link between physical space and community life. The participatory part of the project also demonstrated a feeling on behalf of community members that changes made to the campus often times do not take into account possible impacts on the community and overall sense of place. Both students and faculty were interested in creating a dialogue with the administration. They were frustrated that the administration did not include them in larger planning decisions. As the following pages indicate, incorporating the ideas of students and faculty would lead to the creation of a more unified and sustainable campus with a stronger sense of place. Their ideas should not be ignored: in order to practice ecological democracy, Smith’s administration needs to incorporate community members into larger planning decisions that impact the campus experience.

Hester’s sketches communicate the interests and characteristics of different members of the Manteo community.

Image Credit: Hester, Randolph T. Design for Ecological Democracy Cambridge: M.I.T. 2006.




EVOLUTION OF THE SMITH COLLEGE CAMPUS Understanding the sacred structure of the campus demands close attention to the history of the site. The following pages offer a generalized history of the campus. When making planning decisions, this study should be expanded upon, and each phase of the campus’s history should be evaluated for its relevancy and meaning today.






Green Stre


In 1893, Frederick Law Olmsted, a renowned landscape architect, created a master plan for the Smith College campus. Curvilinear pathways meander through a highly constructed yet seemingly natural landscape, encouraging students to slow down the pace of their lives and to enjoy the outdoors.

Image from Smith College Archives

By 1922, the campus expanded with the construction of new buildings. Axial pathways contrasted with the curvilinear, Olmstedian pathways.

Image from Smith College Archives


Decades later, in 1996, a new master plan was generated by Rolland/Towers and Cornelia H. Oberlander. The plan restored elements of the Olmstedian scheme, and sought to unify the fragmented campus.

Image from Smith College Archives

Today, despite the construction of new buildings such as the Campus Center and Ford Hall, many aspects of the 1996 Master Plan have yet to be implemented. These aspects should be reexamined and evaluated in order to determine their relevancy to the present.



In order to begin conversations about the sacred structure of the campus, a part of the 1996 Landscape Master Plan was analyzed and studied for its relevancy to the present campus. The 1996 plan defined “sacred spaces” as areas that should remain free from future in-fill. These designations were evaluated and diagrammed in order to determine their present sacredness. SACRED SPACES ACCORDING TO 1996 LANDSCAPE MASTER PLAN QUAD

• Most formal and structured space on campus • Most ceremonial space • Open area conducive to passive recreation for Quad residents • Traditional site of graduation



• Places for passive recreation • Relief from congestion of Center Campus • Heart of academic campus • Setting for library, classrooms, and offices

• Gateway to campus • Historic landscape: last remnant of original campus (connection to founding) • Most important linkage between College and Town


• Not well-known, under visited • Place for solitude • Designed beauty




• Most sacred space • Includes the Mill River • Includes the distant views of the state hospital hillside and mountains beyond (“borrowed landscape”) • Landscape features: the island, dam, and Lamont Bridge


• Display of college stature/ prominence • Incorporated into fabric of larger landscape • Aesthetic experience • Educational opportunity


• Ceremonial space • Sunny area for recreation • Offers formality not found elsewhere on campus

Image Credit: This image was manipulated to highlight the sacred spaces. Original source: Rolland/Towers and Cornelia H. Oberlander. Smith College Landscape Master Plan New Haven, CT: Rolland/Towers. 1995-1996.


SACRED SPACES ACCORDING TO 1996 LANDSCAPE MASTER PLAN: RELEVANCY TO PRESENT SACRED SPACE: UPPER TERRACE (CHAPIN AND SEEYLE LAWNS) In the 1996 master plan, the upper terrace was envisioned as a cohesive, central space. Today, the upper terrace is divided by changes to its form, pedestrian and vehicular circulation, and hierarchy of visual elements:

Elm Street, a busy road, separates this space from the residential areas of Upper and Lower Elm.

The open space of the upper terrace seems to be divided into two distinct lawns (Chapin and Seeyle).

Chapin Lawn

Seeyle Lawn

Pedestrian circulation through the upper terrace is concentrated along a bisecting axis as well as around Chapin lawn. However, vehicles are restricted from the walkways around Chapin lawn, further strengthening this area’s status as a recurring center.

Chapin Lawn

Seeyle Lawn A steep slope separates this space from Burton Lawn and Green Street (academic and residential areas).

The Campus Center visually dominates Chapin Lawn

Seeyle lawn is visually dominated by Neilson Library, Hillyer Art Library, and Seeyle Hall. Although Chapin lawn is visually dominated by both the Campus Center and Chapin House, the amount and frequency of activity in front of the Campus Center gives it prominence within the space. Chapin Lawn is therefore identified as a part of this hub of student activity.

The form and program of buildings determines the level of prominence in the hierarchy of the space.


