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The Ring Mall Comes Together

Stephen Kelly, editor

At the entry plaza of the Biological Sciences III Building the canopy shade trees--Mexican sycamore, right, and Chinese flame trees in the round raised planters and to the left--are growing in nicely. Simple rectangular concrete forms provide seating. The concrete paving is a light color to reduce heat gain. The plaza incorporates a "cellular mitosis theme into the hardscape/planter layout," says landscape architect Lynn Capouya. The foundation planters are bioswales and provide for some collection of surface runoff and first-flush mitigation. To ensure proper plant growth and development, the soils were tested and amended or replaced to allow for adequate root penetration and percolation of water. The landscape architect minimized turf areas, but felt it essential to the campus environment to include some recreational turf areas for picnicking or informal gathering adjacent to the buildings.
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Lynn Capouya, Inc. (LCI) has designed the master plan and the project implementation documents for the Ring Mall, public plazas and promenades adjacent to seven major science facilities on the University of California Irvine Campus (UCI).

Design approvals have included a complex variety of presentations and workshops to and with the UCI's building advisory committee, campus design review team, chancellor's planning and environmental committee and the grounds and building committee.

Located on the north side of Natural Sciences I Bldg. and open to light are drought tolerant Melaleuca (myrtle family), platnus x mexicana and olive trees (left) in the wedge-shaped planters. The trees create shade, screening and a sense of scale for the primary entry to the facility.

The circular asphalt area to the left of the security bollards is a turnaround point for official vehicles. The planters seen here are mirrored across the street at the Natural Science II Building to set geometry for the node created at the vehicular intersection. Cercis and olea were selected as key accent/color trees. The bicycle racks, from recycled materials, encourage the student leg-powered transportation. Bicycle racks earn one LEED point.

UCI campus architect Rebekah Gladson, who is also UCI vice chancellor, oversees all UCI's major capital projects. There's about $1 billion in construction currently in design or in progress. To maximize the university's resources she is a proponent of the design build approach, which puts architecture, landscape architecture and construction services under a single contract.

LCI has completed the landscape design for 12 facilities. Nine of these facilities are now occupied, two are under construction and one is in final design. LCI has acted as both prime consultant to the university and as a subconsultant to the major construction and architectural firms involved in the project. Production scheduling continues to be organized to meet the demands of multiple project phases simultaneously. This ongoing body of work spanning three years currently covers in excess of 15 acres of landscape alone with each university building having at least one main entry statement and identifying plaza, providing a focal area opening onto the Ring Mall.

Located on the south side of Natural Science I Building is a somewhat secluded patio area used by the dean, staff and smaller facility gatherings. The cercis (redbuds) trees offer summer shade, winter sun and provide seasonal color. Dietes bicolor and California lilacs (Ceanothus) form a buffer that separates this area from the larger plaza at Biological Sciences III.

The heavy clay soil here required an extensive underground landscape drainage system to ensure proper plant growth. All the selected species are considered drought tolerant. The university's "green and gold" plan delineates a drought -tolerant plant palette that includes some native species.

Key intersections along the Ring Mall are themed to create a sense of place and unique architectural identity reflecting the respective schools. A grass median, coupled with the shade trees in the Ring Mall softens the pedestrian colonnade and brings the monumental size of the buildings down to human scale.

Most recently, LCI has been retained as subconsultant to Hensel Phelps Construction Co. to begin the final phase of this proven design and implementation program for the University of California Irvine Medical Center in Orange, Calif.

A canopy of birch shade trees help reduce the scale of the four-story buildings. The trees and turf help buffer the adjacent facilities from the roadway. The nonturf underplanting is drought tolerant and mulched with three inches of greenwaste.

Calif. Inst. for Telecom. & Info. Tech. (Calit2)

LCI was also the landscape architect selected as part of the design/build team by Valley Crest to prepare final design drawings for UCI's newest project, the California Institute for Telecommunications & Infomation Technology Building (Calit2), which was honored as one of the Top 50 Projects in California for 2005 by California Construction.

The project was selected in part because the building fulfilled the vision of the university through its design and construction. It is among the first of the California Institutes for Science and Innovation facilities chartered by the state in late 2000. The landscape components of the building included a circular plaza enhancing the main entry. This plaza was significant in its relationship to the development of two other adjacent buildings.

Adding some lively color to the campus are Callistomen viminalis 'Little John,' a dwarf form of the weeping bottle brush.

LCI participated in the master plan preparation for the Computer Science II Building area, including Engineering Science III and Bren Hall under separate contracts, thus creating unusual perspective in the site development of the area.

Connectivity and access for pedestrians and fire trucks challenged the juxtaposition of stairs, paths, walls and planter areas. In the case of Bio Sciences III, the number building complex was combined into one building by the design team to minimize site coverage and ultimate project cost.

This seeded rock (a local material) and gravel is actually the roof of McGaugh Hall's underground laboratory. Though the university did not opt for a greenroof, this solution provides an aesthetic solution, without requiring irrigation or landscape maintenance.

Sustainable Elements

The UCI master plan/Ring Mall in the Natural Sciences area of campus is the culmination of an effort that began for us over eight years ago," explains landscape architect Lynn Capouya, founder of Lynn Capouya, Inc., Landscape Architects (LCI) in Costa Mesa, Calif.

As part of the Natural Sciences I Building development, UCI campus architect Rebekah Gladson, who is also the vice chancellor, asked LCI to prepare some concepts for the pedestrian circulation route through UCI, aka the Ring Mall, and hired Hensel Phelps Construction. The final piece of this area was the completion of Biological Sciences III, which was completed with Dinwiddie Hathaway.

