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Creating a Space for Community
Landscape Architecture by Sikora Wells Appel


At the center of Delaware Technical Community College's Stanton campus, Sikora Wells Appel gave new life to a 13,000 square foot courtyard. The renovations were completed in spring 2016. The upper patio area has metal barstool seating adjacent to the stainless steel railing that was custom built for the project. LED lighting is integrated throughout the courtyard, including color-changing options for the canopy.

Delaware Technical Community College, the state's only community college, has four campuses. The Stanton campus opened in 1973, and in spring of 2016 renovated a 13,000 square foot space located in the heart of the campus.

The college is undergoing several improvement projects to upgrade and expand their facilities to be more efficient, progressive and sustainable. Located in an important hub of the campus, adjacent to the student center, bookstore and dining hall, the courtyard was unattractive, Dimmable LED Bulbs underutilized and lacked a sense of place. The space was primarily used as a pedestrian cut-through, as it was not inviting as a destination to linger and enjoy. Pavements, walls, plantings, and furnishings were dated and in poor condition. There were also severe drainage issues.

Working with the architect and civil engineer, the landscape architects at Sikora Wells Appel led the $2 million courtyard renovation. The intent was to create a destination for students, staff and faculty to enjoy on campus. The courtyard provides a variety of seating elements and garden spaces to accommodate dining, studying, events, or just lounging.

One of the most prominent features of the new courtyard is the centrally located sculptural steel canopy, intended to provide shade and protection from the elements as well as create a covered space for performances and events. The canopy is lit with changeable LED colored lights that can transform the space for evening use.


The rain garden, planted with red cardinal flowers amongst other native plants, is separated from the rest of the courtyard by an ipe bridge. Drainage was a major consideration; rainwater falls from the steel canopy to a bed of stones from which it filters into the garden. Any stormwater that does not infiltrate the rain garden overflows to a conventional stormwater system.

Other courtyard improvements include terraced ipe wood benches, an ipe deck that doubles as a performance space, a radial concrete bench with ipe top, a dining terrace with flexible seating and bar tops overlooking the courtyard, a bluestone patio with movable seating, integrated boulders and plantings, an artificial turf outdoor classroom area, a rain garden with footbridge, and lush plantings throughout the garden and terraces. The space offers several options for shaded and sunny seating so that students, staff, and faculty can enjoy the courtyard year-round.

One of the challenges of the project is that it is an enclosed courtyard with only one access through the surrounding building. Special consideration had to be placed on constructability with the access restrictions. Smaller trees were specified, and the bridge over the rain garden and the benches were designed to be brought in piece-by-piece and built on site. The contractor brought in special equipment and machinery to build the steel canopy and move other heavy elements.

Additionally, because it is an enclosed space, integrated stormwater management strategies were required to address the courtyard drainage issues, including the use of permeable paving and rain gardens. Both systems overflow to a conventional stormwater system, but manage and infiltrate much of the stormwater on site.


While the rain garden is paved with irregular bluestone pavers, much of the rest of the courtyard has permeable paving. The blue bench in the foreground was custom made by Victor Stanley. The i? 1/2 Anthro Sites' series wooden table is accented with coordinating colors.

The design of the rain garden celebrates the importance of stormwater management and transforms a functional element into a beautiful and educational feature. Water from the steel canopy structure drains to a stone strip and makes its way into the rain garden. The wooden pedestrian bridge that crosses the garden allows people to pass through and appreciate it up close. The lush plantings include eastern red cedars and October glory maples to create shade when grown, and Blue Ice Star flower, purple coneflower, hellebore and more for color and textural interest through all seasons. The garden creates a buffer between the main circulation paths of the courtyard and the bluestone patio to enhance the quiet and tranquil nature of the seating area. The rain garden, as well as the majority of the planting in the courtyard, is comprised of mostly native species to add habitat and ecological value.

The courtyard at the DTCC Stanton campus was required to have a holistic design approach to create a successful renovation. The design integrates solutions that provide a space for students, staff, and faculty to enjoy, enhances the sustainability and environmental quality of the courtyard, and provides an aesthetically pleasing destination on campus to benefit the college for years to come.


Selected Plants

As seen in LASN magazine, June 2017.

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December 8, 2019, 8:01 am PDT

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