Verdant Temple plan focuses on greenery, lighting, central quad

Even though new buildings have been constructed and several others have been renovated as part of the university’s Visualize Temple initiative on Main Campus, Margaret Carney knew the redesign of the campus wasn’t complete.

“When I looked around after the [Science Education and Research Center] was finished and some of these other projects were done, what was really not here was that connective tissue that pulled all the buildings together,” Carney said. “Every building was going to look ad hoc until we really pulled them all together.”

That “connective tissue” was revealed Oct. 30 in the university’s master landscape plan, Verdant Temple. The plan is a comprehensive account of how Temple will redesign major walkways and landscaping areas throughout Main Campus over the next couple of years, which includes a new quad north of the Bell Tower, stretching to Norris Street.

Carney, the university architect, said drafting Verdant Temple began before Visualize Temple, and cost about $800,000. In addition to beautifying the campus, it seeks to fix utility lines, improve the quality of lighting on campus and add signage to make moving between locations easier.

The “tipping point” of starting the plan, however, was improving stormwater management, Carney said.

“We have combined sewers where wastewater and stormwater are all going into the same sewer system, and as development continues up here, there are more people, so there’s more waste going into those lines,” she said. “The system eventually is not going to be able to hold all of that, so that’s a health issue. That’d be a disaster.”

Along with improving all the technical problems on campus, Carney said the new quad, bordered by Liacouras Walk to the south, Norris Street to the north, 13th Street to the west and 12th Street to the east will be a key addition to campus.

Baldev Lamba, chair of the university’s landscape architecture and horticulture programs, said he is the lead instructor in a studio class responsible for creating designs for the new quad. He added he and his eight students are scheduled to make final presentations of their designs Dec. 11.

Lamba said the importance of the quad is not only bringing people together in a central place, but also re-thinking how to renovate an urban college campus.

“The normal process is that we take green spaces and put buildings in them,” he said. “Here, we are doing the reverse—we are taking out buildings and putting a green space back in there. I see that as turning back the clock.”

Recently, a part of Verdant Temple was completed as construction was finalized on Liacouras Walk between Alter and Wachman halls, Carney said. The project included installing a new walkway, lighting and mini green-spaces, and is a microcosm of the entire plan, she added.

“We picked that space because it was so harsh. It was all concrete,” she said. “The only green space in there were those three or four potted plants right down the middle, which was pretty sad.”

Finding unexpected obstacles underground caused delays in the project, from finding an old water tank to steam lines in poor condition, Carney said. She added while this may be an issue when other areas are excavated, even the most meticulous preparation can not prevent surprises.

“You just have to have a contingency in the budget to cover everything you think you might run into,” she said. “If something in a drawing wasn’t built the way it was drawn … it changes everything in the design.”

In terms of the total cost of the plan heading forward, Carney said the university could easily spend at least $50 million on Verdant Temple. Much of that is making long-term investments to ensure repairs are more cost-efficient and that Temple will look beautiful for several years, she added.

“Money and cost is always a huge influence on the decisions we make,” she said. “Long-term benefit from a cost standpoint is really important to us as an institution, so making that capital investment now to save us money in the long-term is a worthwhile investment.”

Steve Bohnel can be reached at steve.bohnel@temple.edu or on Twitter @Steve_Bohnel.

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