Upper Elm

Student activity on Chapin Lawn Center Campus

Conclusion: The upper terrace remains a sacred space of the Chapin Lawn is a campus. However, chain fences surround the lawns, and the sacred space that area has been fragmented into two distinct areas (Chapin and unites the areas of Seeyle Lawns). Despite the fencing and fragmentation, Chapin campus with which Lawn remains an area of heavy pedestrian circulation and most students activity. The construction of the Campus Center strengthened Green Street identify. the status of this area as a “recurring center.” Chapin Lawn unites the five residential areas of campus that most students The American Elm of Chapin Lawn contributes to the site’s particularness. identify with (see diagram at right). However, Seeyle lawn has also retained its sacredness. Identified by its unique and beautiful trees, this space is understated yet important to peoples’ appreciation of the academic buildings that surround it. 13

Lower Elm

SACRED SPACE: PARADISE POND Relatively clear slopes offer views of the pond and mountains beyond. From these areas, people can gain perspective and orient themselves within the larger landscape. Trails and forested areas offer to the community and to visitors intimate experiences with this natural boundary

Landscape elements, such as the Lamont Bridge, running track, and waterfall allow for various activities and offer different ways of experiencing the pond and river. The Mill River rushing underneath the Lamont Bridge creates a unique experience (see image at left). The bridge also offers impressive views of the waterfall (see bottom left). The running track has views across the pond of center campus, and offers a closer interaction between people and the pond (see bottom right).

A busy road (College Lane) separates the pond from center campus, yet affords visitors in vehicles a powerful view of Paradise Pond.

Center Campus (Chapin Lawn)

Paradise Pond

Buildings, such as Sabin Reed, restrict views and separate the pond from the rest of the campus.

Running Track


Lamont Bridge

Conclusion: Paradise Pond remains an area of frequent and varied student activity. Spaces around the pond offer different experiences for people. From intimate trails to sweeping views that offer perspective, there are multiple components of the space that serve as opportunities for people to interact and identify with the landscape. However, traffic along College Lane and the location of Sabin Reed prevent this space from being fully integrated with the rest of the campus. This space remains the most sacred space of the Smith College campus. Student Sculling class on Paradise Pond. Photo taken by Liz Dernbach ‘10



Curvilinear pathways on the way to Capen Garden navigate around nearby houses, making this space difficult to find.

Capen Garden

The form of the garden, architectural elements, and plantings offer to visitors an experience marked by discovery, wonder, and relaxation. These factors contribute to the site’s particularness. Center Campus (Chapin Lawn)

Capen Garden is commonly identified with Capen House, a college residence.

Elm Street, a busy road, limits pedestrian access to Capen Garden, and separates it from center campus.

Conclusion: Although heavy traffic along Elm Street makes access to Capen Garden difficult, this negative aspect combines with the circuitous pedestrian walkways to make the garden seem like a secret space, known best to the residents of Capen House. These characteristics encourage students and visitors to connect with past members of the Smith and greater communities that are aware of this “secret.” The isolation of Capen Garden continues to contribute to the space’s particularness and therefore to its sacredness.


A steep slope separates Burton lawn from center campus, limiting pedestrian access to a steep, narrow walkway. Academic buildings, such as the Neilson Library and Burton Hall, completely surround the lawn on all four sides, isolating it from the other parts of campus.

Center Campus (Chapin Lawn)

The Mary Maples Dunn garden skews the “formal” design of Burton Lawn

Burton Lawn

Burton lawn itself is rarely used by students for passive recreation or formal ceremonies. However, alumni do use the space for ceremonies.

Conclusion: The impermeable buildings and steep slope isolate Burton Lawn from the rest of the campus. Pedestrian walkways attempt to connect this space with the main nodes of the campus. The specific program of the buildings as specifically “academic” limits the formation of a complex identity for this space. Furthermore, the formality of the space’s original design was altered by the construction of the Mary Maples Dunn garden. Although beautiful, this garden increases the ambiguity of this rarely occupied space. These factors make it difficult for people to connect with the space, with history, and with their own memories. Burton Lawn does not seem to be a sacred space, and not many people seem to identify with it. However, the views across it from surrounding buildings are valuable; this space should remain free from future in-fill.



The “roof garden” area of the botanic garden site offers excellent views of Paradise Pond, but is under-utilized. Chain fences prevent people from inhabiting this area. This space could be better developed to connect the botanic gardens with center campus.

College Lane, a busy two-way road, makes vehicular access to the site relatively easy. Siting the gardens here also ensures visitors a view of Paradise Pond.

Winding, gravel paths contribute to a sense of discovery, as does the unique architecture. These factors add to the site’s particularness...

Botanic Gardens

Center Campus (Chapin Lawn)

Conclusion: The location of the Botanic Gardens along Paradise Road serves as an ideal interface between the College and visitors. Views of the pond, benches, and curving pathways create a beautiful and relaxing space for people to connect with the natural world, the history of their college, and other members of the Smith and greater communities. The Botanic Gardens remain a sacred space on campus. However, access to the gardens from center campus could be improved.


Elm Street, a busy road, separates the Quad from the residential areas of Upper and Lower Elm. It also encourages pedestrian circulation within central campus.

