Landscape Resilience at Kripalu, A Handbook of Principles for Sustainable Planning and Design

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A Handbook of Principles For Sustainable Planning, Design, and Stewardship

“When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.� - John Muir

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS The Conway winter 2011 team would like to extend their deepest appreciation to everyone who helped inform the principles handbook. Thank you to the staff at Kripalu: Jennifer Wallace Webster, Moose, David Surrenda, Jenn Dermady, Tamara Gardner, Stephen Douast, Kevin Darcy, and to all the staff who participated in the survey and scoping meeting. The knowledge, community, and values you represent form the heart of this handbook. Thank you also to the faculty and fellow students at CSLD, all of whom truly made this project a team effort. Dillon Sussman and Tabitha Kaigle, thank you for your research and comments. To Ruah Donnelly for getting the project rolling. And to Matt at The Bookstore, for his humor and help.

Image on the front cover modified from a photograph taken at Kripalu by Moose (Kevin Foran)

Landscape Resilience at Kripalu A Handbook of Principles for Sustainable Planning, Design, and Stewardship




Contents 1 2 5 6 8 10 14 16 18 20 21 26 29


Framing the Principles Master Principles

CULTURAL PATTERNS Envisioning a Sustainable Future Regional & Cultural History Kripalu’s Evolution


30 32 36

Ecoregion/Geology/Soils/Vegetation/Wildlife Water/Watershed/Wetlands Conservation Land Site Conditions/Site Description Slope & Aspect/Soils on Site/Wetlands on Site/Transition Hardwood Forest Legal Regulations


APPLYING THE PRINCIPLES 38 Access & Circulation 43 Water Use 46 Stormwater 48 50 Land Management

CONCLUSIONS 52 54 Resilience 56 Next Steps 57 59



Dillon Sussman

The view of Lake Mahkeenac and Stockbridge Bowl from Kripalu’s Shadowbrook building

Summary In order to plan for future uses of their 125 acre property in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health is reviewing and refining a multi-faceted strategic plan. One aspect of this effort is a Master Facilities Plan for Land and Buildings. The Conway School worked with Kripalu to frame a set of principles that will help guide the future decision-making for that plan.

subsequent adaptations Kripalu has made, both in reaction to what it inherited and to the physical characteristics of its land. Future planners and designers can build on the initial analysis in order to generate specific plans, designs, and solutions for the site; the principles provide the lens through which to develop the plans.

Landscape Resilience at Kripalu is a handbook for Kripalu staff, leadership, major stakeholders, and collaborative partners to use as they evaluate and plan a resilient and sustainable future for the Center.

The principles are drawn from overarching concepts, such as future environmental challenges, yogic philosophy, and landscape ecology theory. They provide lenses for looking at specific landscape situations and helping guide design decisions and projects.

The principles provide users of this book an overview of the cultural, ecological, and philosophical patterns that have formed the Kripalu landscape through time. This document is composed of contextual land use and development data that inform current site conditions at Kripalu. Ecological and geological mapping of the region around the Kripalu property provides an understanding of the land formation that underlies the property. Understanding these conditions will be useful to all phases of land and facilities planning as they pertain to growth, design, and stewardship.

The guidance in this document is based on the concept of resilience. Resilience was a major guiding concept for the approach described in this handbook (see page 58). By creating more resilient systems, Kripalu has an opportunity to expand its highly influential role as a holistic educator through a more ecologically balanced existence on the land.

Initial analyses of existing conditions of the Center’s property included in the document reveal a series of land-use decisions inherited when the Center purchased the property in 1983, and


Words are sacred. They deserve respect. If you get the right ones, in the right order, you can nudge the world a little.

—Tom Stoppard


Rock cairn built on the Shadowbrook mansion foundation



Framing the Principles The principles in this document provide a framework for Kripalu’s day-to-day and long-term, sustainable decision-making. They are interrelated and all support one another in creating a system by which Kripalu can evaluate its actions on the land. The principles function as a system that employs careful observation, collective learning, information sharing, and application of gradual solutions that can be monitored and adapted over time. In essence the principles themselves represent an ecosystem; a whole system composed of parts that interrelate and depend upon one another for optimal, sustained existence and function.

How can landscape challenges on Kripalu’s site be addressed?


Evaluation process for planning design and stewardship

Guidance for specific landscape projects

Holistic/Thoughtful Actions

As Kripalu addresses and recognizes new challenges on site, the principles engage members of the Kripalu community, planners, and designers in a dialogue and evaluation process (pages 42-55.) The dialogue encourages forethought about the overall environmental and societal impact for each action considered. The process is not static, and actions are monitored, reevaluated, and adapted over time.


Master Principles



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Kripalu community, mission and core values Principles






Ecological principles





Some of these principles may present contrary discussions and solutions. For example, the principle of Connectivity proposes eliminating the concept of waste; this might contrast with the principle of Resilience, which suggests building in numerous, varied, and redundant systems that can respond to change. The principle of Alignment may in itself present contrary suggestions of how and when to engage or exclude people from certain habitats in nature. Continual discussion and learning among Kripalu leadership, staff, planners, designers, and other community members will lend itself to intentional decisionmaking and actions that strive for long-term sustainability.

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Flexibility is built into the principles and the process, taking into account change over time and the evolution of a landscape and of society. The principles of Flexibility and Awareness are reflective, and encourage a continued dialogue to maintain the fundamental trajectory of aligning land use practices with Kripalu’s core values. In fact, as the principles are put into use, they may need to be adjusted or new principles added.


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The principles are drawn from many resources such as The Yoga Sutras, research of ancient Vedic texts, the National Park Service’s Principles for Sustainable Design, the Hannover Principles or “Bill of Rights for the Planet” prepared by William McDonough & Partners for the World’s Fair in Hannover, Germany in 2000, the Triple Bottom Line Theory (also known as the Triangle of Sustainability), readings from E. O. Wilson’s The Diversity of Life, A Pattern Language by Christopher Alexander, From Eco-Cities to Living Machines by Nancy Jack Todd and John Todd, and many other sources.

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Recognize the interdependence of environmental, social, and economic systems. As a consequence, eliminate the concept of waste. There is no more “away”–we are all downstream and cannot pass our wastes onto other places and people.


Find solutions across boundaries and scales. Systems overlap indefinitely across the globe. Expand design considerations to recognize minute, distant, and future effects; plan for the future now. Strengthen the thread that links together even the most contradictory pieces.


Align land use practices with the rhythm of natural systems. Allow the full expression of all life processes, and act with thoughtful intent. Reclaim and restore degraded systems.


Foster healthy human relationships with the natural world. Nature is invaluable to human life and spirit.


Associate human needs with those of ecosystems. Stewardship is a reciprocal relationship between people and the environment.


Evaluate, measure, inventory, record, plan, and adjust as needed. Design is an experiment to learn from and then adapt. Engage in collective learning and share the results. Strive for continual improvement through self-awareness and the exchange of knowledge. Value diversity. Diversity is a key to a living system’s ability to withstand change. Develop numerous and varied systems that can endure global unpredictability.


“Most of the qualities of a living system...are aspects of a single fundamental network pattern: nature sustains life by creating and nurturing communities.” —Center for Ecoliteracy


Envisioning a Sustainable Future Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health is a non-profit, holistic education center located in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. The Center is highly regarded for its excellent educational programs and is one of the most influential holistic studies centers in the U.S. Approximately 30,000 people visit Kripalu each year. Kripalu’s purpose is to “advance the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual well-being of individuals and uplift society by promoting the art, science, practices and philosophies of yoga and other traditional and contemporary approaches to life that integrate the body, mind and spirit” ( As Kripalu looks toward the future, the Center’s leadership is interested in aligning the standards of excellence they uphold in their holistic programming with their presence on the land. The Center has undertaken numerous efforts to be a more sustainable organization, including building an energy-efficient Annex building in 2008. More broadly, the Trustees of Kripalu recently identified environmental problems as “symptomatic of the root problem of fragmented human consciousness” (www.

Dillon Sussman

Kripalu operates at or near full capacity throughout most of the year. Many of its programs fill up and there is often not enough classroom space to accommodate the number of people who wish to sign up for them.



Roads and parking facilities on the site are often congested with pedestrian and vehicular traffic during peak arrival times.

ity mu n Com cal logi Eco


There are many congruencies between Kripalu’s philosophies and curriculum and the whole-systems approach of sustainable landscape design. One significant overlap was the concept of the multiplier effect noted in Kripalu’s 2010 annual report.


This document presents a set of principles, aligned with Kripalu’s core values and mission, that will help guide future planning, design, and stewardship of their land.


Before embarking on the Master Facilities Plan, Kripalu and the Conway School agreed that a set of guiding principles would help provide a foundation and a framework from which to develop sustainable practices and a long-term master plan.

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In the fall of 2010, Kripalu began a relationship with the Conway School, a graduate program in sustainable landscape planning and design. The Center sought the school’s help to assess its environmental practices and develop a sustainable landscape plan. In the future the school will work with Kripalu on various aspects of their multi-phase Master Facilities Plan for Land and Buildings.


Kripalu inherited a legacy of disparate land-use decisions from previous owners of the property and since that time has adapted around those decisions and the physical characteristics of the steeply sloped site.


