Last month, while many students were concluding their semesters with final exams and projects, seven landscape architecture students finished one of their classes by presenting designs for one of the most important aspects of Verdant Temple—the university’s master landscape plan.
The students, led by Baldev Lamba, chair of the university’s landscape architecture and horticulture programs, revealed their ideas for the central quad: a massive green space that will encompass the area of Beury Hall and the Bio-Life Sciences building next to the Bell Tower.
Lamba said the course was part of a large student and faculty collaboration to determine what the quad should look like, and credited University Architect Margaret Carney for bringing together different areas of study into the project.
“Margaret Carney is a person who likes to bring these disciplines together,” he said. “It was her vision that we can let engineers and landscape architects work together on this project.”
Lamba’s students were tasked with designing the new quad in a span of eight weeks, he said. After conducting a field visit to Main Campus in mid-October with Carney—his students are based at Ambler Campus—they completed their renderings in early December and showed them to Skip Graffam and Hallie Boyce, both partners at the OLIN Studio, a landscape architecture firm located near Independence Hall.
Carney said the field visit occurred during Parents & Family Weekend, which involved use of much of the area around the Bell Tower. The influx of people showed how important the new central quad will be, she added.
“When you see that space occupied by something like that, I think it really emphasized the need for more open space,” Carney said. “Not only is there not another place for other events, but there isn’t another space for everyday people to walk through.”
Both Baldev and Carney said the project is still in preliminary stages and much more collaboration will be needed before a final program is revealed.
A university spokesman said there isn’t a clear timeline yet concerning the central quad’s development. The Temple News previously reported in 2014 that an interdisciplinary science building will need to be built at 12th and Norris streets to support students and faculty who will be displaced when Beury Hall and the Bio-Life Sciences building are demolished.
The spokesman added university officials are still looking into options regarding the new building, which needs to comply with Visualize Temple, the university’s master construction plan.
Despite the project being in the initial stage, Lamba and Carney said students have examined several factors that will influence the quad’s design, from stormwater management to how greenery will be used to the actual area’s topography.
Lamba said even though his students all had different designs, one area of the quad remained mostly the same: the middle.
“There was a general sense that there needs to be a substantial open space in the middle of this quad, surrounded by a smaller scale of spaces,” he said. “That was a pretty common strategy, not only for this project, but if you look at any park design or public space, you will see that.”
Another element most of Lamba’s students incorporated was water running through the quad. Carney said a fountain could be placed somewhere in the space to follow the pattern of other parks in Philadelphia, like Rittenhouse and Washington squares.
Although she doesn’t see many challenges with designing the space, Carney said the cost of the project, from startup to maintenance, is being thoroughly considered in planning.
“There’s such a wide range of [cost] depending on the ideas and what we do with the space … but you always have to consider this is a long-term investment … so investing in a space that will likely become the iconic symbol of the university is worth the investment.”
Steve Bohnel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Steve_Bohnel