A tree-covered, steep slope in addition to Paradise Pond separate the Quad from center campus, yet offer to students a peaceful nature walk to and from class. However, the safety of this walkway could be improved, and the pathways seem to be causing erosion on the slope.

A direct route from center campus to the Quad seeks to unify this otherwise isolated space with the rest of campus.


Roads within the quad offer convenient, temporary, and long-term parking for students. However, views and overall pedestrian experience is negatively affected (See images to left).

The scale and form of the buildings in the Quad separates it from neighborhoods opposite the adjacent streets:

The green space of the Quad (the site for graduation) is divided into quadrants. This encourages spontaneous activities. However, the recent removal of trees has made the space less comfortable and inviting.

Staircases unify the separate areas of the Quad, and serve as spaces for chance interactions. They also offer impressive views across the length of the Quad.

Conclusion: The tree-covered slope, Paradise Pond, and distance between the Quad and center campus isolate this space from the rest of campus. Pedestrian access occurs mainly along a paved pathway that crosses two roadways, and falls short of integrating this space within the greater Smith landscape. The formality of the Quad’s design further complicates this integration, yet adds to the particularness of the space. The Quad’s use as a commencement venue combined with its association with student-initiated traditions contributes to its sacredness, allowing students to connect with past members of the Smith community as well as with their own memories and dreams.


SUMMARY OF 1996 SACRED SPACES A draft of the campus’s sacred structure was generated from the studies of campus history and from the analysis of the relevancy of part of an existing master plan. Using terms introduced by Randolph Hester, Smith’s sacred structure seems to have three main components: natural boundary, recurring center, and spaces of connectedness. These elements are explored through the diagrams below. This draft of the sacred structure was served a starting point for the discussions that took place during the “community participation” part of the project. 1) NATURAL BOUNDARY

The sacred spaces of the campus can be grouped into three larger components that form the campus’s sacred structure.

• Combined with the Mill River and distant mountain views, Paradise Pond serves as a natural boundary for the college campus. • This area is sacred: its unique sense of place derives from its ability to offer perspective, world view, orientation, and identity for members of the Smith College community as well as for visitors.

Paradise Pond

2) RECURRING CENTER • The Chapin and Seeyle lawns are sources of shared experience • They provide orientation, and members of the community identify with them. • Daily life unfolds around these spaces



The Quad is an example of a space of connectedness. It is the traditional site of commencement.

• These spaces allow people to connect with traditions, with past members of the community, and with their own dreams and memories.

Diploma Circle, Quadrangle, 1994.


Image Credit: Smith College Archives

ANALYSIS OF PRESENT LANDSCAPE Analyzing the components of the present, physical landscape is an important part of understanding why certain spaces are successful, and why others are in need of improvement. The following studies were created from information complied by a Landscape Studies Studio Course during Spring 2009.


















Students tend to identify with one or more larger areas of campus: The Quad, Upper and Lower Elm, Center Campus, and Green Street. On this map, these distinctions were compared with the proportions of different types of building programs in each area.




GREEN STREET Each part of campus is characterized by particular proportions of different building programs:



SUMMARY The areas that students tend to identify with were further compared with the previously mentioned landscape elements. Each area therefore is defined by a unique combination of building programs, circulation patterns, vegetation, and interactions with visitors.


• Dominated by college residences and surrounded by Northampton residences • Centers around manicured green space • Distance from campus and lack of academic buildings contributes to uniqueness and privacy


• Characterized by a mixture of college and city residential buildings • Although architecture is impressive and eclectic, this area lacks unity • Green spaces are not well integrated with buildings


• Characterized by a mixture of building programs • Defined by circulation patterns and iconic buildings that draw visitors • Botanic gardens and other landscaped areas contribute to a memorable walking experience


• Characterized by a confusing mixture of building programs • Green spaces are not well connected or integrated with buildings • Proximity to downtown contributes to an urban sense of place 23




“Participation, wisely and fairly pursued, interjects our best objectives, among which is the pursuit of the sacred.” Randolph T. Hester, Design for Ecological Democracy, 2006

In order to determine the sacred spaces of the campus, members of the Smith College community were surveyed. This part of the project is broken down into the following steps: 1) Procedure and Methods 2) Representation of Data 3) Summary

