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Hughes, Good, O'Leary & Ryan

The Campus Plan for Emory University, written in April 1998, is a comprehensive plan that is the result of over one hundred meetings with more than 1,100 people including Emory faculty, staff, alumni, students, county officials and neighborhood groups. Conducted over a two-year period, a team of consultants led by Ayers Saint Gross Architects analyzed the campus, identified core challenges, constructed a conceptual plan and explored precinct studies. The resulting Campus Plan builds upon core principals to create a walking campus through the incremental infill of buildings and establishes a new interconnected sequence of open spaces, paths, quadrangles, edge treatments and sacred spaces.

The foundation of work done by the team of consultants, including the Landscape Architecture firms of Michael Vergason and Hughes, Good O’Leary and Ryan, was based on an analysis of precedents, place and program. Universities with similar landmasses and professional schools provided valuable examples of comprehensive solutions to infrastructure issues such as storm water management, utilities, parking, traffic integration and the development of a walking campus. Emory’s goal of creating a physical environment that fosters the intellectual community lies at the heart of this aspect of the Campus Plan.

Formerly a busy vehicular street through the center of the Emory Campus.

In conjunction with the analysis of place, a study of open space occurred. Formal and informal spaces and sacred places were defined and explored. Furthermore, the pedestrian circulation patterns were scrutinized with special attention to existing destinations, barriers and the hierarchy of pathways. It was determined that although the Emory Campus is compact, it is not well connected nor are the boundaries well defined. The core pedestrian corridors leading from one destination to another were inconsistently adequate and lacked a hierarchy appropriate to their level of use. The presence of interior roads was also identified as an especially undesirable barrier to pedestrian circulation and bicycle traffic. Additionally, it was concluded that unlike the quadrangle, many of the existing open spaces were merely leftover spaces occurring between buildings and appeared to be unintentional and isolated. These discontinuities within the physical plan lay in stark contrast to Emory’s academic interdisciplinary connectedness.

The research phase of the Campus Plan resulted in an overwhelmingly clear goal: to make the whole of the Emory campus greater than the sum of its parts. A set of seven Guiding Principles was established in order to inform future planning decisions:

Asbury Circle is now a safe pedestrian corridor with access restricted to shuttle buses only.

1. The connection of disparate segments of the University together through a network of outdoor spaces shall form an Intellectual Community.

2. A Walking Campus shall be established by restricting vehicular traffic to the periphery of campus and reclaiming surface parking lots for restoration into open spaces.

3. Centers and Edges shall be designed to encourage an inward focus on education and an outward focus on community.

4. An Emory Based Language shall inform future Emory building and grounds design, in a fashion that communicates respect for Emory’s history, dignity and elegant simplicity.

5. Sacred Spaces including extensive stands of mature trees and creeks shall be protected.

6. Enlightened Frugality ensures that all dollars spent on the Campus Plan must support its academic mission, with nothing being considered in isolation.

7. Sustained Implementation requires that all future decisions pertaining to the physical development of the physical plan be derived from the guiding principles and conceptual design that derive from the Campus Master Planning process.

Awarded the ASLA Honor Award for its design, the North Kilgo project uniquely demonstrates the efforts of the master plan team's goals for the University.

From the research and findings of the Campus Plan, the Emory University Campus Design Guidelines were established. Ayers Saint Gross, Michael Vergason, Hughes, Good O’Leary and Ryan and the consultant team created a manual outlining the seven principles set forth by the Campus Master Plan supporting it with a course of action that enables designers to accomplish the goals and challenges being placed before them. The guidelines are not meant to limit creativity, but rather to establish a flexible framework that respects Emory’s past and addresses it’s current and future challenges. In essence, this manual has become a guideline of design do’s and don’ts for Emory staff, as well as the many design consultants hired by Emory every year. It communicates a detailed means to an end for successful compliance with the Campus Plan.

Additionally, an assessment of the existing conditions of open space design components was offered in an effort to foster an understanding of the guidelines’ specific physical goals. The areas assessed include pavement, gates and walls, site equipment, lighting and planting. In response to each assessment a recommendation was made and illustrated graphically. This information provides the designer with basic standards that in turn support the seven principles set forth by the Campus Plan, assuring unity and coherence to a space that is being developed or restored as a part of the whole that is Emory University.

