On a sunny September day in 2009, participants at the AAE Centennial were treated to lunch in the fire lane outside Taylor Hall. This cheerless strip of concrete is shaded by tall Norway maples planted when the siting of the neighboring Biotech building turned Lorch Street into a cul de sac. One year later, department chair Ken Shapiro wondered if landscape architecture students in John Harrington’s Planting Design class could beautify Taylor Hall’s “courtyard” (a.k.a. the fire lane).
After a month observing how people use the space, testing the soil ph (it’s alkaline), and employing their specialized knowledge of plants, Harrington’s 22 students presented their designs to AAE faculty and staff in PowerPoints and on posters. “Most of us wanted the courtyard to function as a social space, where we can gather for receptions, outdoor classes on nice spring days, and bag lunches with colleagues,” said Shapiro. “We’re delighted by the practical, yet imaginative concepts created by these talented students,” he added. “Now we have to explore ways to garner the resources to make beautiful changes happen, we hope long before our next centennial.”
Not surprisingly, every design called for removing the Norway maples crowding the site, but that’s where unanimity ended. Concepts created by the juniors and seniors ranged from a formal Italianate garden with sculpture to spaces planted with native Wisconsin prairie species and glacial boulders.