The main entrance for guest arrival is at the back of the building and is difficult to find. There is inadequate parking near the entrance for visitors to unload and load luggage and register. Delivery trucks use the same roads and the service entrance is adjacent to the one for visitors and staff.

KRIPALU COMMUNITY The Multiplier Effect

Future Site Planning and Design

PRINCIPLES The principles provide a foundation which can guide the Kripalu community in landscape planning, design, and stewardship. They build upon Kripalu’s dedication to education and the well-being of society to include sustained ecological health and vitality.


The notion of the multiplier effect referred to Kripalu’s guests, residential volunteers, and teachers in training and the fact that they take what they learn at the Center with them when they go home. These individuals share their experiences with families, friends, coworkers, and students. As such, Kripalu’s sphere of influence is continuously widening through the experiences of their guests. This same concept holds true for land-use and design decisions. A decision or intention for a landscape design program on a property can have a wide range of impacts on neighboring properties and the community beyond, as well as the guests who visit the site.

The concept of the multiplier effect was one of the initial seeds that informed the process of developing the Master Principles. Other seeds that contributed to the process of developing the principles were yogic practices and teachings, holistic health, and holism, and landscape ecology concepts.

YOGA/NATURE The dynamic link between the breath and the body in yogic practice mimics the systems in nature that utilize the air and sun for sustenance. The relationship of body, mind, and spirit evokes the connections of life-supporting elements in natural systems — plants and soil and air and water.





The strong correlation between yogic and ecosystem holism provides a rich overlap from which to frame a sustainable future.



“Dating back at least 5,000 years, with origins in China and India, holistic healing includes the idea of a healthy way of living, in harmony with nature” (Wikipedia, 2011). This is synonymous with Kripalu’s teachings and reflects the idea that natural settings (such as Kripalu’s) promote a sense of peace and healing. The philosopher Socrates also acknowledged a holistic approach and suggested that people should look at the body as a whole and not part by part (Wikipedia, 2011). This is congruent with Kripalu’s yoga practice and holistic teachings and the whole systems analysis applied to the region, town, and site analysis conducted for this document.

In 1926, the term “holism” was introduced by Jan Christiaan Smuts in his book Holism and Evolution, and was defined as “the tendency in nature to form wholes that are greater than the sum of the parts through creative evolution.” This theory aligns with the ecological adaptations within plant communities when they adapt and evolve as a result of disturbance patterns, such as human development (Smuts, 1926.)



ECOLOGY/HOLISM Human activity impacts landscape pattern, process, and change across boundaries and scales, sometimes at a great distance from the activity itself. This multiplier effect relates to the sphere of influence of Kripalu’s programmatic practice and its actions on the land, which influence and are influenced by the surrounding community. The links between yoga, holistic health, holism, and ecology are plentiful and profound. These subjects provide a rich foundation from which to examine the Master Principles that frame Kripalu’s broad-scale decision making process as well as the practical, on-the-ground principles that can be tested, monitored, tracked and measured as they relate to specific scenarios on Kripalu’s property. The following analyses of Kripalu’s site, surrounding towns, and region help ground the principles in the existing conditions, land forms, and land use patterns on the property and beyond. They also describe specific situations on Kripalu’s property and adjacent community to which the principles can be applied.

The master principles provide a lens to evaluate for sustainable landscape decision-making. They are applied and grounded through an understanding of local site conditions.

The analyses help identify key questions that initiate a collective dialogue and frame decision making for sustainable landscape design and planning.


Regional & Cultural History “The Valley of the Housatonic, locked in by walls of every shape and size, from grassy knolls to bold basaltic cliffs — a ‘Happy Valley’ indeed! A beautiful river wanders singing from side to side in this secluded Paradise; and from every mountain cleft come running crystal springs to join it.” — Fanny Kemble, British playwright, poet, and actress,1835 Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health is situated in the Berkshire Region of Western Massachusetts. Well known for its natural scenic beauty, the region has long been a retreat destination.

Lenox Library collection

Starting in the 1840s, many people moved to the region because of its beauty. Intellectuals, artists, and writers found inspiration in the region, and when the area became more accessible by railroad from Boston and New York in 1880, Berkshire County became known as the “Newport of the Hills.” Many towns in the central Berkshire region became elite resort towns, particularly Lenox, Lee, and Stockbridge. Rapid development took place in the area and a number of very large estates were built in a short period of time. Many of these grand homes were situated to have views of the surrounding mountains and lake. Cleared farmland provided expansive views.

One of the archways on the former Shadowbrook mansion.



In 1892, Anson Phelps Stokes, a wealthy banker from New York, built a large estate called Shadowbrook on what is now Kripalu’s property. Significant slopes on the site required blasting of bedrock and the site was manipulated extensively in order to build what was at the time the largest private residence in the country.

Development patterns changed in the twentieth century. Old farm parcels divided up during the 1900s led to an increased number of homes in the Stockbridge Bowl region. Many Gilded Age properties were sold to new owners. The Jesuits purchased the Shadowbrook Estate in the 1920s to use as a seminary. The historic mansion burned to the ground in 1956, and the Jesuits built what is now Kripalu’s main building in 1957. Kripalu’s connection with the Berkshire region began in 1983 when they purchased the former Shadowbrook estate.

Lenox Library collection

The historic remnants from the early estate on the property still dot Kripalu’s landscape and provide glimpses of its former grandeur. The Jesuits also left evidence of their presence on the land in the form of Kripalu’s main building and the lake house. The present landscape is a culmination of past development. Houses and buildings, like Kripalu’s, are still situated to take advantage of the scenic beauty of the Berkshires. As Kripalu moves forward, they would like to acknowledge the historic past as part of the lineage of the land, both from the standpoint of learning from some of the mistakes that were made by previous owners of the property and by preserving the historic architectural elements from the Shadowbrook Estate.

All that remains of the former Shadowbrook Mansion, once the largest private residence in the country, is its foundation.

There are other historical aspects of the Kripalu landscape that are very positive. The Kripalu staff acknowledges and desires to learn from both the positive and negative precedents on the former Shadowbrook Estate. 15

Kripalu’s Evolution This section comes from Krpalu’s website. Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health had its beginnings in 1966 when Yogi Amrit Desai founded the Yoga Society of Pennsylvania, a nonprofit organization providing yoga classes and training for yoga teachers. The name of the Society was later changed to Kripalu Yoga Fellowship, the nonprofit and charitable organization that still operates the Kripalu Center. Yogi Desai came from the small village of Halol in India. There, from the age of 15, he enjoyed a close personal relationship with his guru Swami Kripalvananda, for whom the Kripalu Center is named. Swami Kripalu was a highly renowned master of kundalini yoga as well as a moving speaker, prolific writer, and talented musician. His teachings still serve as the foundation of Kripalu’s approach to yoga and spiritual life.

Moose (Kevin Foran)

In 1972 the first Kripalu Yoga Ashram was established in Sumneytown, Pennsylvania, and expanded to nearby Summit Station in 1975. (Ashram is the traditional Indian name for a yoga center). Kripalu was run by a growing number of ashram residents. These residents were individuals of all ages and nationalities who shared a dedication to yoga practice and lived a simple communal life in service to Kripalu and its program guests.



At Summit Station, Kripalu expanded its offering of educational programs related to yoga and became a pioneer in the field of holistic health. In 1982 Kripalu needed to expand its facilities again due to increasing demand for its programs. The members

of the Ashram carefully weighed their next move and ultimately determined that on-site expansion in Summit Station was not viable. They considered transplanting out west and down south and ultimately decided to stay in the northeast due to the already established demand for their services in the region. The facility that now houses the Kripalu Center in Stockbridge was purchased by the Ashram in 1983, and countless hardworking residents renovated it into a comfortable yoga and spiritual retreat center that opened its doors to guests on December 1, 1983. The 1980s were a time of growth and expansion for Kripalu.The number of full-time residents increased to 275. Over 10,000 guests visited Kripalu each year. In 1988 Kripalu formalized its legal status as a spiritual and volunteer organization modeled after the Hindu yoga ashram.

Moose (Kevin Foran)

Kripalu is the first traditional yoga ashram founded on the guru-disciple model to transition to a new paradigm of spiritual education. This paradigm is designed to provide tools that help individuals access their inner wisdom and find support for their ongoing process of growth and spiritual development.

Ceremony on the main lawn at Kripalu. View of the lake in the background.


“Humankind has not woven the web of life.We are but one thread within it.Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together. All things connect.” —Chief Seattle, 1885


Ecology An overview of the region’s ecology represents the voice of the silent client: the earth. The landscape lineage represents the dynamic relationship between people and the earth, as expressed in the principle of Connectivity. The principles for Kripalu’s sustainable planning, design, and stewardship of the land strive for healthy ecological functioning and long-term resilience of natural systems. Regional and site specific knowledge provides the foundation for accessing land use through the lens of the principles, including Connectivity, Continuity, Authenticity, Alignment, and Mutualism.

