Starting this summer, construction on one of the two main walkways on Main Campus will mark the beginning of a major landscaping plan throughout the university.
At a March 11 meeting, the Board of Trustees approved the allocation of up to $2 million for a landscape project involving Liacouras Walk and Wachman Plaza. University Architect Margaret Carney said the money will be drawn from the Plant Development Fund, an annually replenished pool of money allocated to address infrastructure projects.
James Templeton, Temple’s director of architectural services, said the fund is mostly used for exterior projects, but also occasionally for interior improvements, like ceiling repairs, window replacements and lobby refurbishments.
Concerning the current project involving Liacouras Walk and Wachman Plaza, Carney said this plan is the “pilot project” of a major landscaping plan that the university is unveiling in a few weeks.
“It’s definitely, for one, about beautification,” Carney said of the current project. “We definitely want to make it a better experience to walk on the paths around campus … it’s also about giving people better clues as to where they’re supposed to go, so landscapes around building entrances … we want to use it to give people more clarity for where they’re going.”
Carney added that one of the key aspects of the plan is replacing the walkways with pervious pavement, which would improve drainage from rain. Templeton said another issue is a lack of unity throughout the major walkways on Main Campus. The inconsistencies range from 10 to 15 different paving standards and 25 different types of light fixtures, he said.
“This is the first attempt to try to unify everything, and make standards for the rest of the university,” Templeton said.
In order to combat this issue – along with general collaboration on the project – Temple has partnered with LRSLAstudio, a landscape architectural firm located at 230 S. Broad St.
The planning for work on Liacouras Walk and Wachman Plaza has taken nearly two years, Carney said. Karen Skafte, a principal at LRSLAstudio, said one of the challenges is working with the Philadelphia Water Department to ensure the plan meets regulations.
“It’s tricky, they have a longer approvals process than the actual process we’re trying to work to,” Skafte said. “We have been communicating with them on a regular basis, trying to get them to agree to facilitate and expedite some of the approvals that we need … it’s a very tricky site to manage all the stormwater, because of utilities [underground].”
Besides sustainability, all three partners said an important part of the plan is creating better social spaces for students, teachers and others who walk through Main Campus.
“We’re creating these lawn and grass areas, [almost like] a mini-quad,” Templeton said. “Think of it like a precursor to the bigger quad that will come later … we do have a lot of green [space] on this campus, but some of it is just leftover green, it’s not like it’s been designed … this [plan] is going to really clean up the space … and make it very inviting.”
Due to the expected addition of 26 new classrooms in Wachman Hall for the Fall 2015 semester, the adjoining plaza was included in the plan, Carney said. Increased traffic flow in the area will require it to not only be more beautiful, but also more efficient, she said.
Another spot that will be changed is 1810 Liacouras Walk, the Student Health Services building south of Wachman Plaza. Skafte said the building’s front doors will be consolidated into two main entrances, and that tables, chairs and greenery will be added nearby to make the space a “little more human scale.”
Most of the construction will be completed by the start of the fall semester, Templeton said. Wachman Plaza will take until about October because the team needs to wait until the building renovation is done, he added.
Carney said she hopes that by that time, people will take pride in the team’s plan.
“When people walk through here, I want them to come in and say, ‘This feels right, like it always should’ve been,’” she said. “But also [for them] to be inspired by it, to have it be a surprise so that when they go back to it everyday, it just feels fresh.”
Steve Bohnel can be reached at email@example.com, 215.204.7419 or on Twitter @Steve_Bohnel.