The Ring Mall is the main pedestrian circulation spine for the UCI campus. Unifying the look of the corridor and the various entries to the buildings (designed by various architects) was the biggest challenge. The pavers are set in a gravel bed throughout the Ring Mall to allow water to percolate. The shrubbery and planter beds use a three-inch layer of bark mulch to reduce evapotranspiration. Canopy shade trees in the Ring Mall median (Markhamii) create shade, reduce heat gain at ground level and enhance the pedestrian ambiance. The patches of turf on campus are Marathon 2, a dwarf tall fescue developed for Southern California. It's know for its dense crown, durability and disease resistance.

Ms. Gladson has worked to bring a unifying architectural style to the campus and to keep everything on a pedestrian scale.

"The scope of this effort included 6-8 facilities, new and retrofits or remodels. All associated buildings had sustainable goals, most have applied for LEED certification at some level, one has been submitted for Gold status," says the landscape architect.

Plant Palette-All the facilities referenced the UCI green and gold plan, which delineates a drought tolerant plant palette including some native species. A three-inch layer of bark mulch is incorporated to reduce evapotranspiration. Trees are placed on the south sides of the buildings, patios and in the Ring Mall median to create shade wherever possible.

"Turf areas are minimized, but we felt it essential to the campus environment to provide passive recreational use areas, such as picnicking or informal gathering adjacent to the buildings," explains the landscape architect.

All irrigation at UCI is connected to a campus-wide master reclaimed water line. Selected equipment uses low-volume, low-angle irrigation heads along with bubblers as appropriate to reduce total water use and maximize efficiency. Rain sensors are also included with automatic shut-off valves. Controllers are linked to a central control for easy service by campus maintenance.

The heavy clay soils are prevalent in this area. To ensure proper plant growth and development, the soils were tested and amended or replaced to allow for adequate root penetration and percolation of water.

Irrigation-All of the irrigation at UCI taps into the Irvine Ranch Water District reclaimed water off from a 16-inch dedicated loop system that is campus wide. The selected equipment is low gallonage/volume and minimizes overhead spray equipment wherever possible. Automatic controllers have built in CCUs that communicate with central control and moisture sensors.

Stormwater-A bioswale and detention basins are part of the site design for the Biological Sciences III Building, adjacent to the Natural Sciences I Building, to reduce runoff and create an opportunity for first flush mitigation in the bioswale and turf areas.

Though the site areas around some buildings are tight, the soil preparation and underground landscape drainage do allow for some percolation and reduced runoff.

Gravel strips abut the buildings to infiltrate water and prevent any puddling against the building. All associated buildings had sustainable goals and most have applied for LEED certification.

Pavers are set in a gravel bed throughout the Ring Mall allowing for percolation, while giving a human scale to the pedestrian experience between and around these buildings.

Roof Garden-A feature of the design at McGaugh Hall was the roof garden of an underground laboratory. In lieu of actual planted materials, a variety of light-colored, seeded gravel, rocks and boulders were designed into a graphic pattern.

Lighting-Landscape lighting is via sodium halide reducing harsh glare, but providing for safety and security using reduced energy.

Each project team employed a variety of general contractors, architects, engineers and LEED consultants. Most of the facilities are LEED certified. The landscape component for each building included both direct and indirect points earned through sustainable practices. As landscape architects our role was collaborative. The team effort is paramount in developing a sustainable project and assembling the documentation for certification.

"Landscape gets a couple of points, but lighting/daylighting, HVAC, recycled materials and a whole host of other components are required to make a successful sustainable project," notes the landscape architect.

"To be truly sustainable, we worked with many teams, in a variety of capacities and methods of delivery to achieve both the energy savings, LEED points and desired aesthetics. Each individual project team worked with a CTG, a LEED consultant, to program the sustainability of each building and site for maximum efficiency."

Project: Biological Sciences Building-Unit 3

Client: University of California at Irvine

UCI Project Manager: Francesco Porcella, AIA

Design Architects: DES, Architects/Engineers
Project Principal: Craig Ivancovich, AIA
C. Thomas Gilman, AIA
Susan Eschweiler, AIA
Brian Cooper, AIA
Denise DeVille
Kevin LeMans

Landscape Architect:
Lynn Capouya, Inc., Irvine, Calif.
General Contractor:
Hathaway Dinwiddie
Rashmi Mehta
Tom Raffety

California Information Technology II Project Owner: UCI
Lynn Capouya, Inc., Landscape Architects Client


  • Best Higher Education Project
    McGraw Hill-California Construction, 2005
  • Merit Award
    Design Build Institute of America, 2005

Other UCI Projects Include:

Natural Sciences I
Hensel Phelps Construction Co.

Natural Sciences II
Zimmer Gunsel Frasca

Zimmer Gunsel Frasca

Roland Hall
University of California Irvine

Ring Mall
University of California Irvine

California Information Technology II
Valley Crest

Computer Sciences II
Esherick, Hornsey, Dodge and Davis, Architects

Engineering Sciences
Hammel, Green and Abrahamson

Palo Verde Housing
JBZ Architects

Bio Science III
Dinwiddie Hathaway/DES

Social & Behavioral Science Building
Dinwiddie Hathaway/DES

University of California Medical Center
HOK/Hensel Phelps

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November 18, 2019, 10:34 am PDT

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