PROCEDURE AND METHODS Due to the scope of the project, participation was limited to certain groups. When planning decisions are made, the administration should seek to gather information from larger groups of people than those listed below. Community participation was broken down into four main components: 1) Consult the professionals: Workshops were held with faculty and students familiar with the subjects of landscape history and design. Prior to most workshops, maps with questions were distributed to participants. In some cases, participants were encouraged to draw on the maps while listening to a series of questions about their attachments to the campus. Groups consulted: A) The Kahn Fellows: A group of faculty and staff from different departments (from Biology to Sociology to Architecture) that gather weekly to discuss “ecological democracy” with Professor Hester B) LSS 256:An undergraduate course in landscape design C) LSS 300: An undergraduate, capstone seminar that explores landscape history and theory C) LSS 101: An undergraduate discussion course with Professor Hester 2) Transect Walks: Inspired by the work of Setha Low, a professor of environmental psychology that spoke to Smith as part of the Landscape Studies 100 lecture series, this part of the project required choosing a student, an administrator, and a professor to point out and describe their sacred spaces while walking around campus. Information was recorded through the use of written notes and photography. In the future, walks should be recorded using audio devices. A) Administrator: President of the College, Carol T. Christ B) Professor: Art Department Professor and Artist, Lynne Yamamoto C) Student: Senior Class President, Katie Clark ‘10 3) Reach out to Alumni: Surveys were distributed to small groups of alumni, in particular to those working in design-related fields. Due to time constraints, this aspect of the project was limited. In the future, alumni should be more involved in these conversations about sacred spaces and campus planning. 4) Survey the Students: Surveys were distributed to 150 students currently enrolled in the Landscape Studies 100 Lecture Series. 26

Examples of feedback: Below are examples of surveys completed by student and faculty participants. The surveys took the form of two-page handouts (see pages 30-31) with written questions on one side and maps on the opposite side.


Examples of feedback: One student represented her sacred spaces on campus in a different way: she drew small pictures and annotated them with notes.


Examples of feedback: One professor established a hierarchy of sacredness using hatched lines and heavier line-weights.


Example of Survey: This and the following page comprised a survey that was distributed to participants.

Sacred Spaces: Instructions Task: Identify the spaces of the Smith College campus that seem “sacred” to you. You might circle or otherwise point out large or small areas of campus. A sacred space might take the form of a building, a natural feature of the landscape, or even bench underneath a tree. There are no right or wrong “answers.”Use this exercise to express how you feel about the campus. The information below might help you with this task. What are “Sacred Spaces?”: Visiting Professor Randy Hester has written that “sacred landscapes…are places that are consecrated by sacrifice and special treatment and endowed by a community with the power of highly revered convictions, values, and virtues.” These landscapes “may be rendered sacred as embodiments of personal and cultural identity and history.” These spaces might “provide orientation, world view, identity, and rootedness.” Source of quotations: Hester, Randolph T. Design for Ecological Democracy Cambridge: M.I.T. Press, 2006. pp.117-118. Questions to guide your thinking: You might consider using colored pencils, drawings, or notes to distinguish spaces according to these questions. • When you visited Smith for the first time, which spaces on campus did you find memorable? Which spaces did you remember when you returned home? • Which spaces on campus do you often tell people about? • When you think about Smith, which spaces do you think of? • Which space reminds you of Smith’s history? • Where do you go on campus to think on your own or to meditate? • Where do you go on campus to be surrounded by others? • Which space seems like the center of the campus? • Where on campus do you bring visitors? • Which spaces on campus seem isolated or in need of improvement? Which spaces on campus are not sacred? •Are there any spaces on campus that you think should be preserved exactly the way they are? Which spaces, according to you, are untouchable? Optional: Do you attend one of the five-colleges? If so, which one? _____________________ Which dorm do you live in? Do you live off–campus? _____________________ Where are you from? (Hometown) _____________________ How many years have you been at Smith? _____________________

These questions were altered for different groups of participants

REPRESENTATION OF DATA The information gathered from the surveys was mapped on trace overlays that were then placed over a large base map of the Smith College campus. On the following maps, the orange circles designate spaces in need of improvement, and the purple represents sacred spaces. Notes accompanying the maps suggest the type of feedback received from participants.


MOST SACRED • Spaces between buildings more important than buildings; buildings can change (Architecture Professor) • Nature is everywhere and unavoidable (Landscape Architect) • Smith is a managed landscape: changes in season are emphasized and celebrated by grounds staff (Landscape Architect) • All the softscape is valued more than buildings - the“backyard” (Landscape Historian) • South facing slopes should be preserved (can be used more often) (Landscape Designer) • Views looking up toward campus • Views from roofs (Sustainability Administrator) • Views within campus, Olmsted structure, experience of walking through open spaces - park experience • Buildings that have multiple fronts • Diverse architecture • Arboreal architecture, canopy effect (Landscape Historian) • Context (walk from downtown, proximity to State Street) • Three planes, terraces: inspiration, nature 32

NEEDS IMPROVEMENT • Burton Lawn: should be kept open, but currently is under-used. The back door of Neilson used to be open. • We should identify the spaces that were sculpted by Olmsted • Make experience of walking around campus more clear • Reinforce center • Decrease use of chain link fences • Get rid of asphalt! • Transitions between spaces (dumpsters) • Wright and Bass Hall – injured emerald necklace effect • Observe and respond to Northampton residents; rethink landholdings


MOST SACRED • Study and preserve viewsheds! • Location of Carol Christ’s house on walk to Quad important • Green Street shops and residences important physical space for interaction with downtown • 10 Prospect: a beautiful house with a garden plot - lots of potential NEEDS IMPROVEMENT • Davis Lawn - not sacred to students, has potential • Area below Green Street - not connected



