AMHERST DORMS AND GREENWAY
Amherst, Massachusetts (2013–2016)
Located amidst the rolling hills of western Massachusetts, the Amherst College campus landscape is an expression of its remarkable context. This strong landscape identity plays a major role in the rituals of campus life – walking to and from class, braving the extremes of the New England climate, and gathering with friends on the quad – and does more than to color the everyday experience of students, faculty, staff, and visitors than any other aspect of the college. Unfortunately, the cumulative effects of large and small changes made over the years have weakened the character and functionality of the campus landscape.
When Amherst College began work on a new campus master plan in 2013, designers were called upon to consider the cohesion and simple power of the historic landscape while opening new avenues for growth and innovation. MVVA, in collaboration with Beyer Blinder Belle, Payette Architects, and Kyu Sung Woo Architects, developed a vision for a twenty-acre district near the core of the campus. At the heart of this project is the Amherst College Greenway, a new landscape typology that will serve as a 21st century complement to the historic Freshman Quad.
Taking advantage of the expansive, sloping site, a series of distinct but interconnected landscapes are sculpted into the existing topography, including an earthen amphitheater that can accommodate the entire campus community, abroad, shallow lawn bowl to support events as well as informal recreation, and an orchard of flowering trees to celebrate spring’s return after the long New England winters. Woven into this generous landscape fabric is a network of smaller, intimate gathering spaces designed for the social needs of contemporary undergraduate life. Informal courts for basketball and sand volleyball, and a small terraced amphitheater are clustered around a group of new dormitories, anchoring one end of the Greenway in a lively hub of residential life.