CAMPUS PLANNING IN AN ARID MOUNTAIN ENVIRONMENT
WESTERN STATE COLLEGE GUNNISON, COLORADO
Campus Planning in an Arid Mountain Environment
THIS THESIS IS SUBMITTED AS PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR A MASTER OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE DEGREE AT THE
UNIVERSITY OF COLORADO AT DENVER COLLEGE OF DESIGN AND PLANNING GRADUATE PROGRAM OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE
Western State College Gunnison, Colorado
Prepared by Suzanne McMahon
The following people gave their time, assistance, and support in the development and production of this project:
Dr. Hugo Ferchau, Professor of Environmental Sciences; Western State College.
J.W. Campbel1 Director of Communications,
Assistant to the President; Western State Col lege.
Pat Dennis Director of Western Colorado Rural Communities Institute
Jon Schler, Department of Local Affairs.
A special thanks to the Center for Community Development and Design.
Table of Contents
INTRODUCTION TO PROJECT 1
PROCESS DESCRIPTION 4
LEARNING COMMUNITIES 7
REGIONAL FACTORS 11
DESIGN ELEMENTS 15
CASE STUDY (WESTERN STATE COLLEGE) 23
a. Community of Gunnison
b. Existing Campus
c. Analysis of Campus
e. Final Plan
f. Front Entry Details
Design professionals have been involved with campus planning ever since college campuses grew from a single building to several buildings. Richard P. Dober in his book Campus Planning states, "The first requirement for an adequate campus design is a general design form which can adapt itself to future change and at the same time maintain its integrity as a design."'
Another element in campus planning comprises the site specific conditions of the region. Frederick Law Olmstead Sr., working on the plan for the University of California at Berkeley recognized the importance of locating buildings, roads, and entrances based on site conditions.
Today students often will select a college based on its location or surrounding amenities. Through the incorporation of regional features into the design form of the campus, the college can become more attractive.
My overall objectives in this study have been to:
1) Identify design elements that visually unify a campus and help it to function efficiently.
2) Utilize regional characteristics (natural and cultural) in the design form.
3) Respond in the design to the physical limitations of the environment.
This project developed from a request to the Department of Local Affairs by Western State College for assistance in updating their campus master plan. Jon Schler, Department of Local Affairs, coordinated this request working with the graduate student intern program at the University of Colorado's Center for Community Development and Design.
The process that was followed in this project was developed to organize the study and to filter general information down to site specific information that could be applied to the case study.
A look at the history and development of the college campus was taken and how that has affected campus planning today. An in-depth study of two campus plans helped to identify elements that could unify the campus and help it to function more efficiently.
ARID MOUNTAIN ENVIRONMENT
The regional factors of the area were then considered. These included climate, vegetation, geography, land forms as well as the history of the land and people of this region.
After looking at the two campus plans and considering the Environmental factors, design elements were developed which were then applied to the case study.
WESTERN STATE COLLEGE
The case study involved an inventory and analysis of the adjacent community and the existing college. Concepts were formulated using the general design elements, and a final plan resulted from those concepts.
HISTORY CASE STUDIES
Arid Mountain Region
^DESIGN ELEMENTSf-Western State College
ADJ. COMMUNITY EXIST. CAMPUS ANALYSIS CONCEPTS
MASTER PLAN DETAILS
Until the 1800's college campuses were known more for their building styles than their overall plans. Classic styles of architecture reflected the old English colleges which preceded the American schools. As student population grew, the college campus expanded to include several buildings.
The arrangement of these buildings and the spaces around them became increasingly more important as the college continued to grow. A traditional arrangement of buildings would be placed around a common green or quadrangle. The quadrangle allowed major buildings to be located at cross axis points.
More recently, college campuses have broken away from traditional plans and responded to the environmental needs of the region. The following two colleges exemplify campus plans in which the surrounding environment was considered.
As a community college in the foothills of Los Altos, California, Foothills College serves as a civic and cultural center for the area. It consists of a 122 acre hilly site with a student population of about 3,500. Architects Kump, Marsten and Hurd, along with landscape architects Sasaki and Walker, chose to utilize existing topography keeping the buildings clustered on the hills with a loop road below. Other goals were to: 1) relate to the background and tradition of the area and 2) avoid rigid formality yet produce an air of quiet dignity and sophistication appropriate to a college.
The landscape concept divided the campus into five zones, from large open spaces relating to the surrounding hillsides to small intimate courtyards, with pedestrian scaled spaces.