MOST SACRED • Botanic gardens (memorable, remind of history, space to be alone, place to bring visitors, calming) • Axis in front of Neilson - trees: doesn’t visually connect anything, but that is its beauty • End of green street: views of fields, waterfall • Chapin lawn: THE sacred turf NEEDS IMPROVEMENT • Chains around green spaces: suggest a strange reverence for turf, and make the campus seem exclusive • Circulation: needs to be edited! rethink open spaces and paths • Why no trash cans? Possible Art project! • Riverwalk: maintain Japanese garden; deal with invasive species; opportunities for education, for more gathering spaces; safety • Dumpsters behind Dewey, Hillyer, and other buildings: disrupts experience • Visitor experience from garage • Lanning Fountain: irrelevant, although serves as a source for lots of rumors regarding the woman cast in bronze • More outdoor seating • Burton lawn • Seeyle Lawn: dark, wet, trees not well placed, not used except for some events. Perhaps outdoor classroom seating? • Community garden: Needs to be on campus. Perhaps Mary Maples Dunn slope?



MOST SACRED • Botanic gardens: remembered from first visit, Neilson grave, Camperdown elm, perennial garden, views of pond, views from pond and gardens up towards Chapin House, Gingko tree, Lyman pond – reflection of white building in water • Pond: rope swing, path, memorable, views up towards campus • Sage hall: dome, path along its side, red trees, can hear music when walking by • Chapin lawn: center NEEDS IMPROVEMENT • Davis lawn / Cutter Ziskind area: has potential, feels empty • Wright Hall: isolates Burton Lawn • Burton Lawn: should be kept open, but needs change • Green Street: disconnected • Pond sacred because it allows for views of campus • Nothing is untouchable



MOST SACRED • All of the trees! • Buildings with two fronts • Connection between form of Botanic Gardens and Campus Center • Rooflines and how they speak to one another • Garden area behind home NEEDS IMPROVEMENT • Wright Hall: terrace has potential!



MOST SACRED • Connects with spaces that students have done art projects in (islands with trees created by intersecting paths) • Connects with spaces that allow her to connect with Smith’s history and important figures • Appreciates buildings that seem old (connection with history) • Appreciates places that were in the film Who’s afraid of Virginia Woolf? • Walking around campus: doesn’t have much time to take walks, but appreciates how much there is to see in a short time


NEEDS IMPROVEMENT • Ford Hall seems out of scale and institutional; it disrupted circulation patterns and the sense of place of the neighborhood


MOST SACRED • Katie paused at the beginning of the walk (when we were near John M. Green Hall) to explain how the experience of closing Parsons and other houses (a result of the campus reduction plan) led her to reconsider spaces as more than just important because of the activities that they house…the physicality of spaces and buildings does matter. • Smith dorms are incredibly sacred NEEDS IMPROVEMENT • More benches! Outdoor seating • Elm Street isn’t really on her radar...not part of “her” Smith



Most Sacred: • Preserve the paths! • Pond • Smith Dorms! Connection with history, identity (“Smith”), remind of past while reinforcing community and the Smith sense of place. They evoke history more than other spaces, and are attached to personal memories and emotions. • Enjoyed seeing Smithies inhabiting outdoor spaces and making them their own • Dining Halls reinforce community • People generally respected others’ sacred spaces; sense of ownership of campus • “No Idea” where the center of the campus was or is • Smith is landscape oriented

Needs Improvement: • Ford Hall: represents a lack of communication • Once sacred spaces tend to lose their sacredness due to neglect • Green Street’s location offers significant potential, but changes to it have disconnected it from both the city of Northampton and the campus.

“No space at Smith is untouchable, because Smith is a fluid, transitional landscape. New students, staff, and teachers are constantly cycling through, and the school is constantly reinventing itself to accommodate its changing inhabitants (that said, the day they dry up Paradise Pond is the day I storm the gates!)” - An English Major and Landscape Studies Minor, ‘09 39


MOST SACRED • Notion of “Center” somewhat up for debate: students listed the Campus Center, Chapin lawn, the Campus Center and Chapin Lawn together, Neilson Library, Dining Halls, the Dining Halls and Campus Center together, and the Alumni Gym • Smith’s history is intertwined throughout the whole campus • “When I think about Smith, I think about the whole physical campus. Minus ford hall.” • Open spaces • Some spaces are sacred at different times of day and year (early mornings, afternoons, seasons) • Layout of the campus and gardens is beautiful, but not necessarily untouchable • Ivy on building facades



MOST SACRED • Walks through the campus • Grounds are beautiful • Trees!!!!!! Untouchable; nothing but the trees • Libraries • Gardens – memorable, untouchable • Dorms – history, home • Dorms – house teas, lunches: formation of community • Lawns untouchable, they provide community space • Neilson is designated as most sacred space for several people • One student marked two types of sacredness: academic and leisure • One person said there are no sacred spaces • Trees, paths, ALL sacred • Community gardens that are currently located off campus are a source of pride • Open to changes – loves when little ‘special’ spots are created (such as near the pond or the gardens)


SUMMARY Community participation results: The maps that diagram the survey results were overlaid and examined on top of a light box. Orange and purple areas were hatched to demonstrate areas of overlap (in which case many people were in agreement) as well as areas of conflict (in which case people seemed unsure or in disagreement). The areas hatched in purple below represent sacred spaces, whereas those hatched in orange represent spaces in need of improvement.


