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Conant Courtyard Renovation
University of New Hampshire, Durham

Landscape Architecture by Woodburn & Company
Photos by Rob Karosis (except where noted)


The Conant Courtyard at the University of New Hampshire (founded 1866) is surrounded by historic and handsome architecture. The campus food station anchors the roundabout. 'Hollandstone' paving stones give the roundabout and adjacent Spaulding Court the traditional look of brick, but the durability of concrete. The paver banding is a granite blend. The picnic tables are from Wausau Tile.

The University of New Hampshire (UNH), founded 1866, is a public research university. The Durham campus comprises six colleges, with a seventh college at the Manchester campus and a school of law at the Concord campus. UNH is the largest university in the state, with over 15,000 students at the three campuses.


Bike racks are essential to a college campus. At the UNH, the bike racks are alumni designed and student built. Ken Fuld, dean of the UNH College of Liberal Arts co-opted the idea of Des Moines, Iowa's sculptural bike racks. For Conant Plaza, Kayla Granoff, class of 2014, designed "Reclaimed," bent metal, vine-like forms fabricated by students in the art and art history departments.

Woodburn & Company provided landscape architectural design services to the University of New Hampshire at Durham for the redesign of Conant Courtyard. The courtyard serves as an important crossroads at the center of the UNH campus. The space is surrounded by some of UNH's most historic and handsome architecture, including Conant Hall, Hewitt Hall, Spaulding Hall and the recently renovated Demerit Hall. Prior to the new courtyard design, the space was a sad collection of asphalt, gravel and compacted soils in which vehicles parked haphazardly and bike parking sat in the center of a sandy triangle.

The challenge was to design the area to be an active gathering and pedestrian space in keeping with the character of the surrounding architecture, while accommodating varied and necessary uses such as service parking, accessible parking, fire access, bicycle parking and an existing food truck. The intended separation of vehicular and pedestrian uses needed to be clear, with the accent on a handsome, inviting central gathering area. With the courtyard surrounded by classrooms and offices that look out onto the space, its function, design and appearance were all equally important components. The courtyard is essentially a "village square," the crossroads where pathways and "streets" converge; a place where people meet, stop, eat and relax.


An ample number of cast aluminum benches (446 series from DuMor) are spread throughout the Conant Courtyard.

As part of any thorough design of a village center, there was public participation and input. Stakeholders and users had the opportunity to voice their vision for the space. The designers met with stakeholders and users prior to initial design work and periodically throughout the design work to obtain their ideas, see the space through their eyes and gather input for the proposed design options. Adjustments and refinements to the designs were made, reflecting comments from faculty and staff, students, the school's grounds and roads department, and even the owner of the food truck.

The Design
Woodburn & Company prepared multiple design scenarios with three-dimensional drawings, along with budget studies and construction documents. The resulting design created a centrally located brick paver plaza that is furnished with tables and benches conducive to eating, socializing and taking quick study breaks. The food truck anchors the plaza, located in a niche where its associated seating and line for service are away from the path of pedestrians and fire access. Service access, accessible parking and bike racks are located on the far side of a large island of seasonal plantings that buffers the plaza area. The bike racks are sculptures provided by the UNH Art department as student work.



Prior to the new courtyard design, the space was a sad collection of asphalt, gravel and compacted soils in which vehicles parked haphazardly and bike parking sat in the center of a sandy triangle

Geometries and turning radii were studied and evaluated to allow access for fire trucks through the central space in the event of a fire or other emergency. Service vehicles and those needing accessible parking spaces use the access way along the face of Conant Hall, separated from the gathering space by a landscaped island. The service vehicles loop around Conant Courtyard to access the loading dock at Diamond Library and continue around the building to exit the area. This separation of vehicular usage created spaces where pedestrians feel comfortable and are safer.


Geometries and turning radii were studied and evaluated to allow access for fire trucks through the central space in the event of a fire or other emergency.
Photo: Woodburn & Company

Key Points
• The Conant Courtyard renovation was designed to provide a central gathering and through space that reflects and enhances the character of the surrounding buildings. Materials, lighting, furnishings and plantings where chosen to harmonize with the architecture and provide a human scale and sense of place conducive to community life.

• The project provides choices and safety in transportation, creating a walkable space that increases accessibility for all campus users whether on foot, bicycle or in motor vehicles.

• The campus community was integral in the planning and implementation of the design. Their input ensured the spaces retained and enhanced the character of the University of New Hampshire, while creating a strong and inviting sense of place, and reflecting the community's goals and values.

The renovation of Conant Courtyard provides a social gathering space, improves environmental conditions, and creates a safer, more enjoyable, pedestrian experience with human scale, sense of place, and access for all. Sustainability and livability were integral in the design and all community members and stakeholders were included in the design process to ensure connection to the goals and visions of the campus community.


Plant Pallet

University of New Hampshire, Durham
UNH Facilities Construction, Ritzman Lab
UNH Architect/Campus Planner: Doug Bencks
UNH Project Manager: Mark Geuther
Landscape Architecture: Woodburn & Co.
Civil Engineering: Joe Persechino, Tighe & Bond
General Contractor: Jake Tetreault, JTI Construction
Landscape Contractor: Mike Graves, Piscataqua Landscaping

As seen in LASN magazine, June 2017.

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October 20, 2019, 5:58 pm PDT

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