UNIVERSITY OF COLORADO AT BOULDER
Starting as one building in 1875, the University of Colorado has grown to include around 500 acres of land with a student population of about 20,000. The college is located in Boulder, Colorado, at the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. In 1917 the architects Day and Klauder were hired. In planning the campus they chose a less traditional style of architecture and an overall plan better suited to the region. Using an architectural style derived from the northern hills of Italy, they chose to incorporate the native sandstone of the area. The concept was to create a "bookend" effect, with lower buildings enclosed by higher, towerlike structures. The buildings also were clustered to create enclosed outdoor rooms or courtyard spaces. The landscaping throughout consists of native plant materials that help to visually tie the campus together.
Arid Mountain Environment
The study region is located in the west/central part of Colorado, west of the Continental Divide. It is characterized by large extremes in climate, geography and vegetation. It is because of these differences that the area offers such a variety of outdoor recreational activities as well as breath-taking scenery.
The study site receives iiti-ie rairiTdii v'ess than 12" a year), has short frost-free periods and very low winter temperatures. The land is composed of low terraces and fans along streams and drainageways with rolling uplands dissected by narrow ridges and mesas. Along the major streams and terraces the vegetation consists mainly of grasses, forbs and shrubs. On steeper meses and rolling uplands, grasses predominate with small amounts of drought tolerant plants.
Carl Abbot in his book, Colorado, in describing this land states, "Except for scattered oases, it is a vast expanse of mountain and desert unsuitable for more than the thinnest overlay of human intrusion threatening the precarious ecological balance."
The following design elements resulted from a study of the region as well as the two college campus plans previously discussed.
o Architectural forms and materials should be repeated throughout to strenghten the unity of the college.
o Rooflines should be sloped to mimic existing landforms and to prevent heavy buildup of snow.
o Buildings and activity areas should be oriented to the south and existing views wherever possible.
o Buildings should be sited on the middle to lower part of the slope rather than valley bottom.
o Building forms should relate in scale to the surrounding community.
o Vegetation should be massed or clumped to provide maximum protection from winds.
o Indigenous materials should be used to visually harmonize with the surrounding landscape.
o Separation of dissimilar functions with landscaping should be provided.
o The college should visually identify itself as a separate community.
o Linkage from the college to the surrounding community should be provided.
o Clustering of buildings should be provided to prevent heat loss and will also create protected outdoor spaces.
o A variety of outdoor spaces and activity areas should be provided.
o Landscaping should serve to further unify the campus.
Western State College Gunnison, Colorado
Before any white settlers came into this region, the Ute Indians used this valley as their summer home. Captain John Gunnison, after whom the area was named, was sent by the U.S. Government in 1853 to survey the area for a possible route for the Pacific Railroad. The valley did not have a lot of activity until the late 1880's with the discovery of gold and silver. The mining towns came and went but the ranchers and suppliers remained. Gunnison developed into a supply center for the ranching, mining and tourist industries.
Today Gunnison has a population of about 6,000 including the students at Western State College. The college is located on the northeastern corner of the town and is surrounded by residential and commercial uses.
Western State College is located in Gunnison, Colorado. At an approximate elevation of 7,700 feet, Gunnison is situated at the intersection of Colorado Highway 135 and U.S. Highway 50.
It is about 200 miles southwest of Denver and 120 miles southeast of Grand Junction. The town sits in a high mountain valley surrounded by the Elk, West Elk, Sawatch, and San Juan Mountain Ranges. The air temperatures are cold in the winter and warm to cool in the summer. The average monthly temperature is 62.5 F. with an average of 11.6" of precipitation a year.
W COMMERCIAL ^RESIDENTIAL ^INDUSTRIAL
SURROUNDING LAND USES
In 1911 Colorado State Normal School opened its doors to offer education to teachers in the mountainous desert area of Western Colorado.
In 1923, the Colorado General Assembly approved the name Western State College of Colorado, which a year later was accredited as a liberal arts college with a professional school of education. The college continued to grow until 1967 when a decision was made to limit enrollment, thereby keeping the small college flavor. The student population has remained about 3,000 ever since.
The 225 acre campus is located on a rolling site overlooking the town of Gunnison. There is a 90 foot elevation change from where the town and campus meet to the hilltop location of the stadium. Beyond this point steep topography and soil conditions are economically limiting factors in growth. The campus has outstanding views of the West Elk Mountain Range and the natural formation of the Palisades to the west. Sparse natural vegetation covers the undeveloped portion of the campus, while additional landscaping has been added to the developed campus.