OVERVIEW OF REGIONAL ECOLOGY “Taking nature as our teacher requires thinking in terms of systems, one of nature’s basic patterns. The American Association for the Advancement of Science, defines a “system” as “any collection of things that have some influence on one another.” Individual things — like plants, people, schools, communities, and watersheds — are all systems of interrelated elements. At the same time, they can’t be fully understood apart from the larger systems in which they exist. Understanding how systems maintain themselves and how they change has very practical consequences that go to the heart of sustainable living.” —Center for Ecoliteracy



Kripalu is within the designated Marble Valley Ecoregion, a geographical zone that has a distinct assemblage of species. The region’s boundaries correspond with the underlying geology of marble and limestone, which is unique in New England, and supports a rich biological community. A mosaic of diverse and ecologically significant vegetation corresponds with the geology, soils, and numerous water bodies in the valley, ranging from nutrient-poor red oak woodlands and rich sugar maple woodlands to fens and calcareous wetlands. The region is within the species-rich Transition Hardwood forest, the geographic confluence of Southern and Northern Hardwood forest species. The characteristics of the Marble Valley Ecoregion, the Kripalu property’s aspect and elevation, and human activity on the site culminate in a dynamic natural environment.

ECOREGION Core Habitat and Critical Natural Landscapes

The Marble Valley Ecoregion is one of eight ecoregions in Massachusetts. This narrow north-south corridor corresponds to the marble that underlies the soils’ surface. It ranges from northwest Connecticut north to the Lake Champlain region in Vermont, and follows the Taconic Mountains lowlands to the west, and Berkshire Plateau and Green Mountains in the east (MA Dept. of Fish and Game, 2010). The Marble Valley Ecoregion

Kripalu Massachusetts

Marble Valley Ecoregion

Much of the Marble Valley has been developed. Core habitat and critical natural landscapes are fragmented in the ecoregion. Kripalu is located adjacent to a corridor of undisturbed land.

Core Habitat Critical Natural Landscape Source: BioMap2, MA Department of Ecoregions Fish & Game

Kripalu The Marble Valley Ecoregion runs through western Massachusetts. Stockbridge and Lenox are almost completely within the region

Source: Office of Geographic Information (Mass GIS), Commonwealth of Massachusetts Information Technology Division, March 2011

The ecoregion has diverse habitats with high conservation value that serve as a migration corridor for species, such as the great blue heron. Much of the Marble Valley Ecoregion remains unprotected. Historic and current industrial and housing developments within the Berkshires fragment the landscape and diminish the ecological integrity, or ecosystem health, of the region. Kripalu’s property is adjacent to core habitat and critical natural landscapes that “preserve natural landscape function, maintain connectivity over large areas, and protect biodiversity” (MA Dept. of Fish and Game). 21


Geology Band through the Marble Valley

Geology is the foundation upon which other natural processes occur. It determines the soils, the vegetation, and the wildlife of the region. It is the foundation for these natural resources, supports various communities, and influences human land use patterns. The dramatic hills, lakes, and valleys of the Berkshires are an expression of its geologic history. Kripalu’s land is a part of the Marble Valley, a geological region formed 500 million years ago. The narrow Valley spreads through a portion of western New England. Through time, erosion shaped this land. Multiple glaciers advanced and retreated over the mountains and valleys, and wore away the soft, soluble rock of the Marble Valley, creating Lake Mahkeenac, the lake at the center of the Stockbridge Bowl land form, and numerous other lakes in the region. The alkaline substrate of the Marble Valley produces rare and valuable terrestrial and aquatic habitats.

The Marble Valley is a distinct geological region. It runs from Connecticut through western Massachusetts north to Vermont.


Marble Valley Geology Marble Valley Ecoregion

Source: Office of Geographic Information (Mass GIS), Commonwealth of Massachusetts Information Technology Division, March 2011

The geologic range of the Marble Valley corresponds with the ecoregion. The valley has specific soil types, vegetation, and wildlife within the region. 22


Regional Soils

SOILS The soils in Kripalu’s region are composed of glacial till derived from limestone, bedrock, and organic matter from decaying plant materials. The general series, or types, of soils surrounding Kripalu are low acidic to slightly alkaline.These soils generally foster large populations of beneficial microorganisms that decompose organic matter, resulting in rich, deep soils. Alkaline, deep soils host a unique and rare community of plants and animals that are of state significance. Supporting the natural process of decomposition, such as leaving deadwood in the forest, and preventing erosion can help sustain healthy populations of the region’s flora and fauna (Scanu,1988). Kripalu

The specific soil types determine the vegetation that will grow in the area. The soils in the region follow along the Marble Valley geologic band.

Legend Soils derived from limestone bedrock

Source: Soil Survey of Berkshire County Massachusetts, United States Department of Agriculture, Soil Conservation Service, 1984


VEGETATION Patterns of Vegetation

Houses of the Berkshires, 1870-1930, Jackson and Gilder

Throughout the ecoregion, urban areas, residential settlements, pastures, and croplands are interspersed within the native matrix of mixed deciduous forests and wetlands (Foster, 2010). There are many modern threats to today’s plant communities that result from human actions. Threats include pollution, invasive plants and pests, rapid development and fragmentation, mismanagement, and climate change. Plant communities in the Berkshires have shifted over time; they are dynamic. People are part of the dynamic character of the landscape; through history, they have manipulated the landscape to suit their needs. During the nineteenth century nearly all the forested lands were cleared for agriculture. The forests regenerated during the twentieth century when agriculture declined, resulting in many even-aged forests with simpler structure than their predecessors (Foster, 2010). Diverse plant communities are more resilient to change, and are also important habitat for wildlife.

Dillon Sussman

An inventory and assessment of existing vegetation on the site provides a baseline for long-term land management.

During the nineteenth century, the forests of the Berkshire region were cleared for agriculture. Today the forests have once again reclaimed most of the landscape in the region, with open space being maintained for agriculture, industry, commerce, recreation, and aesthetics. 24


Wildlife Habitat of the Stockbridge Bowl Region

WILDLIFE Kripalu’s unique ecoregion is notable for the richness of its wildlife. In fact, a green corridor, or an expanse of connected habitat area, spreads along the ridgeline of the Lenox and West Stockbridge Mountains. The Berkshire Natural Resource Council and Massachusetts Audubon Society have placed this habitat in conservation to protect this contiguous green space. Its substantial interior habitat is critical for wildlife that requires land not fragmented with roads or development.The expanse of habitat is especially important for endangered or rare species, or species of special concern.


Lake Mahkeenac

Sedge wren

Jefferson salamander


Records from the National Heritage Endangered Species Program (NHESP) show that the Jefferson salamander and other salamanders of special concern breed in the wetlands in the Massachusetts Audubon property north of Kripalu. The NHESP lists some other species near Stockbridge as species of critical concern, threatened, or endangered: the sedge wren (endangered), the Boreal Marstonia snail (endangered), the American bittern (endangered), and marbled salamander (threatened) (NHESP, 2008).

Source: Office of Geographic Information (Mass GIS), Commonwealth of Massachusetts Information Technology Division, March 2011

Designated core wildlife habitat encircles Lake Mahkeenac and the wetlands feeding into the lake. The area is species-rich, and stewardship of Kripalu’s property can increase habitat area around the lake.

The Kripalu property is close to land that provides critical habitat for many animal species. 25


Housatonic Watershed in Massachusetts

Water is a critical natural resource that is essential for life. The Berkshire region of Massachusetts is fortunate to have a wealth of wide river valleys, clean upland streams, and abundant wetlands—all of which support wildlife, vegetation and human life (Berkshire Regional Plan, 2000). There are 197 lakes and ponds in the Berkshires, and approximately 45 percent are artificial ponds or reservoirs (Weatherbee, 1996). In fact, New England averages 35-55 inches of rain per year, and usually over 50 inches of snow accumulation per year (Keim, 2005). Kripalu’s property has three streams and several wetlands on site that feed into Lake Mahkeenac. All of the water onsite and within the Stockbridge Bowl land area is part of a larger water system, the Housatonic watershed. While the resource is plentiful in the region, protection of its quality remains a priority for sustained health of the environment and human consumption.


Source: Office of Geographic Information (Mass GIS), Commonwealth of Massachusetts Information Technology Division, March 2011

Streams, rivers, and lakes, like those found in the Housatonic watershed, provide habitat for many species. The image above is an example of a riparian habitat, or habitat along a stream bank.



The Housatonic watershed is 2,200 square miles and it encompasses portions of New York, Connecticut, and Massachusetts. Kripalu’s landscape is within the Housatonic watershed


Stockbridge Bowl Sub-Watershed

A watershed is the geographic area of land that drains to a shared destination. Water from across the Stockbridge Bowl region drains into the 372 acres of Lake Mahkeenac. The water that runs into the lake flows from the ridgeline of the Lenox and West Stockbridge Mountains in the west and north, the western portion of the town of Lenox, the north side of Rattlesnake Mountain, and the northern portion of the community of Interlaken. The lake and its tributaries are part of a sub-watershed of the larger Housatonic watershed.

Kripalu Lake Mahkeenac

The Housatonic watershed is a 2,200-square-mile watershed that extends through much of southwestern Massachusetts, eastern New York, and western Connecticut (Housatonic Greenway). The water eventually flows into the Long Island Sound. There are environmental concerns regarding the health of the watershed. Fifty-three miles of the Housatonic River are classified as “impaired� by the Environmental Protection Agency. This means that the water quality is degraded enough that certain activities, such as recreational uses or drinking the water, are not recommended. Degradation in one part of the system can impact water quality downstream.

