Project Spotlight: University of Rochester Science & Engineering Quad
This month’s project spotlight on the University of Rochester Science and Engineering Quad was written by Associate Principal Carl Frushour.
We were one of four teams invited to participate in a design competition for the University of Rochester. The goal of the competition was to design a welcoming, accessible, and flexible use campus quadrangle. Other specific project goals included: eliminate Hutchison Road to provide safe and accessible routes; preserve a beloved mature London Planetree on campus; create a dedication plaza and location for a donor sign; showcase sustainable design by relocating the existing rain garden to increase visibility and students’ interaction. After a rigorous competition, our team was selected to create a new 4.5-acre quadrangle to become the heart of the Science and Engineering Schools.
Our design vision was a generous flexible space with active central lawn bounded by accessible pedestrian circulation and inviting gathering nodes. This was realized through reimagining and reshaping several of the existing constraining elements listed above.
The client’s desire to remove Hutchison Road was the result of three driving factors: Hundreds of students were forced to cross Hutchison Road on their way to the Science and Engineering Building classrooms; construction of the new Data Science Building would create and complete the southern edge of the new quad; and a design and planning philosophy to remove vehicular traffic from the core campus and student occupied areas. By eliminating Hutchison Road the design was able to create safe accessible routes from the core campus’ Eastman Quad to buildings surrounding the Science and Engineering Quad along with a variety of outdoor spaces for student gatherings and events.
BEFORE & AFTER COMPARISONS:
Our solution for creating universal accessibility at the eastern edge of the quadrangle was balanced with the team’s collective desire to preserve a beloved, signature London Planetree. Saving the Planetree as well as providing a new accessible route to Hutchison Hall and library required continuous supervision by the project arborist, while air spading and root pruning were used to identify primary and secondary roots to protect the tree during construction. These roots were digitally cataloged to coordinate the surgically placed micropiles which would support the cantilever pedestrian bridge. The resulting design is a gently curving, cantilevered walkway and stone retaining walls, supported by a series of piers and grade beams allowing for the preservation of the tree’s entire root system. This creates a dramatic new overlook that reflects its proximity to the nearby Genesee River and provides the perfect location for an elegant donor sign seamlessly integrated into the landscape.
The design relocated and converted the existing overgrown and partially functioning stormwater basin into a new rain garden adjacent to the primary circulation path in order to increase sustainable design awareness among the students and staff, open up space to accommodate program requirements of the University, and to improve accessible connectivity throughout the quad. Relocating the existing rain garden required working with the project MEP to calculate the proper storage capacity of the new rain garden which receives stormwater from roof leaders of the adjacent Georgen Hall as well as adjacent lawn and hardscape areas. By doing this, we were able to enhance the rain garden’s functionality and transform it into a celebrated and educational feature on campus. The relocation of the rain garden also created a more continuous lawn area and opened accessible connections. Universal accessibility is achieved by crossing walks along a large multi-use lawn space.
BEFORE & AFTER COMPARISONS:
The overall design successfully clarifies circulation throughout the quadrangle and provides interest and activity at its edges, including a south-facing “front porch” adjacent to the glass façade of the new data sciences building. Today, the quadrangle accommodates formal student activities for UR’s Meliora Weekend, Dandelion Day, Earth Day and Commencement as well as informal activities and learning throughout the year.