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Western State presently functions with 32 buildings. The main administration building, Taylor Hall, faces onto a large open space which at one time functioned as a carriage loop, promenade, and entry for the college. It was later closed off to promote a pedestrian campus. The main academic buildings form a quadrangle behind Taylor Hall. The library and student center are centrally located between Taylor Hall and the athletic facilities. Student housing is located on the outer edge convenient to the loop road and parking areas.
Applying the concept of the extended campus, Western State College provides facilities, programs, faculty resources, and cultural activities to the citizens of the area. The college provides educational opportunity to every citizen of Colorado, but because of its location, deems its primary responsibility as serving Western Colorado.
Western State College has a unique setting in a mountain environment close to scenic and visual resources, but lacks an overall design form that reflects these unique qualities. The following problems reinforce the need for an overall design form:
1) lack of a formal entry or gateway into the college
2) lack of visual separation between vehicular traffic and pedestrian paths
3) underdeveloped landscaping
4) lack of a variety of outdoor activity areas
5) lack of a hierarchy of walkways relative to campus functions
6) lack of common elements that could visually unify the whole campus.
Existing circulation does allow for a pedestrian oriented campus. The main loop road surrounds the major body of buildings. Parking areas off this road extend into the campus at various points for convenient access. Walks are kept open for emergency acces onto the campus.
The campus sits on a southwest facing slope which drops 90' from the stadium to where the campus joins with the town. The steeper slopes on the hillside prohibit expansion of the college. The views are excellent from many points on the campus.
In general, the present water and sanitary sewer facilities are adequate for the campus considering that no further expansion will occur in the near future. For electrical services, Western State College is served by the municipally owned Utility Company of Gunnison, Colorado.
The three main soil types on the campus that were analyzed are Spring Creek stony loam, Bosler Sandy loam, and Dewville loam.
DSE Duffson Series Spring Creek Stony Loam 5-40% slopes. This soil is a moderately deep well-drained soil on hills, ridges, and benches from 5-40% slope. It is found on windswept southern and western exposures and includes areas of rock outcrop and stony rock land on steeper slopes.
The surface layer is a loam about 8" covering a clay loam also about 8" which overlies 14" of loam that covers sandstone. Some areas have been so severely eroded that the bedrock has been exposed. Severe limitations for excavations are due to the shallow depth of the bedrock, moderate to high erosion and low water capacity.
BSB Bosler Series Bosler Sandy Loam 1-15% slopes This is a well-drained soil found on terraces and alluvial fans. The surface layer is a brown sandy loam about 10" thick. The subsoil is brown sandy loam and grayish-brown gravelly sandy clay loam about 22" in depth. Permeability is moderate.
Roots can penetrate to a depth of 60" or more, but available water capacity is low.
DEC Dewviile Series Dewville Loam 5-15% slopes This soil is found on fans and valley fill slopes. The surface layer is grayish-brown loam 10" in depth. The subsoil is brown sandy clay loam 12" thick. The substratum is a grayish-brown sandy loam about 60" thick. Runoff is medium to rapid and the erosion hazard is moderate.
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After looking at the existing campus, use areas were identified to further aid in the analysis of the campus parts. These use areas the Entry, Central Core, Academic Quad, Athletics, Housing Centers and the Boundary Area were evaluated according to circulation, open space, landscaping, and buildings or structures. The following design recommendations resulted for each use area.
o The main approach from Hwy. 50 should be altered to create an inviting entry.
o Parking areas should be pulled away from Taylor Hall and visual buffers should be placed between pedestrian paths and vehicular traffic.
o Landscaping elements should be formalized in the central core with accent plantings, special lighting and pavings provided.
o A variety of open spaces that promote different activities should be provided.
o Natural or architectural connectors between buildings should be provided to strengthen the central core of the college.
o Future building additions and natural buffers could be used to further enclose the space created by existing buildings.
o Landscaping could be used to better define the space and separate uses.
o Visual separation between buiding and parking areas should be provided.
o Hiking and skiing trails should be well defined with landscaping elements.
o A medium scale landscaping can serve as a transition between the stadium and the naturalized hillside.
o When possible, buildings in housing clusters should face inward to give a sense of a unit or a neighborhood.
o Common areas should be further enclosed to create protected sun pockets.
o Landscaping should be used to separate use areas (parking/pedestrian walk).
o Entries into the campus should be limited and well defined with landscaping.
o Large asphalt parking lots could be visual enhanced with planting islands, berms or terraci ng.
o Boundary Area should help to identify the campus with special landscaping treatment.