Legend Stockbridge Bowl Region Lenox and Stockbridge

Housatonic River


Source: Office of Geographic Information (Mass GIS), Commonwealth of Massachusetts Information Technology Division, March 2011

The 372-acre Stockbridge Bowl region is a sub-watershed of the larger Housatonic watershed.


WETLANDS The Berkshires have an abundance of wetlands, a result of the topography, soluble geology, and scouring that occurred during the last glacial retreat. Three percent of Berkshire County is classified as wetland, and 12 percent of the land in Stockbridge is wetland (Weatherbee, 1996). Wetlands are transitional zones between terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. They consist of fens, bogs, swamps, and marshes, and they are critical habitat areas that are home to thousands of plant and animal species. They support various stages of life, and for migrating species, such as the great blue heron, wetlands provide places to feed and rest.

Wetlands of the Stockbridge Bowl Region


Lake Mahkeenac

Wetlands perform many ecosystem services: they provide habitat for wildlife; they improve the water quality by recharging groundwater; they purify water by filtering out pollutants and excess nutrients; and they reduce eutrophication, or nutrientloading rates in larger water bodies. In addition, humans enjoy fishing or bird watching in wetland areas. The Environmental Protection Agency protects wetlands because of their value to ecosystems. The EPA estimates that 60,000 acres of wetland are lost each year due to contamination and degradation from soil erosion, improper or careless construction policies, and stormwater runoff. Proper care and conservation of wetlands increases the integrity of watersheds and water systems for people, plants, and wildlife (EPA, 2011).

Source: Office of Geographic Information (Mass GIS), Commonwealth of Massachusetts Information Technology Division, March 2011

There are numerous wetlands around the Stockbridge Bowl region that provide habitat for wildlife, improve the water quality, recharge groundwater, filter out pollutants, and provide recreational opportunities for people. 28


Conservation Lands Around Kripalu

CONSERVATION LAND There are 3.2 million acres of privately owned forestland in Massachusetts and 285,000 acres of state forest and parks (MA Dept. of Conservation and Recreation, 2011). A number of conservation lands are found around the Stockbridge Bowl area; Kripalu’s property is near many of these properties.

Berkshire Natural Resource Council


Mass Audubon

Tanglewood Stockbridge Bowl Association

Different conservation organizations work to manage, maintain, and preserve land. Oftentimes, land conservation, in conjunction with trails networks, serve as contiguous core habitat for wildlife and vegetation. Adjacent parcels of conservation area are better able to maintain habitat because they provide a connected network of greenways.

Stockbridge Land Trust

Lake Mahkeenac

Greenways are protected open space areas managed for conservation and recreational purposes. They can also preserve native habitat and wildlife migration routes. Greenways also provide ecological, economic and quality of life benefits (Housatonic Valley Association, 1999). Conserved lands owned by Tanglewood, Stockbridge Bowl Association, and Goulds Meadow create a greenway along the northern portion of Lake Mahkeenac. The Berkshire Natural Resource Council and Mass Audubon own contiguous properties along Lenox and West Stockbridge mountains, north of Kripalu’s site. Fragmentation of greenways and conserved land harm wildlife’s ability to move between land areas and adapt to environmental changes. Conservation organizations can work together to increase connectivity between habitats and perpetuate the ecosystem’s

Source: Office of Geographic Information (Mass GIS), Commonwealth of Massachusetts Information Technology Division, March 2011

Contiguous conservation lands surround Kripalu to the north and the southeast.

integrity. New or stronger partnerships between conservation organizations are especially important because 77 percent of the Marble Valley ecoregion remains unprotected, as compared to the Taconic Mountains, of which 62 percent of the land remains unprotected, or the Berkshire Plateau ecoregion which still has 53 percent unprotected lands (MA Dept. of Fish and Game, 2011). 29

Site Conditions SITE DESCRIPTION The 125-acre Kripalu property is triangular in shape and located on a southeast-facing slope. In plan view, the property resembles the shape of a bird’s beak, head, and neck. 1. The “beak” is largely mature forest interspersed with lawns and buildings. Several swales and streams cross this area from north to south. The main entrance to the site bisects the beak and is a graceful, tree-lined, scenic drive with occasional glimpses of the lake. Unpaved trails pass through woods and meadow and connect to meditation areas on the site. Several of the trails connect with a larger system of Berkshire Natural Resource Council trails. 2. The “head” contains more open land and is the main area of activity on the campus. The main building, called Shadowbrook, and its Annex dominate this section, which is composed of steep slopes, large expanses of lawn that overlook the lake, paved walkways, and parking lots. Entering the property from Route 183, a southerly drive lined by an allée of shagbark hickory trees leads to the main parking area.

north, township property and the Tanglewood Music Center to the southeast, Berkshire Country Day School to the west, and Lake Mahkeenac to the south. Built structures in use on the site are the 165,000-square-foot main building (built in 1957) named Shadowbrook, in honor of the original cottage, a 30,000-square-foot Annex built in 2008, a 2200-square-foot home called Brook House (built in 1984) that is used as living accommodations for visiting faculty, a 12,000-square-foot building called Hill House (built in 1983) that houses resident volunteers and functions as a maintenance equipment storage site, and a small structure near the lake built by the Jesuits. Historic remnants are located predominantly in the “beak” section of the property and comprise the stone gatehouse at the main entrance of the east drive, portions of the foundation of the original mansion, a greenhouse, a rock garden, and trees possibly planted by the estate’s landscape architect Ernest Bowditch in 1893.

3. Route 183 separates the “neck” from the two upper portions of the property. It comprises a mix of service and recreational areas, including a Lake House and three hundred feet of beach on the shore of the lake. This portion of the property has significant wetlands and forest. The property is bound by Richmond Mountain Road to the 30


Kripalu’s main building, Shadowbrook, is a 165,00-square-foot brick building.



Hill House


Gate House

Parts of Property Property line


Brook House Shadowbrook Annex




THE unt

ain Road



Forest Wetland

Meditation Area


East D Sh

ag Lawn ba rk hic ko r

Mansion foundation ya




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Berkshire County Day School

Tanglewood Music Center Lake House



CK Lake Mahkeenac


200’ 400’


SLOPE & ASPECT The topography of the Stockbridge Bowl region slopes from the ridgelines into Lake Mahkeenac. The topography of Kripalu’s property provides the Center with opportunities and challenges. The slope of the front lawn averages a 15 percent grade down to Route 183. This slope allows for a beautiful vista from the Shadowbrook building that overlooks the lake. Because much of the property, including the front lawn, faces south, the property is well situated to use the sun for energy.

The West Stockbridge Mountains and Kripalu’s property slope down toward Lake Mahkeenac.

On other portions of Kripalu’s land, slopes pose a challenge. The ground north of the main building that rises into the apple orchard rises at a 46 percent grade. The grass on the slope is trimmed during the warmer months, and snowmelt and rain cause erosion on this terrain that runs down the hill and onto the parking area north of the main building. Kripalu can work within the constraints of its slopes: building and landscape designs can incorporate the land’s contours to preserve the beauty of the site.

Route 183

Wastewater facility





Main Building

Kripalu’s property is a south-facing slope, and could be ideal for passive and active solar power onsite. 32



Apple orchard

Private Roads


Parking Areas




Mown Grass Areas


Percentages represent desired slopes for convenience, safety, and ease of maintenance. Kripalu’s site has few slopes under 15 percent. These areas were graded for buildings and roads.

SOILS ON SITE Soil types on Kripalu’s site are numerous and varied. A broad overview of the soil types helps us to understand the limitations and opportunities for vegetation and infrastructure, including septic, buildings, roads, and trails.

Soils on Kripalu’s Property

Twelve soil types are found on Kripalu’s 125 acres. Half of the area has soils of low soil strength that require augmented bases for buildings, roads, and trails. A high water table on the southern portion of the property restricts the construction of buildings with basements. Additionally, all soil types on the Kripalu site, and many soils around the Stockbridge Bowl, have poor soil permeability that can hinder proper septic drainage. Site-specific soil testing is recommended to help determine appropriate plants for the site, soil permeability, and stability (Scanu, 1988).




Source: Soil Survey of Berkshire County Massachusetts, United States Department of Agriculture, Soil Conservation Service, 1984

There are twelve soil types on Kripalu’s property. These soils are typical of the Marble Valley. 33


A number of wetlands and stream corridors around the Kripalu site feed into Lake Mahkeenac. Human activities in the Stockbridge Bowl area affect the water quality in local wetlands and Lake Mahkeenac. Challenges that may harm the wetlands and the lake include:

• • • •

Polluted run-off from impervious surfaces and lawns Ill-managed riparian buffers along streams Failed septic systems Point source and non-point source pollution (EPA, 2011)

Poor stewardship of water resources affects not only the wildlife but the human enjoyment of these places. Poor water quality, for example, may infringe on Kripalu’s guest activities such as kayaking, swimming, and enjoying of the visual qualities of the lake; therefore, it is necessary for Kripalu to help mitigate factors that may harm wetlands, not only for the Center’s programming, but because it is a part of a community that shares water as a resource. Protecting and maintaining the health of the wetlands and wetland buffers around the lake can help offset the effects of human activities.