The parking area was removed and replaced with a pedestrian walkway, a revitalized landscape, and a plaza of brick pavement.

The team’s assessment of existing paved surfaces within the Emory campus showed an inconsistent use of materials and patterns, as well as an absence of trees within paved areas. The consultant team concluded that the improvement of paved surfaces might be the most effective strategy to improve the unity, identity and quality of the Emory campus. Design goals include limiting asphalt, creating wide, brick sidewalks, lining walkways with trees, replacing concrete sidewalks with brick sidewalks and adding bike lanes where possible. The Guidelines provide detailed information on the ideal relationship between roads, parking, medians, landscape strips, bike lanes and sidewalks with graphic prototypes for typical situations throughout the campus. Other elements such as brick crosswalks, brick patterns, parking lot layouts, stairs and handrails are also explored and detailed.

The assessment of existing gates and walls determined that the edges of the campus were poorly defined and lacked a sense of arrival and departure. The consultant team recommended that the incorporation of a collection of architectural elements such as gates, fences and walls would help establish the perimeter, entry and identity of the University. A hierarchy of these elements could also help identify the more formal and sacred places on campus. The Guidelines continue to detail examples of granite columns, granite seat walls and bollards.

Before open space improvement projects began at Emory University, vehicular and pedestrian traffic were dangerously intertwined.

Site equipment and furnishings were found to be random in type and arrangement. Recommendations for improvements included the addition of standard furniture types in consistent arrangements that will identify the outdoor spaces within Emory University. Benches, picnic tables, bike racks, planters and receptacles for trash, ash, and recycling are specified in the Design Guidelines. Also, in an effort to promote a coherent experience throughout the campus, suggestions for styles of information kiosks, bus shelters, bridges, bike shelters, fountains and sculptures were included.

In assessing existing lighting conditions, a variety of primarily utilitarian fixtures in a multitude of colors were found. Although considered to be adequate, the fixtures were random and eclectic and more often than not associated with building entrances and paths. Recommendations and new fixtures specified for lighting improvements will help create an inviting environment and presence for the University at night, help ensure safe pedestrian and vehicular travel, enhance building security, accentuate key aspects of the University and direct pedestrians throughout the campus.

Open space projects have revitalized the heart of the campus by creating a pedestrian friendly environment.

Finally, an assessment of existing planting identified Emory’s rich natural resource of hardwood forests as a fundamental component of the history of the University. However, in contrast to the wooded areas on campus, the paths between these areas are sparsely planted. The guidelines suggest that developed landscape forms be concentrated in the core of the campus, and improved quality and quantity of green spaces together will aid in the development of a higher level of comfort and sense of wellness on campus, as well as create a strong sense of place. Recommendations for the Landscape Plan are divided into three parts: woodlands, trees and lawns, and streetscapes. Of primary importance is to preserve all existing woodlands and to link them together wherever possible. Lawn and tree areas are to be limited to areas where they are essential such as the quad area, and streetscape planting shall reinforce the hierarchy of roadway systems. It is this basic framework that will return balance and beauty to the Emory Landscape.

The Design Guidelines also summarize a Capital Project Development Process for Sustained Implementation of the Campus Plan. Within this section, ten open space improvements and five streetscape improvements are defined. Since 1997, three open space projects have been installed on Emory’s main campus. Additionally, minor campus-wide improvements are constantly taking place, all small but integral to the success of the Campus Plan. The continued implementation of these projects is ensured by a foundation established by Emory University that allocates 2 million dollars annually for the improvement of open spaces.

Formerly a parking lot and driveway between two buildings, this space has been completely transformed into a pedestrian corridor.

Almost in conjunction with the completion of the Campus Plan, Emory made a bold display of its serious intentions with regard to its open space mission. Open Space I – Phase One, or North Kilgo, was completed in the summer of 1998 as a demonstration of design and prototype for future open space projects. Hughes, Good, O’Leary & Ryan transitioned from being consultants in the Campus Plan effort to designers of the first of three open space projects. This provided the opportunity to incorporate the principles and design guidelines into a successful renovation of one of the most disparate and neglected spaces of the core campus.