Identifying Larger Areas Of Sacredness: The “sacred structure” of the Smith College campus began to emerge through the process of diagramming the hatched areas. In the center of the campus, there is a cluster of sacred spaces. However, towards the periphery, spaces in need of improvement surround or are adjacent to sacred spaces. This demonstrates a need to connect sacred nodes and to improve areas that seem isolated, irrelevant, or poorly maintained. This form of diagramming approaches the creation of a “design gestalt” for the campus (see definition towards bottom of page).

“A gestalt is a pattern of elements that is so unified as a whole that its properties cannot be derived from the sum of its parts....Of various planning approaches, the sacred structure most consistently leads to the formal expression of the gestalt of community life.” Randolph T. Hester, Design for Ecological Democracy, 2006







Chapin Lawn


Mill River Monitor

Participants designated the upper terrace of the campus as the “center” of the college landscape. This center generally included the Chapin and Seeyle Lawns, Campus Center, Neilson and Hillyer Libraries, Seeyle Hall, John M. Green Hall, Chapin House, the Botanic Gardens, and the slope leading down to Paradise Pond. Refining circulation, reducing the use of chain fences, restricting vehicular circulation, and emphasizing views will improve the sacred experience of this area. Reinforcing the center is an essential part of fostering a strong sense of place. As Professor Hester argues, centers serve as sources of shared experience. They play a key role in the formation of identity, and help community members and visitors orient themselves within the landscape.

Paradise Pond and the Mill River serve as Smith’s “natural boundary.” This boundary makes Smith distinct from its surroundings, and encourages people to comprehend their presence within the landscape. Unfortunately, erosion of the slopes leading to the river and poorly maintained paths along the river’s edge limit the sacredness of the space. Paths should be stabilized and reinforced, perhaps through the construction of a boardwalk running along the pond and river’s edges. Nodes should be created along this pathway that could inspire contemplation. These changes would also present opportunities for education: one of the Mill River monitors is located on site, and could be utilized as a learning tool.


Chapin Lawn Botanic Gardens 45

The Quad Lawn, Capen Garden, Chapin Lawn, and the Botanic Gardens are sacred spaces that offer connectedness to community members and visitors. They are successful open spaces that encourage people to make connections with one another, with history, and with their own memories and dreams. These areas should be preserved and maintained. However, the recent removal of trees from the Quad Lawn made it less inviting to students, and less frequently used. Perhaps these trees should be replaced, or other strategies adopted, in order to make the space more inviting.


Upper and Lower Elm


Center Campus

Athletic Fields

Green Street

Bike Path

Improve the connection from Green Street to the Physical Plant: this will connect Smith’s community with an existing Bike Path.

Physical Plant

The Stables


Reinforce pedestrian connections by reorganizing pathways in order to make circulation more clear. Consider using more permeable surfaces for pathways; this will reduce flooding and improve the walking experience. Reduce the use of chains around green spaces, which will make the campus seem more inviting. Create smaller nodes along these connecting routes and install more outdoor seating. These changes will connect the nodes of the campus.


When designating spaces that were not sacred, participants suggested that these areas lacked a local center, and did not seem anchored within the larger landscape. By creating and activating more open spaces that respond to circulation patterns and building programs, sacredness can be restored to these areas. Refer to the next page for details about these new spaces. Combined with the reinforcement of pedestrian pathways, embracement of the waterfront, and preservation of successful spaces, these changes will lead to the creation of a more harmonious campus experience that unifies different areas of the landscape. 47


Making the lawn in front of College Hall more inviting will create a friendly point of interaction between the College and Northampton. Strengthening the pedestrian connections to this space will enhance its sacredness.

UNIFYING UPPER AND LOWER ELM, AND CREATING AREAS THAT FOSTER COMMUNITY Creating smaller nodes within the Upper and Lower Elm Street areas, and reinforcing pedestrian connections between these nodes will create a more unified experience and sense of connectedness. The recent relocation of the community garden to this space supports and will strengthen the proposal to make this area an open, green space.



Adding trees and outdoor seating to the lawn between Comstock and Wilder houses will reactivate this dead space. The same changes to the slope behind Comstock will have a similar effect.

Existing area between Comstock and Wilder Houses REVIVE BURTON LAWN

Currently, Burton Lawn is under-utilized. Increasing the permeability of buildings such as Sabin-Reed, Wright Hall, and McConnell will reactivate this open space. Activating the back doors of Neilson Library will also increase pedestrian movement in this area, as will reworking the connection from Chapin Lawn to the Mary Maples Dunn garden. In addition, increasing circulation and permeability within this area will help to connect Green Street with Center Campus.