Wetland Buffers On Kripalu’s Property Richm

ond M




in Rd





e1 out


Wetland buffer

Lake Mahkeenac

Wetland Water


200’ 400’


The wetland buffers on Kripalu’s site protect 100’ on either side of the three streams on the property. Several of Kripalu’s hiking trails run along the scenic waterways. Kripalu’s care for their wetland areas can help mitigate pollution that can contaminate Lake Mahkeenac. 34



The Kripalu property is located in the Transition Hardwoods forest, a zone of increased biodiversity in which species from the Southern Hardwood forests overlap with those of the Northern Hardwood forests. In general, the aspect (the direction it faces) of a slope affects the vegetation patterns. Southeast-facing slopes, like those at Kripalu, host deciduous forests, composed of sugar maples, yellow birch, Eastern hemlock, and beech. Oaks, hickories, and beech populate southwest-facing slopes.

Patterns of Vegetation



te 1


Elevation also plays a significant role in determining the distribution of species. The most common species found between 1000’ and 1700’ elevation are maple, beech, birch, oak, and hickory. The elevation on Kripalu’s property ranges between 900’ and 1200’, and includes many of these plants. Species richness is also a result of the mosaic of soils and geology in the region; both acid and alkaline-loving plant communities are present. A complete assessment of plant species on Kripalu’s site would help to determine the overall diversity of the site, because plants provide both food and habitat for other organisms.

Forested Open Water

Lake Mahkeenac


200’ 400’

Kripalu’s property is one-third open and two-thirds forested. The southeast-facing slopes are coniferous and the southern slopes are deciduous.


Hill House


Property line Setback

Brook House Shadowbrook Annex



Wetland setback Scenic Mountain Act

Entrance East Drive

Parking 200


Lake Mahkeenac 36




rivers, ponds, and lakes and within 100 feet of other resources (including wetlands, marshes, bogs, swamps, creeks, vernal pools, and lands bordering them). Work within these areas (other than regular maintenance) requires filing a Notice of Intent with the Conservation Commission. The Conservation Commission may set performance standards or may require, for example, “strips of continuous undisturbed vegetative cover within the two hundred foot or one hundred foot area” (Wetlands Protection Act Article VII).

The property is located in Stockbridge, on the Lenox town line and is zoned R4, which is primarily residential.


Kripalu’s 125-acre property falls under a variety of laws. This is an overview of laws that affect the site. Further study is required before specific site work can be recommended or implemented. The legal analysis has been supplied here for use by future planners and designers who will work with Kripalu in the years ahead.

The R4 zone has a minimum lot size of four acres. • Setbacks for Zone R4 are minimum frontage of 300 feet. • Front, side, and rear setbacks are 50 feet. • Maximum height of buildings is two and a half stories or 35 feet. • Buildings may not cover more than 10 percent of a lot. • A 150-foot setback extends from the mean water line of the Stockbridge Bowl for structures other than docks. • Docks may not extend more than 25 feet beyond the mean water line.

WETLANDS Large portions of Kripalu’s land are regulated under Stockbridge’s wetlands by-laws and the state Wetlands Protection Act and River Protections Act. Virtually the entirety of Kripalu’s land south of Route 183 falls within a regulated resource area.

The Scenic Mountain Act (SMA) is a Stockbridge By-Law. The SMA covers approximately half of Kripalu’s northern portion, including Brook House, the orchard, the North Gatehouse, the north parking lots, half of the Shadowbrook building, the staff parking area, and virtually all of the eastern part of the site including the original mansion area, Hill House, and the East Drive. The SMA requires that a Notice of Intent be filed with the Conservation Commission for any alteration of land within the covered area. The Conservation Commission will determine whether an alteration (for example, changing preexisting drainage, sedimentation and flow patterns, or erecting any buildings or structure over 500 square-feet) is subject to the SMA and will issue a formal document placing limits on any project that might have an adverse effects on watershed resources or natural scenic qualities in the areas covered by the SMA.

Stockbridge’s wetlands by-laws covers land within 200 feet of 37

When I am working on a problem, I never think about beauty. I think only how to solve the problem. But when I have finished, if the solution is not beautiful, I know it is wrong. —Buckminster Fuller


Applying the Principles The preceding sections of this report present the history and current state of landscape patterns at the scale of the broader region and at the scale of particular site conditions at the Kripalu Center. Understanding the Center’s landscape through these historical developments and across these spatial scales helps raise important questions about the decisions facing Kripalu. This section suggests how the master principles presented in Section Two might be used by Center staff as they identify specific landscape projects and associated project goals that are consistent with the values and mission of Kripalu.

directives are developed, actions are taken, conditions evolve, and master principles are refined in light of new conditions. With each application the process evolves and a more refined collective understanding develops of how best to be stewards of the Kripalu landscape.

This process is not intended to produce a set of hard-and-fast design decisions at this stage, but instead to generate informed, self-reflective discussion about land use at Kripalu and show how projects and design directives can be fundamentally aligned with Kripalu’s mission and core values. Given the Center’s location within its ecoregion, for example, what decisions are suggested by the principle of Mutualism (associating human needs with those of ecosystems) in considering where to maintain open lawn areas versus woodlands? What valued program activities might support or undermine the health of wildlife habitat (and which wildlife should take precedence over others)? How might adding redundancy, to increase Resilience, complement or contradict other sustainability efforts (such as those to reduce waste)?

1. Identify a specific landscape situation (issue or dilemma). 2. Review the situation in light of each of the master principles, one at a time, identifying questions or design directives that each principle raises relative to the situation. Consider interactions between and among all the questions and directives, especially any that potentially could be in conflict or, on the other hand, that might offer synergy. 3. Identify specific planning and design projects that respond to the situation and develop associated preliminary project goals for each by resolving any conflicts in direction and taking advantage of possible synergy among the directives.

The process as represented schematically here may appear linear and the master principles static, but in practice the process is iterative for each project and for successions of projects, as new discoveries arise, questions change, design 40



Initiates re-evaluation of master principles

Kripalu’s mission and core values Master principles for landscape resilience Ecological principles

Identifying specific landscape projects

Holistic, thoughtful action

Cultural patterns Landscape situations, dilemmas, or issues Landscape patterns

New landscape situations

The process for landscape resilience is dynamic.The principles promotes re-evaluation, self-awareness, learning, and continual improvement.


MASTER PRINCIPLES: CONNECTIVITY Recognize the interdependence of environmental,

social, and economic systems. As a consequence, eliminate the concept of waste. There is no more “away”–we are all downstream and cannot pass our wastes onto other places and people.

CONTINUITY Find solutions across boundaries and scales. Systems

overlap indefinitely across the globe. Expand design considerations to recognize minute, distant, and future effects; plan for the future now. Strengthen the thread that links together even the most contradictory pieces.

AUTHENTICITY Align land use practices with the rhythm of natural

systems. Allow the full expression of all life processes, and act with thoughtful intent. Reclaim and restore degraded systems.

ALIGNMENT Foster healthy human relationships with the natural world. Nature is invaluable to human life and spirit.

MUTUALISM Associate human needs with those of ecosystems. Stewardship is a reciprocal relationship between people and the environment.

FLEXIBILITY Evaluate, measure, inventory, record, plan, and adjust as needed. Design is an experiment to learn from and then adapt.

AWARENESS Engage in collective learning and share the results. Strive for continual improvement through selfawareness and the exchange of knowledge.

RESILIENCE Value diversity. Diversity is a key to a living system’s ability to withstand change. Develop numerous and varied systems that can endure global unpredictability.



Following are four examples (related to access and circulation; water use; stormwater; and landscape maintenance) of how the process can move from considering general situations to interacting with the master principles to identifying projects with appropriate design direction. These examples help illustrate that the application of master principles does not produce an immediate set of directives that automatically resolve all situations. As shown, master principles may, in fact, suggest contradictory actions. These points of apparent contradiction may be where an unresolved conflict exists between different Kripalu values, or between the values and particular conditions on the land. Rather than arrive quickly at a resolution, the staff may find these to be productive points for discussion about the most appropriate action to take and reflection on that action’s likely consequences across spatial boundaries and into the future. Through such discussions, the principles may be revised, expanded upon, and clarified. In this heuristic approach, a collective understanding of what is best to do in Kripalu’s landscape will evolve and grow stronger over time.

