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Updating An Iconic University Landmark
UMBC Library Pond Receives Needed Renovations

By Site Resources, Inc.


The UMBC Library Pond was the focus of a renovation project designed to enhance the campus by updating a feature / amenity pond, perimeter plantings and pedestrian paths. Site Resources, a design firm that integrates landscape architecture and civil engineering, redesigned the pond walls and repaired a concrete weir and stream outfall, improving water quality and the visitor experience.

The University of Maryland, Baltimore County's (UMBC) Library Pond was originally designed in the 1960s and has functioned as a fundamental node of the pedestrian oriented campus core for decades. The pond is set in soft contrast to the 1968 Brutalist architecture of the adjoining Albin O. Kuhn Library and Gallery, a dominant and historically central campus building.

Years of sediment accumulation, an incised stream outfall, and deterioration of the pond's retaining walls and weir structure called for a complete reconstruction of the pond and the opportunity to re-envision its surrounding landscape. Emphasizing the juxtaposition of the built and natural edges, the rejuvenated pond and its new promenade, walkways, and plaza spaces create a more accessible and inviting destination.


Simple layout of backed and backless benches, elm trees, and stepped walls gracefully ground the library building as it reflects in the pond's surface. Before the pond's redesign, pedestrian access to the water was blocked. After the redesign, access to the pond was made available creating an inviting space for visitors to enjoy the waters edge.

Visitors are offered unimpeded access to the water along stepped retaining walls and the pondside promenade. Adjoining these linear pond edges, an aquatic safety bench of natural fieldstone and river stone is visible through the water and when exposed during seasonal droughts.

The concrete paver walkways and pondside promenade connect the pond's landscape to the surrounding architecture, open views, and provide new gathering spaces. Redesigning the lowest set of steps leading to the pond from the library quad above created a grand entrance and landing at the corner of the pond.


A juxtaposition of built and natural edges can be seen from the southern end of the pond looking towards the Albin O. Kuhn Library & Gallery. A custom lighted stainless steel handrail borders the elevated paver weir plaza. The plaza adjoins the promenade walkway serving as part of the main pedestrian spine through the campus's academic core.

Lacebark elms, set in large cast iron tree grates (Silva Cells), provide shade for the seating areas along the library walkway. The seating tiers of the pond wall and a variety of benches provide opportunities to socialize or reflect at the water's edge. A staircase and a sinuous, accessible walkway traverse expansively planted slopes, replacing the well-worn footpath that linked the Walker Avenue Garage to the library.

The new plaza south of the library is atop the pond's large concrete weir. A lighted stainless steel railing surrounds the plaza. The weir was repaired and finished with a custom debris screen along the overflow edge. The plaza's pavers conceal the top of the manhole-pocked weir, while maintaining access to the structure. Passers-by are invited up to umbrella-shaded tables and backless benches that border a life-size chessboard created with contrasting colored pavers. Students use this plaza for impromptu violin concerts, social gatherings and sidewalk chalk campus announcements.


The pondside promenade brings pedestrians directly to the water's edge, forming a lower plaza space separated by a large planted area from the busy promenade walkway above. Fieldstone and river stone on the aquatic safety bench is visible through the water.

Across the pond and contrasting the predominantly linear eastern boundary, an integrally colored, stamped concrete walkway invites pedestrians to meander along the water's edge and abundantly planted hillside. An existing stone retaining wall, extended using matching stone, borders the path as it brings people closer to the pond's surface. The winding path leads through a small circular plaza surrounded by large, locally sourced boulders. These, and additional boulders scattered throughout the landscape, transition steep grade changes, provide informal seating, and serve as accents along the water's shoreline - some of which are only revealed as the water level seasonally fluctuates.

A forebay, constructed at the base of the stream outfall near the circular plaza, minimizes sediment accumulation. For periodic removal of sediment, the forebay is lined with a concrete base, colored black to enhance reflections on the water's surface. Iris and Arrow Arum surround the forebay, and its concrete weir is capped with a naturally cascading edge of fieldstone and boulders.


A grand staircase and landing area formalize the corner entrance into the pond's landscape. Sinuous walkways traverse planted hillsides on the pond's western and northern edges. The renovations are in keeping with UMBC's pedestrian-oriented culture.

Aquatic and riparian plants, including soft rush, Blue Flag iris, red Turtlehead, and Pickerelweed, enliven the gently sloping western shoreline. River birch shade a small lawn area with boulder seating, providing a quiet escape within the busy campus core. Redbud, dogwood, fringetree, and magnolia add spring flowering accents to the pond's hillsides, and pockets of bald cypress punctuate the riparian landscape.

Site furnishings and materials specified to maintain continuity with the larger campus landscape include concrete pavers, light fixtures, and coordinating benches, picnic tables and trash receptacles. Unique to the pond's landscape are materials such as wall textures, bluestone slabs accenting the paving of the pondside promenade, cast iron tree grates, and the lighted stainless steel guardrail surrounding the weir plaza.


The locally sourced boulders in the circular plaza can be used as seating. As the young river birch trees grow, the informal boulder seating will continue to provide a small escape within the busy campus core.

The redesigned Library Pond and surrounding landscape, with its contrasting linear and natural sides, has been returned to its rightful status as a signature destination on campus. Opening the space and bringing walkways to the water's edge encourage visitors to be more engaged with the pond, promote formal and impromptu gatherings, and provide quiet and intimate escapes.


Planted near the pond fore bay are dwarf purple willows, soft rushes and young river birches. Goose deterrent fencing protects the emerging aquatic plants. Marsh marigold, New England aster, soft rush and thread-leaf bluestar populate the riparian slope.

UMBC Library Pond Project Team
Landscape Architect and Civil Engineer: Site Resources, Inc.
Architect: Grimm and Parker
Structural Engineer: ReStl Designers, Inc.
Electrical Engineer: Paulco Engineering, Inc.
Environmental Consultant: Eco-Science Professionals, Inc.
Geotechnical Engineers: Schnabel Engineering; Froehling & Robertson, Inc.
Survey and Utility Designating: AIDATA
General Contractor: The Whiting-Turner Contracting Company
Hardscape Contractor: Chevy Chase Contractors
Landscape Contractor: Ecological Restoration & Management (ER&M)


Plant Selection

As seen in LASN magazine, July 2017.

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October 15, 2019, 10:30 pm PDT

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