Wright Hall prevents a visual connection to Center campus


RESTORE GREEN STREET’S SENSE OF PLACE Adding outdoor seating to existing green spaces and creating more open spaces in this area will foster community and restore Green Street’s sense of place. Reinforcing pedestrian pathways between these spaces will integrate this area with the rest of campus, and will make a powerful impression on visitors that park in the garage. In addition, the Green Street shops and neighborhood should be preserved. The integration of these elements with Smith dormitories and academic buildings contributes to the area’s neighborly sense of place. The shops and houses create an important physical expression of the relationship between the College and the City. Visitor Experience

Transforming the Dickinson Parking Lot into an open space will further integrate Green Street with the rest of campus. It will also enhance the visitor experience from the parking garage.

Parking garage

An open space can be created to the east of Ford Hall. This space could be used by the Green Street Shops (particularly by the Green Street Cafe) for outdoor eating as well as by Smith community members spending time in Ford Hall. This space could serve as a point of interaction between Smith and Northampton community members.

Existing open spaces along Green Street should be activated through the use of outdoor seating and improved pedestrian circulation.

Taken in the early twentieth century, this photograph from Historic Northampton suggests the historic, “neighborhood” scale and sense of place of Green Street.

Today, the scale of Ford Hall disrupts the neighborhood sense of place, and confuses Green Street’s identity. 50

Recently, sketches were released that suggest the possible, future development of the Green Street area (refer to image below). Part of this strategy has already been implemented: Ford Hall (marked “A” on the map), was recently constructed. Although the construction of this building created much needed space for the Sciences, a large part of the Green Street neighborhood was demolished. The scale of the building far exceeds the scale of the Green Street area. As a result, Green Street has been fragmented, and lacks a strong sense of place. The construction of Ford Hall ignored the history of the area as well as the importance of the Green Street shops and homes to the area’s sacredness. By ignoring this context, the process of building Ford Hall, a LEED-certified building, failed to practice ecological democracy. Now that Ford Hall has been constructed, there is a need to integrate it within this context. Creating the open spaces suggested on the previous page in addition to reinforcing pedestrian connections will help foster this integration.

Image from the website of a Northampton Resident; Image no longer online, resident unknown.


PROTECT SACRED AREAS FROM FUTURE IN-FILL Through the process of studying the elements of the landscape and surveying community members, areas emerged that should remain free from future in-fill. Although community members noted that they were not opposed to changes within these spaces, they expressed that new buildings should not be constructed in the open spaces of these areas.

Capen House, Capen Gardens, Davis Lawn The Quad Several dorms and academic buildings east of Belmont Terrace

The pond, athletic fields, and adjacent areas

Center Campus

Green Street Shops

Green Street Neighborhood



Combining all of the parts of this project, from studies of the campus history to community participation to analysis, led to the creation of Smith’s “sacred structure.” This structure represents the beliefs, values, and concerns of many community members that dwell within the landscape, and should be expanded upon through further surveying. “Sacred structures” should guide planning decisions, as they suggest ways to preserve and improve a landscape’s sense of place. .

An example of a “space of connectedness” is the Quad, a space that allows students to connect with one another and with history (Commencement is traditionally held in the Quad).

The heart of the campus consists of outdoor spaces and buildings highly valued by students and faculty. The experience of walking through the center is memorable and sacred.


Paradise Pond remains a sacred space. It allows community members to connect with nature and to gain perspective. It also serves as a natural boundary: it anchors the campus, and serves as an important part of the overall campus experience



CONCLUSION This project began with independent research about both the history of Smith’s campus and the present ecological and social components of the landscape. It used this information to begin conversations with members of the Smith College community. Data from public participation was analyzed, and ideas mapped to form plans for future development. This process demonstrated how applying academic study to a practical situation through participation can lead to the creation of a design gestalt (refer to Smith’s Sacred Structure on previous page). The gestalt reflects the attachments that community members have to place, and suggests how these attachments should be taken into account in larger planning decisions that will affect the landscape. Incorporating the community into such decisions will ensure that changes will respond to their ecological, social, cultural, and historical context. Such a response is key to the long term sustainability of the landscape. Practicing ecological democracy in this way will bridge the administration with students and faculty in a fundamentally powerful way. It will demonstrate respect for faculty and will empower students. In a workshop for this project, a student mentioned that Smith wants to empower students within the classroom, but that the college excludes students from larger administrative decisions. This exclusion is dis-empowering, and sacrifices the insight that students could lend to such decisions. Recently, Smith announced its decision to close several student dorms including Parsons, Parsons Annex, Dawes, and 12 and 26 Bedford Terrace. Students quickly demonstrated their concern for the loss of these homes. The college held a community forum about the decision in order to address student concerns. Unfortunately, the College made it clear that the decision had already been made; the forum was an ineffective attempt to create a dialogue between students and the administration. Incorporating students into this issue from the very beginning would have reduced backlash against the administration, and might have led to more creative solutions. Being involved in administrative decisions is empowering: listening to students and faculty voices is necessary in order to unify not only the campus landscape, but the larger community. Community participation in design-related decisions is about more than creating an attractive campus: it is about uniting the diverse members of a community and encouraging stewardship of the landscape. This is about Smith’s community.

this is about Smith.