ACCESS & CIRCULATION 1. IDENTIFY A SPECIFIC LANDSCAPE SITUATION Kripalu hosts many renowned international educators and attracts guests from around the country. Most guests come from New York City and Boston and travel roughly 150 miles to Kripalu’s rural location. There is no direct public transportation to the site, though some guests participate in ride shares and chartered bus service offered by Kripalu. Both staff and guests access the site primarily by car. The main entrance to the property is via the East Drive, a graceful, tree-lined road that opens out onto spectacular views of Lake Mahkeenac and the mountains around the Stockbridge Bowl and then curves gently toward the main buildings of the campus. The calming experience of the East Drive is disrupted as one gets closer to the Shadowbrook building; the road narrows and forks in three directions, and it is difficult to decipher the sign that directs guests to continue straight ahead for registration. For the first-time visitor, it is not clear which way to continue. Signs and other guides direct visitors to the rear of the Shadowbrook building, to the registration desk and main lobby. On the opposite side of the building is the more formal, southfacing entry, with its terrace and stairs. The driveway and main entry area in the rear are confined between the building and the steep slope up to the orchard. The small drop-off circle at the entry can’t accommodate the seventy guests that can arrive at once during peak arrival times, and it has no clear direction for traffic flow.

best to park to register. Very near this entry are the staff and service entrance and another entrance serving the kitchen, compounding the confusion. Kripalu’s drives—totaling two miles in length—are narrow and must accommodate two-way traffic and pedestrians. The few parking spaces near the buildings fill up quickly, since most of the parking lots are not located within a comfortable walking distance of the main entrance. Using these more distant parking lots, arriving and departing guests must navigate steep slopes with their luggage in tow. In addition, in the winter months the total number of parking spaces is often reduced by up to 30 percent because of snow piles, while the steep, icy walkways make navigation from the lots to the entrances increasingly difficult. Large parking lots and abundant roads mean that vehicles dominate the heart of the campus. Access & Circulation on Property Parking Shadowbrook



Mansion Lawn

East Drive



East Gate



te 1


Circulation flow Circulation challenge

Conflict between vehicles and pedestrians, general confusion, and congestion ensue as visitors attempt to determine where 43

Because much of the property is open lawn it can be confusing for pedestrians to find their way to destinations they can’t see. A number of paths are quite steep and difficult for some to traverse, and may tend to erode. There is considerable interest in walking—as evidenced by the large number of walkers seen each day—but walkers must choose to walk along roads, where they must contend with vehicles, or along poorly designated and sometimes difficult paths. A favorite walk for many guests is along the East Drive, which is the main traffic route for vehicles entering and leaving Kripalu.

feel comfortable? Could altering the circulation patterns— by rerouting traffic, building entrances, and parking lots, for example—create a more welcoming arrival experience? At the same time, how might such changes create possibly negative consequences elsewhere, on and off the site? Recognizing Connectivity might lead to questions about how to further reduce driving (to the site and on it) to conserve resources and the reduce the effects of fossil fuel use. The principle of Continuity suggests that design decisions should recognize distant and future effects. How might broader changes, such as the effects of peak oil, alter needs for roads and parking lots in the future? Will there be more interest in walking and bicycling to and from the site in the future? How should current needs on the site—for better movement of cars and people during check-in at the Shadowbrook building— be weighed against potential future needs?


2. REVIEW WITH THE MASTER PRINCIPLES The current vehicular circulation patterns create a beautiful arrival experience in places, but also confusion, unsafe conditions, and difficult access between parking areas and buildings. At the same time, current circulation patterns may concentrate human activity, making it easier to manage and mitigate its effects. The principle of Alignment suggests that experiences should be threaded together in meaningful ways. What new elements of the landscape can help people find their way and 44


Adhering to the principle of Authenticity might lead the staff to ask how the entry experience could change at different times of year to put visitors in better touch with seasonal/natural changes. With Flexibility and Awareness in mind, what variety of approaches could be tested to understand how different people at different times of year may find different arrival experiences more appropriate? And are there ways visitors

could be instructed in different modes of behavior in different areas, for instance, driving more slowly and carefully where they are sharing the road with pedestrians? When visitors walk the site they are frequently near moving vehicles. With Alignment in mind, would separating vehicles and pedestrians increase safety and foster a healthier human relationship with the natural world? If they were known to visitors, could trails that are independent of the Center’s roads be more attractive and efficient paths for people on foot? Is there any time of the year when pedestrians and vehicles can safely share the same path? Acknowledging that actions in one time and place have effects in other times and places (Continuity) raises the question:Would adding pedestrian paths (disturbing soils and potentially adding to impervious surfaces) lead to diminished water quality of Lake Mahkeenac? Might shifting foot or vehicle traffic to other parts of the property create or exacerbate problems (e.g., erosion, wildlife impacts) elsewhere, on site or off? Should trails on site be diverted from sensitive riparian habitats, even though such trails already exist and the construction of replacement trails might create new disturbances elsewhere?

Authenticity: How might pedestrian paths change throughout the year? For example, ground that is too wet for walking in summer might be appropriate for snowshoes in winter. Flexibility: How can the pedestrian path system be adapted as the needs for trails change over the years? Resilience: How could redundancy be built into the path system so that it can be adjusted as the environment changes during the year? Would the circulation system be more resilient if visitor, staff, and delivery traffic were considered separately? 3. IDENTIFY SPECIFIC PROJECTS AND GOALS Projects related to access and circulation might include: • Comprehensive vehicular circulation plan with possible rerouting, including seasonal changes. • Comprehensive pedestrian circulation plan, with possible new trails. • Long-term expansion of connections to public transit; increased support and advocacy for public transit initiatives in the region. • Experiments with different surfaces to see if permeable paving can be sustainably maintained, especially in winter.

While applying sand and salt to roads and paths in winter months creates safer conditions for circulation, such practices can pollute watercourse. Should the practices be modified in order to protect plants, animals, and water quality (following the principle of Mutualism)? Should people of all abilities have equal access to all parts of the Kripalu landscape in all seasons, even if it involves diminishing some other aspect of the landscape? Public transit connects people to Kripalu. 45

WATER USE 1. IDENTIFY A SPECIFIC LANDSCAPE SITUATION Potable water is a critical resource at Kripalu. The Center uses roughly 30,000 gallons of water per day to supply the spa, laundry, kitchen, and basic amenities. Very little water is used in the maintenance of the grounds, which instead primarily rely on precipitation. Historically Kripalu has used groundwater for its water supply, but now human activities around its wells have forced the Center to close some wells and supplement its supply with municipal water. There are four wells on the site, only one of which is currently operational; the three wells along Richmond Mountain Road have been decommissioned due to risk of contamination associated with the road. After it has been used in the spa, laundry, or kitchen or to flush toilets or in showers, wastewater is processed at the wastewater treatment facility owned and operated by the Center, just north of Interlaken Road. After processing, the water is discharged into a leach field, with fewer particulates than conventional septic systems. The Center abides by the strict regulations required by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to limit potential effects on water quality of Lake Mahkeenac, which suffers from pollution. Protecting groundwater resources and recycling water could help Kripalu become more self-sufficient and reduce its consumption from off-site water sources, extend the life of the treatment facility and leach fields, and reduce outputs into the watershed. Changes in sources of potable water and broader concerns associated with global climate change (possibly including shifts 46


Wells and Septic On Kripalu’s Property





ond M


in Roa




te 1


Wastewater Treatment Facility

Leach field Operational well


Non-operational well

Lake Mahkeenac

in precipitation patterns), have made Kripalu staff even more keenly aware of the significance of water use and re-use at the Center.

2. REVIEW WITH THE MASTER PRINCIPLES While Kripalu operates its own wastewater treatment facility, keeping much of the waste produced by staff and visitors on site (acknowledging Connectivity), the Center still draws many thousands of gallons of water from on site and off.The principle of Continuity leads one to ask what the local and distant effects of this concentrated water use are, and, alternatively, how the concentration of water users in this particular location might be seen as a positive opportunity to reduce the stress that human activities places on the aquifer and watershed. Furthermore, it raises the question: Are there solutions up-system or downsystem to reduce water use and wastewater generation?

Resilience to unanticipated change? What would it take to dramatically reduce the amount of wastewater generated to reduce the need to treat it and to create greater resilience to unanticipated change? 3. IDENTIFY SPECIFIC PROJECTS AND GOALS Projects related to water might include: • A feasibility study for a living machine to treat wastewater generated in the buildings. • A greywater reuse plan.

Following the principles of Authenticity and Mutualism, how might various human wastes be understood as resources that could help to regenerate a damaged environment? Is there a role for composting toilets or some other way that human wastes are processed and used as fertilizers on site? Would it be feasible to create living machines (indoor plant systems) to treat wastewater? However it addresses water use and wastewater, can the Center, in the interest of Awareness and Flexibility, make the process transparent to staff and visitors— for example, engaging volunteers in managing a living machine, and making the living machine an attractive site where biological processes can be observed, understood, and celebrated? How could solutions be configured as experiments to allow for adaptation as circumstances change? Recognizing that the quality of the water in Lake Mahkeenac is a shared responsibility, how could new techniques tested at Kripalu best be shared with others in the watershed, to encourage Awareness? What would it take to dramatically reduce the amount of water needed from off-site (including reducing onsite water consumption) to create greater

The Living Machine uses natural processes to purify water.

Greywater flush toilet.

Rain water collection for use in the landscape.