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Perhaps some of the most limiting factors affecting Western State College are the extremely low winter temperatures. In 1955 a record low of 41 degrees below zero was recorded. Although it is impossible to change existing climatic conditions, through landscaping, architectural structures and orientation added comfort can be gained. Victor Olgyay, in his book Design With Climate, states, "We can be comfortable at lower temperatures if the heat loss of the body can be
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counteracted with the sun's radiation...It is the air movement that often creates the cooling sensations by heat loss through convection and evaporation."^
In this study certain areas have been identified because of southern orientation as potential sun pockets. By further enclosing these areas and blocking wind movements, the air temperature can be increased by the sun's radiation, therefore extending the outdoor use of these spaces.
Having studied the existing campus and using the design elements already discussed, a landscape concept was formulated.
The following landscape concept divides the campus into 4 landscape zones.
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1) Boundary zone the interface between the campus and surrounding land uses; should visually separate the campus and identify it as a community.
2) Open/naturalized zone larger, open spaces on the campus should be left informal and natural to relate to the surrounding landscape.
3) Pedestrian zone along the walks and the spaces around buildings a more formal treatment of native materials should be used to direct user, create a variety of spaces, and separate conflicting uses.
4) Green oasis zone within areas created by buildings, landscaping should further enclose the space to protect it from winds. Formal, accent landscaping materials should be used.
The schematic plan combines the landscaping concept with major activity areas on the campus. Off-campus functions and how these should be linked with the campus were also considered. Major areas with separation or buffering between uses have been located. The plan shows 4 main activity nodes and several smaller areas where further enclosure with landscaping could create sun pockets.
In the final plan a variety of outdoor spaces were created to extend the learning and living environment of the college to the outside.
In the Academic Quad, building additions are indicated with the dashed lines. These additions along with plant materials would serve to enclose this space and allow it to function as an outdoor classroom area. Terracing was also suggested and could be used as a part of an outdoor theatre space.
Another major activity area between the Library and the Student Center would function as an outdoor focus for the college. Since the area is at the heart of the campus, by using a more formal landscape treatment this space would become a gathering center for the college to be used as a skating center in the winter.
Throughout the campus landscaping is used to unify and give a sense of identity to the college. Native plant materials, boulders and landscape timbers used throughout would reinforce the surrounding mountain environment.
The final plan responded to the extreme cold temperatures of Gunnison by 1) clustering of buildings (adding onto existing buildings) to prevent heat loss, 2) massing of plant materials to buffer against winds, and 3) orienting outdoor spaces to the south when possible.
The landscaping treatment of the college suggests a clustering of plant materials which would serve to frame views, block winds and contrast with large open areas.
Although this study did not cover architecture styles or construction materials, certain recommendations will be made.
o Additional buildings should utilize existing materials, colors, and forms rather than introducing new elements, o Future buildings should provide sloped roof 1i nes.
o Building additions should help to further enclose spaces.
o Future buildings should be sited for southern orientation.
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The following list of plant materials are recommended for landscaping.
Russian Olive Narrowleaf Cottonwood Quaking Aspen Hackberry Golden Willow Western Catalpa Limber Pine Ponderosa Pine Pi non Pine Colorado Spruce Rocky Mountain Juniper Scrub Oak
needs more protection*
Golden Rain Tree
Hawthorns (Washington, Downy)
Shubert Chokecherry Native Alder Bristlecone Pine
Showy Cinquefoil Fringed Sagebrush Black Sage Wax Currant Squaw Currant Serviceberry Redtwi g Dogwood Tamari x
Rocky Mountain Maple Leadplant
Apache Plume 3-Leaf Sumac Rabbi tbrush
Soapweed (yucca glauca) needs more protection: Mountain Common Jupiter Thimbelberry Waxflower Rock Spirea Shrub Rose
Ground Covers Rose Pussytoes Snow in Summer needs more protection: Creeping Mahonia Myrtle (Vinca minor) Wild Strawberry
FRONT ENTRY DETAILS
The two sketches of the front entry show the use of additional landscaping to formalize and create a more inviting entry into the college. The parking areas have been pulled away from Taylor Hall and additional trees and shrubs bring the building down to human scale. Native plants, boulders and timber walls will reinforce the regional character of the area.
__ c* . '*
Soil Conservation Service; Gunnison, Colorado.
Colorado Climatology Office; Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colorado.
Colorado Commission on Higher Education; Denver, Colorado.
City of Gunnison Planning Office; Gunnison, Colorado.
Western State College Library, Gunnison, Colorado.
1. Richard P. Dober, Campus Planning, Reinhold,
2. Michael Laurie, An Introduction to Landscape
Architecture; Elsevier North Holland, Inc., 1975, p.122.
3. Victor Olgyay, Design with Climate; Princeton
University Press, 1963, p. 19,20.