Formerly a parking lot between two buildings, North Kilgo also represented an important pedestrian corridor that was filled with vehicular traffic and asphalt paving. The plan included demolition of the existing parking lot and replacing it with a pedestrian corridor, thus restructuring the hierarchy of vehicle and pedestrian. The area was transformed into a quiet, lushly planted green space for pedestrians and initiated the gesture of moving vehicular traffic out of the core campus. Wide brick walkways, teak benches, pedestrian scale light fixtures and shade trees now give the space a sense of place and beauty.

Brick paving, teak benches, lighting and landscaping are a few of the features that make this an inviting and safe pedestrian link.

The second open space project, Open Space I – Phase Two, was completed in the summer of 1999. Also designed by Hughes, Good, O'Leary & Ryan, this presented a different challenge for the company’s Campus Planning Studio. This large open space at the heart of the Emory Campus is one of the busiest pedestrian corridors. The goal was to again eliminate vehicular traffic while maintaining access for emergency vehicles only. Paving a wide pedestrian path with vehicular bricks and limiting access with removable bollards accomplished this. Additionally, the firm studied the movements of students through the space to determine where new paths should be incorporated. The new space is a web of brick walkways connecting destinations. Along the walkways there are spaces carved out for student interaction with teak benches and picnic tables. At the center of the space, known as “chill hill”, is a whimsical paving pattern forming a large spiral with alternating materials of granite and brick. An information kiosk is located here, and it has become a major node of pedestrian traffic. The landscape shows reverence to the multitude of existing mature trees and included only subtle improvements that help define the hierarchy of paths. In conjunction with this phase, vehicular access was completely restricted from the center of campus, with only shuttle bus traffic moving through the area. The result is substantial: the students are safer walking through the campus.

The third open space project designed by Hughes, Good, O'Leary & Ryan is the Turman Shuttle Road Connector, completed in the summer of 2000. Turman Dormitory and University Apartments are both major University Housing complexes that share two things in common: they are very separated from the core campus and they house students that need quick access to classes on the main campus. This open space project was built in conjunction with the opening of a new 1,900 car parking deck at the perimeter of the campus. The goal was to connect these spaces not only by adding a convenient shuttle route, but to make them part of the walking campus – a space students would feel comfortable and natural moving through. Elements of the design support that goal while using materials that establish this area as part of the campus – granite walls and columns, teak benches, decorative light fixtures, gates, landscape and streetscape improvements. Emory and the design team also had the opportunity to exhibit a very sensitive approach to reforesting disturbed woodlands, showing students and the community that a sound environmental approach is part of the agenda.

Although Emory’s Design Guidelines provide a basic framework for open space improvements, there is plenty of opportunity for whimsical design that creates fun and memorable spaces such as this granite and brick pedestrian node at the center of Chill Hill.

Paramount to the success of these open space projects has been the successful renovation of the associated infrastructure as well. Managing storm water and rerouting emergency and service vehicles are invisible but vital components to the successful outcome of these projects. The continued success of the spaces is contingent upon several factors, including proper funds allocated to their maintenance and the training of grounds staff on proper upkeep. Emory will also reinforce their dedication to the success of the pedestrian campus by offering apartment style living in University Housing, thereby encouraging students to live on campus, restricting parking and access, liberally issuing traffic and parking violations and providing frequent shuttle buses to different areas of campus. The addition of Landscape Architect James Johnson to the Department of Facilities Management in 1998 has benefited the process by adding a liaison between Plant Operations, Project Management and Construction. Plans are reviewed in house to ensure that designs are in conformance with the Master Plan and equally important, that it is maintainable with University resources.

After just a few short years, it is obvious that something good is happening on the Emory Campus. The open space projects have already begun to link disparate spaces, beautify existing green spaces, and create a sense of place and a hierarchy of pedestrian over vehicular. LASN

Laura Sanchez is a Project Manager at Hughes, Good, O'Leary & Ryan in Atlanta, Georgia.


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November 22, 2019, 12:06 pm PDT

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