STORMWATER 1. IDENTIFY A SPECIFIC LANDSCAPE SITUATION With 43 inches of annual precipitation on average in the Kripalu area, including 65 inches of snowfall each year, stormwater— the runoff from rainwater and melting snow—is a significant factor in the Kripalu landscape. On the Kripalu site, stormwater moves quickly over the steep slopes, lawns, and impervious surfaces, including paved roadways, parking lots, and buildings; this rapid movement limits the water’s infiltration on site. (Lawn, especially when steeply sloped, functions almost as an impervious surface, with little or no infiltration.) Rapid runoff can create flooding, increase the erosion of soils, and raise the water temperature and concentration of pollutants in water bodies. The Wetlands Protection Act, initiated by the Massachusetts EPA, regulates water resources by requiring vegetated buffers within 200 feet of rivers, ponds, and lakes, and 100 feet from other water resources. While Kripalu does maintain required buffers around streams, wetlands, and Lake Mahkeenac, which help to slow the flow of water across the property and also provide important habitat, stormwater runoff throughout the Stockbridge Bowl region may still carry sediments and excessive nutrients into Lake Mahkeenac. The lake is currently faced with a serious infestation of Eurasian milfoil, a deeprooted aquatic weed that is symptomatic of eutrophication, or nutrient overloading in a waterbody. The eutrophication is caused primarily by increased phosphorus in the system, 75 percent of which currently comes from erosion of developed lands, 11 percent from septic systems, and 10 percent from the atmosphere.The lake is a valuable natural resource ecologically and recreationally both to Kripalu and the region. Improved 48


stormwater management techniques could help to prevent the negative consequences from runoff and improve the integrity of the Stockbridge Bowl watershed and the larger Housatonic watershed. Water Drainage Across Kripalu’s Property

Parking Lawn Shadowbrook

Parking Lawn


Drainage flow Waterbody Wetland setback Lake Mahkeenac Source: Office of Geographic Information (Mass GIS), Commonwealth of Massachusetts Information Technology Division


Aligning human and natural systems (following Authenticity), emerging ideas about stormwater management mimic the predevelopment hydrological functions of a site through small-scale, onsite management techniques, and encompass stormwater

reuse and infiltration. With Connectivity in mind, how can stormwater be used as a resource to enhance the ecological integrity of the landscape, rather than being treated as a waste to be removed? The principle of Continuity, seeking solutions across property boundaries, raises the question of what cooperation is possible with adjacent landowners to manage stormwater originating off-site before it reaches Kripalu. In pursuit of Mutualism, what are the opportunities to manage stormwater runoff from structures, such as roofs, parking lots, and roads, as an asset to be used by adjacent habitat areas? Are there potentially detrimental effects on habitat because of the qualities of the stormwater? (Stormwater may carry contamination that adversely affects plants and animals.) Additional vegetation along wetlands and Kripalu’s three streams would help protect water quality and the wildlife that depend on these riparian habitats; but would expanded buffers diminish the human relationship with the natural environment by keeping people at a distance? Can there be an Alignment between artforms, such as rain chains, and natural processes, whereby the natural processes are revealed or made perceptible? How, following the principle of Flexibility, might the water quality of stormwater be monitored over time and the effectiveness of various management techniques and features evaluated? Guided by the principle of Awareness, how can Kripalu, as a member of the Stockbridge Bowl Association, demonstrate and communicate exemplary stewardship of the land to its regional neighbors? How can the Center encourage users of the lake (communities both upstream and downstream) to be involved in the stewardship of the lake?

Understanding that they must plan for potential futures, how can managers of the Center anticipate changes in droughts and floods (and subsequent changes to vegetation and wildlife) that might result from global climate change, and how might stormwater management, capture, and reuse help create a more Resilient ecosystem? How can stormwater features best be designed and managed so as to maintain the capacity to accommodate especially major storms while not appearing out of proportion the rest of the time? 3. IDENTIFY SPECIFIC PROJECTS AND GOALS Projects related to stormwater might include: • Stormwater management plan, including possible rain gardens. • Reduction in total impervious surface area and reduction in mown lawn.

Rain gardens are aesthetic and functional.

Permeable pavers allow stormwater to be absorbed by the ground.


sand also applied could be contributing to sedimentation of the waterways on the site and off.

1. IDENTIFY A SPECIFIC LANDSCAPE SITUATION Landscape maintenance goes beyond gardens, plants, and people; it has implications for soil, habitat, and water health. Regular mowing can arrest the reestablishment of woods in New England, for example, while appropriate forestry techniques and the control of invasive plant species can help regenerate woods. Landscape maintenance can affect wildlife by providing or diminishing habitat quality and food availability. As with landscape design decisions, landscape maintenance should be grounded on master principles to fundamentally support Kripalu’s mission.

The Kripalu grounds crew consists of one full-time employee, assisted by one part-time employee and a small group of volunteers on a four-month rotation. Many volunteers have no experience in grounds maintenance and much staff time and energy goes into instruction. While the experience is an opportunity for volunteers to gain practical skills and learn humility in the face of nature’s variability, the reliance on volunteers may hinder Kripalu from moving beyond basic maintenance and completing additional landscape projects because some landscape activities might be best suited for skilled labor over a longer period of time.Tree pruning, for example, is a long-term commitment and relationship with a tree. It is best done with an understanding of the growth habit of the plant, and with a strategy that is implemented over many years.

Currently, Kripalu maintains forty acres of mown lawn. Though many assume that Kripalu uses herbicides and fertilizers and irrigates its extensive lawn, the Center limits the use of any chemicals on the grounds to a few localized treatments of poison ivy, and irrigation is limited to new plantings. This is a positive approach to land care; it protects the environment and the people using and working on the grounds. However, noisy, gas-consuming lawn mowers and other motorized equipment are used, operating for approximately 40 hours per week. If more people are encouraged to spend time outdoors at Kripalu, to commune with nature and participate in outdoor classes, conflicts may arise with particular land management practices, such as the use of noisy equipment. Other maintenance techniques may be more in conflict with the environment. The salt spread in the winter months to ensure safe travel for guests and staff is suspected of causing the decline of the sugar maples along the East Drive, and the 50


Moose (Kevin Foran)


2. REVIEW WITH THE MASTER PRINCIPLES How can the Center continue to offer rich programs and activities, or expand and improve its programming, without diminishing the health and welfare of its larger environment, of its human and non-human neighbors? The principles of Mutualism, Alignment, and Authenticity suggest that guests benefit from interactions with the natural world, and that these relationships should be strengthened. However, what are the consequences

of current lawn management practices? And how much lawn is the right amount? Expansive lawns preserve long views, create spaces for classes and other large outdoor gatherings. But sloping lawns are almost as impervious to stormwater infiltration as are paved roads and runoff can contribute to the eutrophication of the lake and sedimentation-loading in watercourses, affecting river quality downstream of the Kripalu Center. Following the principle of Mutualism, what alternatives to traditional lawn grasses might allow both aesthetic and functional needs of people and ecosystem needs to be met? If both the needs of people and ecosystems cannot be met, which should take precedence, and when? Having volunteers serve on maintenance crews gives the participants an opportunity to engage with the landscape and learn with others about natural processes, in accordance with the principle of Awareness. The practice may, however, undermine long-term efforts to manage the property sustainably if volunteers act on their individual aesthetic preferences (for a “tidy” appearance, for example) in such a way that conflicts with ecosystem needs. (Dead wood and leaves, for example, when left on the ground support the cycling of nutrients back into the soil and support a greater diversity of species.) How can guidance best be given to volunteers so they act in accordance with broader institutional goals, such as the principle of Resilience? Are there ways that volunteers

can be engaged productively studying the landscape as it evolves, feeding their findings into management and other land-use decisions, following the principle of Flexibility—for example, researching when trees leaf out or drop their leaves, or monitoring water quality in streams, wetlands, and other watercourses? 3. IDENTIFY SPECIFIC PROJECTS AND GOALS Projects related to maintenance might include: • Programs for guests and other volunteers to participate in meaningful long-term studies of the landscape of the Center and its region. • Study of lawn alternatives and their effects on stormwater, wildlife habitat, human uses, and outdoor spaces, and alternatives to gas-powered maintenance equipment. • Study of the implications of directing more financial and human resources to maintenance.

Standing dead wood and leaf litter support a diverse ecosystem in nature. 51

The greatest use of life is to spend it for something that will outlast it. —William James


Resilience “Resilience is rooted in a tenacity of spirit—a determination to embrace all that makes life worth living even in the face of overwhelming odds. When we have a clear sense of identity and purpose, we are more resilient, because we can hold fast to our vision of a better future”. —Wisdom Commons A reflection on the principle of Resilience serves as a conclusion for the Landscape Resilience at Kripalu document. Natural systems, ecological concepts, holism and yogic philosophy guide the principles; resilience of the human spirit is the backbone of Kripalu’s holistic programs. In biological terms, resilience is the goal of all natural systems, so they may perpetuate themselves into the future. Successful species adapt in response to changes within their ecosystem, and flexibility and diversity within an ecosystem community help maintain resilience. Ecosystems overlap perpetually, obscuring any definitive boundaries. In essence, many elements make up one global system, a community in which people are an inseparable part. The holistic programs at Kripalu provide guests with a whole systems point of view, a way of thinking that is central to Kripalu. Translating the whole systems approach into a decision-making and evaluation process for implementing the Master Facilities Plan is a natural evolution for Kripalu stakeholders. Kripalu has demonstrated resilience as an institution since its inception. The Center has adapted to societal and economic 54


changes, with the enduring strength of its community’s core values. Kripalu’s education programs uphold an awareness of universal oneness, which can be likened to interdependence or interconnectedness. As a holistic education center that hosts thousands of guests annually, Kripalu has an opportunity to lead and teach through example by living an ecologically balanced existence. As Kripalu moves forward with the implementation of the Master Facilities Plan, the need for adaptive planning in response to ongoing changes on the land and in the region will generate a perpetual state of change in the questions that Kripalu and its collaborators ask themselves over time. New principles will likely be added as Kripalu stakeholders explore whole systems thinking and other philosophies that align with the Center’s holistic studies and core values. Potential solutions derived from the process of evaluating the Kripalu property through the lens of the principles will constantly be fed back through the loop of questions and overarching concepts of sustainability. As one solution is implemented, its impact on other aspects of the land will constantly need to be evaluated.