Photographs of students and professors offering their input about this project at a recent gallery opening in Smith’s Campus Center:


LANDSCAPE MISSION STATEMENT Mary Maples Dunn, 19 June 1995

In 1995, Mary Maples Dunn created a Landscape Mission Statement for Smith College. She stressed the need for the infusion of thoughtful intent into planning decisions, fearing further fragmentation of the campus. This project about the sacred spaces of the Smith College campus demonstrates the relevancy of Dunn’s mission statement. In order to preserve the campus’s sacredness and to restore abandoned and isolated spaces, Dunn’s words can no longer be ignored:

The Smith College landscape is a constructed environment. When we are careful, it is artful; and if we are thoughtful, it will be shaped by an ideal vision. An ideal landscape composition cannot be created whole; once created it cannot be maintained in static form. It changes in response to the requirements of the people who inhabit it. College campuses are ordinarily designed with an unusual intentionality. Smith College's campus adds to usefulness and beauty a commitment to use the landscape as an integral part of the educational mission. Over the years we have intruded into the original composition of the campus by building new structures, adding on to old structures and taking down standing structures. It is therefore time to arrive at a fresh understanding of our landscape, to explore the potential for enhancing the aesthetic, educational, intellectual and communal value of living on this campus.

We must do this with a proper respect for the past, but also mindful of the fact that we now live in a world of tremendously expanding opportunities for women. And because change is constant we must seek a plan which allows us agility and flexibility. The historical 27 acre campus conveyed Frederick Law Olmsted's 1890's vision of a painterly, 3-dimensional composition which preserved the natural scenery; it linked buildings with open lawns and carefully placed plants and trees, selected and grouped according to scientific as well as aesthetic principles. The degree to which Smith's landscape and Botanic Garden has been preserved and maintained is remarkable. I see as our challenge the need to expand Olmsted's historic vision; to integrate into it the additional 100 acres that now surround the historic core, while addressing the concerns and possibilities of our times.


The need to link through the landscape the several parts of our whole is of vital importance to the building of a community of teachers and learners. Decades of centrifugal growth of the campus have left us with too much disconnectedness, with a campus which does not give the sense of a harmonious, integrated whole. The Quad, for example, beautifully designed and integrated within itself, is neither visually nor spatially made to seem a part of the campus. We now own most of Green Street, but it is not visually incorporated either. It is vital to find a way to integrate the two sides of Elm Street. All of these are tasks for landscape design. We also need to assess the architecture and quality of living spaces. Are our gathering places appropriately planted and furnished? Having closed off so many of the Olmsted vistas with new buildings, can we now find ways to open views? Do our walks and roads go where people want them to? Which of our plantings need to be replaced; where should new plantings go?

Do we venerate our sacred places by taking proper care of them?

What about puddles, icings, bogs? The part of the original design which we have preserved most effectively is the scientific component, the result of a joint effort by William Ganong, Professor of Botany, and Olmsted. We are an arboretum full of distinguished specimens. Our trees are systematically labelled so that students who wish to learn, can learn. Our Botanic Garden is celebrated. These and the remaining parts of the Olmsted design must be preserved.

But in addition to preserving the past, we need a plan which will guide our hands in the future. A plan will help us locate new buildings, parking and roads, sculpture and memorial plantings. It will help us understand which open spaces must never be sacrificed and why. It will bring to the campus spatial and visual harmony, informed by the intellectual and political energy of women entering the 21st century. 57


ACKNOWLEDGMENTS This project would not have been possible without the help of project faculty advisor Reid Bertone-Johnson. The Landscape Studies department as a whole has my deepest appreciation for their support and guidance over the course of the past four years. Thanks to Professor Jim Middlebrook of Architecture as well, who was eager to help with various technologies in the studio. The feedback from all community participants is incredibly valued and appreciated: • Recent Smith Colllege Alumni, especially Neela Wickremesinghe ‘09 and members of SWID. • Students in the LSS 100, LSS 101, LSS 256, and LSS 300 courses for their enthusiastic feedback and lively conversation • The Ecological Democracy Kahn Fellows, an inspiring group of faculty that challenged my thoughts on a weekly basis. Perhaps most importantly, I must thank Randy Hester and Marcia McNally. Their presence at Smith this semester changed the way many students and professors understand the built environment, and their lectures have demonstrated the need and context for activism. Hester and McNally’s work provided a framework for uncovering the sacred structure of the Smith College campus.

Place Matters  
Place Matters  

A senior thesis project