Realigned: How to ‘Move’ Architecture with Landscape Design
Historic campus quads require careful and often subtle design responses to balance heritage with contemporary demands. Earlier this fall, we completed a careful landscape ‘edit’ to the University of Chicago’s Harper Quad, a historic quad south of the main quad that features Harper Library as its anchor. The project was part of a larger effort to redesign the entire area’s walkways to be more pedestrian-friendly. During the design process, we discovered something surprising – the library wasn’t built on axis with the center of the main quad.
Maybe something was changed in process of building it (the building it not entirely symmetrical). Whatever the reason, since the building was placed at that spot in 1912, no amount of “might” can shift it a few yards to the west.
Instead, we applied some “mischief” by tricking the on-looker’s eye into seeing Harper Quad as aligned. To do this we raised the elevation of the Quad’s center and offset the pathways that spread out from that elevated center point, as demonstrated in this overlay sketch.
A well-placed evergreen hedge and a “pinwheel-like” array of 4 pathways reconciles the alignments from the three existing buildings with the main quad axis.
The raised elevation and hedge help obscure the pathway that aligns with the center doors of Harper Library. The existing light posts sustain the main Quad axis and enhance the strong flow south from the Main Quad.
Like the first phase of this project, which you can read about in an earlier post, this project utilized permeable concrete panels and limestone pavers to enhance the historic feel of the landscape while introducing sustainable components.