The Center for Ecoliteracy provides an interesting perspective on the concept of principles that helps articulate how the proposed principles and processes in this document are interconnected: “You can abstract certain principles of organization and call them the principles of ecology. You will see that whenever you formalize it and say, ‘This is a key principle, and this is a key principle,’ you don’t really know where to start, because they all hang together. You have to understand all of them at the same time.” —Fritjof Capra


NEXT STEPS This document represents the beginning of a collective dialogue that has no end. As with the evolution of the earth over geological time and the continuum of life on earth, humankind will constantly seek a deeper understanding of our presence and purpose on the planet. We will convene and dream, evolve and grow, form communities and bonds, some that perpetuate life and some that hinder it. Adaptations to our systems, political, natural, and societal, will constantly evolve, and some questions will never be fully answered. Kripalu will continue to provide answers for their many seekers and seek answers to their own questions and systems for living a sustainable existence in their community and on their land. The truth of the land will remain a constant foundation for the Center and the region and act as a guide. Environmental challenges of our lifetime will pose challenges that require collective action across many scales on the site, in the neighborhood and within the larger region. A proposed reading list is included at the back of the document and a list of resources is provided for further exploration as the Master Planning process begins in the spring of 2011.



ADDITIONAL READING AND RESOURCES The Resilience Alliance, is a research organization composed of scientists and practitioners from many disciplines who collaborate to explore the dynamics of social-ecological systems. The body of knowledge developed by the RA encompasses key concepts of resilience, adaptability, and transformability and provides a foundation for sustainable development policy and practice. • “Ecology and Society”, is a journal of integrative science for resilience and sustainability published by the Resilience Alliance, The Center for Ecoliteracy,, was cofounded by Fritjof Capra, physicist and systems thinker; Peter Buckley, former CEO of Esprit International and environmental philanthropist; and Zenobia Barlow, now its executive director. It is located in the award-winning David Brower Center, a home for environmental and social action in Berkeley, California. The Center’s website offers hundreds of downloadable resource materials, including practical guides, essays by leading writers and experts, and inspiring stories of school communities and organizations across the country that are engaged in this vital work. • Systems Thinking, One lesson that nature teaches is that everything in the world is connected to other things. As John Muir famously wrote, “When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.” A system is a set of interrelated

elements that make a unified whole. Individual things— like plants, people, schools, watersheds, or economies— are themselves systems and at the same time cannot be fully understood apart from the larger systems in which they exist. • Ecological Principles, “Creating communities that are compatible with nature’s processes for sustaining life requires basic ecological knowledge.” Hannover Principles, Triangle of Sustainability, Encyclopedia of Earth, http://www. eoear ticle/Economic,_social,_and_environmental_ elements_of_development Resources on Climate Change and Environmental Challenges: • The Union of Concerned Scientists, Citizens and Scientists for Environmental Solutions, http://www.ucsusa. org/global_warming/ • National Park Service, Denver Service Center: Guiding Principles for Sustainable Design, dsc/d_publications/d_1_gpsd_1_ch1.htm • Global Footprint Network,http://www.footprintnetwork. org/en/index.php/GFN/ • MIT Global Change Program, edu/resources/climate-faq.html. The website provides a comprehensive list of resources for the study of climate change. 57

There are many sources of helpful and reliable information on the basic facts about global warming and climate change available on the Internet. Learning guides intended for the general public and students of all ages are compiled on several recommended websites, along with collections of answers to “Frequently Asked Questions” about climate. The following are a few suggestions for good places to start. • U.S. National Academy of Sciences — Science Museum: Global Warming Facts and Our Future • U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA): Understanding Climate - Fact Sheets, and Global Warming FAQs • U.S. National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR): Weather and Climate Basics • American Institute of Physics: The Discovery of Global Warming • U.S. Global Change Research Information Office: Ask Dr. Global Change • The Encyclopedia of Earth: Climate Change FAQs • Pew Center on Global Climate Change: Global Warming Basics • Oxford University:The basics of climate prediction



Association for the study of Peak Oil and Gas (ASPO), http://, is a network of scientists, affiliated with institutions and universities, with an interest in determining the date and impact of the peak and decline of the world’s production of oil and gas, due to resource constraints. The United Nations World Water Development Report, • The World Water Assessment Programme (WWAP), founded in 2000, is the flagship programme of UNWater. Housed in UNESCO, WWAP monitors freshwater issues in order to provide recommendations, develop case studies, enhance assessment capacity at a national level and inform the decision-making process. Its primary product, the World Water Development Report (WWDR), is a periodic, comprehensive review providing an authoritative picture of the state of the world’s freshwater resources.

REFERENCES Appalachian Mountain Club. Viewed February 2011. http://www.outdoors. org/

Keim, Barry. “Current Climate of the New England Region.” New England Regional Assessment. June 1999.

Art, H.W., “Eutrophication,” Dictionary of Ecology and Environmental Science (1st ed.): New York, New York, Henry Holt and Company, 1993.

Kirby, Ed. Exploring the Berkshire Hills, A Guide to Geology and Early Industry in the Upper Housatonic Watershed. Valley Geology Publications, Greenfield, MA, 1995.

Art, H.W., “Natural History of the Berkshires”. Williams Digital Collection. Viewed February 2011.

Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health. Viewed March 2011.

Berkshire Natural Resource Council. Viewed on February 2011. http://www.

Massachusetts Audubon Society. Viewed February 2011.

Berkshire Planning Commission. Berkshire Regional Plan, 2000.

National Heritage Endangered Species Program. “Massachusetts List of Endangered, Threatened and Special Concern Species.”U.S. Department of Fish and Game. August, 2008. species_info/mesa_list/mesa_list.htm#two

Bickelhaupt , D.“Soil pH: What it means.” State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry. Syracuse, NY, 2011. http:// BioMap2, Conserving the Biodiversity of Massachusetts in a Changing World. Massachusetts Department of Fish & Game and the Nature Conservancy, 2010. Center for Ecoliteracy. Viewed March 2011 Department of Conservation and Recreation. Department webpage. Viewed February 2011. Environmental Protection Agency. “Climate Change, Health and Environmental Effect, Water Resources.” effects/water/ Environmental Protection Agency. “Greening EPA, Stormwater Management.” Environmental Protection Agency. Wetlands Overview. Last updated March 10, 2011. Executive Office of Environmental Affairs. Housatonic River: 5 Year Watershed Action Plan, 2002-2007. Boston, MA. June 2003. Foster, Donahue, Kittredge, Lambert, Hunter, Hall, etc. Woodlands and Wildlands, A Vision for the New England Landscape. Harvard Forest, Harvard University, Petersham, MA, 2010. Housatonic Valley Association, “The Housatonic Greenway in Massachusetts.” Massachusetts Department of Environmental Management Greenways and Trails Demonstration Grants Program, 1999.

Nutley, Richmond. The Berkshire Reader, Writings From New England’s Secluded Paradise. Berkshire House Publishers,1992. Scanu, Richard. Soil Survey of Berkshire County Massachusetts. United States Department of Agriculture, Soil Conservation Service, Massachusetts Agricultural Experiment Station, 1988. Simcox, Alison. Water Resources of Massachusetts, U.S. Geological Survey, Water-Resources Investigations Report 90-4144. U.S. Department of the Interior, Boston, MA, 1992. Smuts, J.. Holism & Evolution. Macmillan And Company Limited. 1927 Stockbridge Bowl Association. “Did You Know.” Viewed March 2011. Town of Lenox. Town webpage. Viewed February 2011. http://www. Town of Stockbridge. Town webpage. Viewed February 2011. http://www. Walker, D.L. Jr.. Site Planning Considerations – Desired Slopes. Conway School of Landscape Design. Weatherbee, Pamela. Flora of Berkshire County Massachusetts, The Berkshire Museum and the Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program. The Studley Press, Inc., Dalton, MA, 1996.

International Sonoran Desert Alliance. Viewed April 2011, Viewed March 2011

Kearsley, J. and Swain, P.. “Classification of the Natural Communities of Massachusetts.” NHESP MA Division of Fish and Wildlife DRAFT, 2001, ver.1.3. Viewed March 2011


In pursuit of a sustainable future at Kripalu, Land Resilience presents a methodology and a set a principles to guide the Center in land use planning, design, and stewardship that strive toward long-term health and vitality of the landscape surrounding Kripalu.

The Conway School of Landscape Design is the only institution of its kind in North America. Its focus is sustainable landscape planning and design. Each year, through its accredited, ten-month graduate program just eighteen to nineteen students from diverse backgrounds are immersed in a range of applied landscape studies, ranging in scale from residences to regions. Graduates go on to play significant professional roles in various aspects of landscape planning and design.

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