Wellesley College

Wellesley College

Wellesley’s unique landscape has been at the core of the school’s identity since its inception. When Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. surveyed the college in 1902, he was so taken with the natural topography of glacial landforms, valley meadows, and native plant communities that he recommended they become the foundation for all future campus development. However, by the 1990s, Wellesley’s campus was nearing a state of ecological depletion and uniformity. The college was in danger of losing the integrity of the extraordinary landscape that had shaped generations of women.

Wellesley College Campus with the Charles River Watershed

The 1998 MVVA Master Plan grew out of the alumnae community’s desire to reclaim Wellesley’s landscape legacy for future generations. The Plan proposed a series of interconnected projects to be implemented in phases and accommodate future needs as well as Wellesley's institutional goals.

Resulting in more than 25 completed projects over the last two decades, MVVA has demonstrated the Master Plan’s ability to respond to new campus leadership priorities and adapt to unforeseen needs. These projects have fallen into three categories—restoration, revitalization, and renewal—but they all aim at creating ecological and experiential diversity.

The restored Alumnae Valley combines environmental remediation with sustainable stormwater management. It turns what had been a parking lot over a toxic brownfield into a beautiful, beloved campus landscape that filters water runoff on its way to adjacent Waban Lake. Alumnae Valley is a model for reinstating connections between the campus and the adjacent valley landscapes.

Working with college leadership, MVVA helped identify contemporary pressures on the campus, including parking, circulation, infrastructure, ecology, and maintenance. Working papers explored these issues and established the Master Plan's goals and principles.

The Master Plan provided phased yet integrated recommendations to revitalize this invaluable resource and meet Wellesley’s long-term institutional planning goals. The campus-wide initiatives included reorganizing vehicular circulation to reclaim pedestrian access, replanting a mature tree canopy, diversifying understory planting, reintroducing wildflower meadows, improving water quality and management, and re-evaluating maintenance procedures.

Science Center Valley, reintroducing an immersive meadow (2001)