Vassar College Landscape Master Plan

Vassar College Landscape Master Plan

Vassar College is renowned for the beauty of its campus. MVVA was asked to prepare the 2011 Vassar College Landscape Master Plan to maintain that standard while adapting to new facility and environmental requirements: improving drainage, irrigation, and maintenance programs and updating circulation, signage, and parking systems. This broad remit led to a Master Plan proposing a series of discrete projects that can be realized incrementally and affordably. These projects include removing vehicles and upgrading the pedestrian experience in the heart of campus and improving water quality throughout Vassar’s network of streams and lakes.

Wherever possible, individual projects combine improvements to circulation, hydrology, and the horticultural richness for which the campus is known. Any changes to pathways or parking areas, for instance, is taken as an occasion to improve stormwater management. The result is an implementation strategy that is flexible and feasible, addressing urgent problems but also advancing a comprehensive program of renewal and repair.

As the Master Plan is implemented over several years, the Vassar campus will take on renewed experiential richness, ecological health, and economic resourcefulness, all without sacrificing its heterogeneous, organically developed character.

The Master Plan calls for a total reconsideration of the parking, roadways, pathways, accessible routes, and signage in the area around Main Building—the logical first step toward a new campus-wide circulation system. This improvement to the campus core will be supported by initiatives that move more parking to the edges, reestablish pedestrian priority, and establish stronger “neighborhood” identities for the major centers of activity outside the orbit of the Main Building.

Another urgent issue facing the Vassar campus is the need to improve the ecological health of Vassar’s water systems, including both its engineered stormwater management system and the natural system of lakes and streams that run through it. Vassar’s existing piped drainage system channels warm, sediment- and pollutant-filled hardscape runoff into the site’s natural bodies of water.

Based on data gathered during several recent campus projects, as well as ecological assessments and interviews with members of the college’s science faculty, the Master Plan calls for the development of an integrated approach to stormwater collection and management. This includes creating wetland areas to help filter runoff and recharge the water table and using plant-based bioengineering techniques to help lake and stream edges withstand the impact of heavy storms.