Copley Wolff’s Upgrades Will Have the Professors Asking ‘Can we Have Class Outside?’ Even in the City!

Danna Day

Danna Day

by Danna Day

Copley Wolff Design Group (CWDG) has been leading a movement on higher education campuses to connect the interior to the exterior and has been creating environments outside the classroom not only for additional educational opportunities, but also for social and recreational use.

“We are focusing on creating enriching open spaces for the students,” says Sean Sanger, ASLA, LEED AP BD+C, principal. “These higher education institutions have made great renovations and upgrades to their interior spaces, and we are using our expertise to help connect the entire campus, inside and out.”

The University of Connecticut (UConn) in Storrs, Conn., has utilized CWDG on several projects, most recently on the Sundial Plaza and Business School Quad, both located on the Storrs’ campus. For each of these projects, pedestrian circulation was a key objective for CWDG, alongside integrated stormwater solutions and general refurbishment. 

For both of these projects, pathways were designed to utilize permeable precast pavers, allowing stormwater to be captured locally rather than piped off campus. Three rain gardens were created to visually express the stormwater solutions within the designs.

The Sundial Plaza, located on the main axis between the Benton Art Museum and Student Union Terrace, was repositioned to be elevated on a multi-tiered granite base for prominence and seating, and is located among circular granite seat walls for increased gathering space. CWDG utilized a high-end turf soil mix to allow the lawn adjacent to the Student Union Terrace to be more tolerant of heavy pedestrian and special event usage, and unified the entirety of the axis through trees, shrubs, perennials, and ornamental grasses.

The Business School Quad is the second largest open space on the UConn campus and necessitated CWDG incorporating separate pedestrian and vehicular/service areas into its designs. In creating a designated service drive with loading zones and accessible parking spaces, CWDG ensured that the rest of the quad remained free of vehicles. Notably, this allowed for a new tree-lined pedestrian walkway to be created, serving as the university’s processional for graduation ceremonies.

CWDG also has several projects under way on Boston University’s (BU) tight urban campus. CWDG has been working on a pocket park for Myles Standish Hall, as well as streetscapes and pocket parks for the new Center for Integrated Life Sciences and Engineering (CILSE). Outdoor space is a premium on campus, and CWDG is often required to make the most of small, irregular pieces of land or oddly shaped lots.
“Our main goals were to create hangout spots for the students and faculty that are also safe,” shared James "Jim" Heroux, ASLA, senior landscape architect. “These projects allow us to play a part in impacting the changing landscape of BU’s campus while remaining sensitive to human interaction, the neighborhood, and its place in the overall cityscape.”
The pocket park at Myles Standish Hall was created at the intersection of Beacon Street and Bay State Road. Previously a triangular paved lot, CWDG utilized granite seating and new lighting while incorporating the design details from Phase 1 of the Commonwealth Avenue Upgrade to connect the student lounge to the outdoors. Key to the design but unseen to those using the space, the park serves as a recharge station for the roof water of Myles Standish Hall and the groundwater from the pavement of the pocket part through a series of injection wells.
Just down the street from Myles Standish Hall, work at the CILSE includes a pocket park utilizing custom overscaled pavers to create a continuation from the interior of the connecting buildings. Improvements also include LED lighting and trees, to create a safe but enjoyable greenspace. This space will be used for breaks for the researchers, as well as for special events for both CILSE and the historic Morse Auditorium.

Danna Day is director of marketing for Copley Wolff Design Group.