URI landscape architecture students propose plans for redesign of Bay Campus, East Farm

KINGSTON, R.I. – December 8, 2010 – Undergraduate students studying landscape architecture at the University of Rhode Island have spent the semester preparing new landscape designs for the University’s Bay Campus in Narragansett and elements of East Farm in Kingston.

Ten students in Professor Will Green’s senior-level sustainable design studio were divided into two groups and asked to come up with a vision for a sustainable Bay Campus after the construction of a new building left an unattractive quadrangle in the middle of campus.

“The Bay Campus is a complex site to design,” said Green. “It has historic elements, the water’s edge, a public road through the middle, limited parking and an array of uses. The students had to deal with issues related to energy, storm water management, and navigation around a campus where it’s hard to even know where the campus begins.”

The students held a workshop earlier in the semester with Bay Campus stakeholders to get their ideas and input. That was followed up with a design charette involving three alumni of URI’s landscape architecture program to help the students begin the design process.

The pressure on the students to be creative grew in mid-November when they learned that last year’s class had been recognized by the Rhode Island chapter of the American Planning Association for its project to design the landscape around a proposed charter school at URI’s W. Alton Jones campus in West Greenwich.

The final Bay Campus plans prepared by the student teams will be submitted in late December, and the campus stakeholders will then decide which elements they like best and how to proceed.

While the seniors were redesigning the Bay Campus, Professor Richard Sheridan’s junior-level students tackled a design for the new headquarters of the Rhode Island Nursery and Landscape Association, which is located on URI’s East Farm in Kingston.

“For these students, it was their first real design class and their first opportunity to focus on outreach to the community,” said Sheridan. “They loved the opportunity to work with a real client for the first time.”

But it wasn’t easy, because East Farm is home to a diverse array of research groups with varying missions – from fisheries to gardening. The students had to provide links from the Association’s building to the adjacent orchards, greenhouses and Master Gardener facility while developing habitat for wildlife, using native plants and addressing parking issues.

“We requested that students help to make our office landscape be a reflection of what our organization does and also demonstrate the significance and importance of what our members do in agriculture and in caring for the environment around them,” said Shannon Brawley, executive director of the Nursery and Landscape Association. “We were so impressed by the professionalism and respectful way Richard Sheridan and his students approached their work. The quality demonstrated in each design presentation was superior.”

“The students’ biggest challenge was realizing that this was a multi-level project that ultimately has significant ramifications on people’s lives,” Sheridan said. “It’s not enough to create a lovely spot. It’s also about solving problems of rainwater, invasive species, circulation and movement of vehicles and pedestrians around the facility.”

The 19 student designs will be put on display at the association’s January 25-26 winter meeting for its members to view and discuss.