Published August 13, 2010
The restoration of a central, 2.3-acre quadrangle at the University at Buffalo by a renowned landscape architecture firm showcases the kind of sustainable landscaping that will define campus grounds as UB implements its long-range plan.
The improvement of Harriman Quad on the university's South Campus by Andropogon Associates features several dozen species of hardwoods, shrubs, ground covers and perennials native to Western New York, including basswood, a deciduous tree that, once common, is now rare in the region. Workers have replaced damaged locust trees and pest-prone ash trees with more than 100 new canopy and flowering trees.
Five rain gardens, along with porous asphalt paths that absorb rainwater, will limit the amount of rainwater entering city storm-water systems. In winter, the porous paving will absorb melting snow, reducing the need for salting walkways.
"We're adding biodiversity, treating storm water in a way that is responsible, and reducing the need for salt," says Chris Mendel, a UB environmental studies alum and the Andropogon landscape architect who managed the firm's work on Harriman. "Salt is incredibly environmentally destructive. It's horrible for our fresh water supply, for Lake Erie and Lake Ontario. It's horrible for the Finger Lakes. This project is a positive step toward addressing that problem."
The new Harriman Quad is also a beautiful space, with paths connecting the perimeter to a central plaza. Seating areas along the edges of the square offer more privacy, while the central plaza and entrance to Squire Hall act as elevated stages for civic events. The landscape design, with abundant flora of varying heights and textures, gives life and color to the area.
Harriman's $1.8 million makeover, which included replacing and retrofitting underground utility lines, is part of the UB 2020 long-range plan. The plan emphasizes environmental sustainability and dynamic campuses that give members of the UB community opportunities to learn and socialize in and out of class.
The Harriman Quad restoration is "intended to be a demonstration of how we can transform outdoor campus spaces into more vibrant, welcoming environments conducive to learning and interaction among our students, faculty and staff," says Kevin Thompson, director of facilities planning and design. "Informal outdoor gathering spaces can provide a much-needed respite from the rigors of formal classroom learning or laboratory research. We hope the Harriman Quad project has achieved this goal."
"One of the guiding principles of the campus master plan, 'Building UB: The Comprehensive Physical Plan,' is to make our campuses great places through excellent design," says UB Campus Architect Robert Shibley. "We've made a beautiful, social space that respects the historic character of the formal quadrangles on South Campus at the same time it advances us toward our goal of making UB a model of sustainable development and design. By demonstrating how to retain storm water on site and reduce ongoing maintenance costs, the Harriman Quad project is showing us how to fulfill that principle across all three of our campuses."
Andropogon Associates is a landscape architecture firm known for its innovative incorporation of environmental restoration into landscape design, including in urban spaces. Mendel, the project manager and the son of a UB professor, grew up on nearby Winspear Avenue and remembers playing on campus as a child. He recalls that a tree adjacent to Harriman Quad served as his "tree fort" when he was young: "When I was 8 years old, I used to play with my friends in that tree," he says.
The University at Buffalo is a premier research-intensive public university, a flagship institution in the State University of New York system and its largest and most comprehensive campus. UB's more than 28,000 students pursue their academic interests through more than 300 undergraduate, graduate and professional degree programs. Founded in 1846, the University at Buffalo is a member of the Association of American Universities.