When students first visit the Clemson University campus they experience what university President James Barker, FAIA calls the “campus as a garden”. When buildings and landscape complement each other, the environment is more inviting, healthy, and enjoyable to both its human occupants and to the animals that we have displaced in its transformation. A recent survey showed that one of the top reasons for both professors and students choosing to come to Clemson was the campus landscape. Therefore, any future campus development should treat this blending of garden and building as an asset to protect and promote.
Working against this idea is the proliferation of parking lots on campus. Students at Clemson enjoy one of the highest rates of available commuter parking amongst universities nationwide. Even late sleepers that park on the perimeter of campus have no fear of long walks, because we enjoy a resource-intensive bus system which whisks students quickly past the tree-lined streets and natural beauty. The ease of commuting, combined with the abundance of cheap, off-campus living and attractive amenities, is what leads the majority of Clemson students to choose apartment life over on-campus options.
To counter this trend of replacing garden landscapes with parking lots, and in accordance with its “2030 Carbon Neutral” plan, Clemson will build a new residential community on the Douthit Hills area of campus – including a 2000-bed dormitory, student amenities center, and 55,000 sq.ft. of retail. The mission of this development is offer the students better living choices on campus, where they can leave their cars parked, reduce their carbon footprint, and enjoy more efficient access to campus. The new community will be designed to compete with the best of the off campus housing options, while also setting a new standard for sustainable living on the Clemson campus.
Our proposal for the master plan and redevelopment of the Douthit Hills residential community is focused not only on protecting and promoting the idea of the campus as a garden, but also on rolling back the developments that have worked against this, and pushing forwards new building strategies that will take the concept further. This 60-acre site was once a sprawling collection of low-rise apartments with immediate parking and a network of roads, but our plan will redevelop only 10% of the site, while restoring the other 90% to its former natural state. Walking paths and natural parks will replace sprawl.
Advancing further the concept of the garden campus, we propose that the garden should not stop when it reaches the building. Why can the building itself not become garden? Why should our walls and roofs stand hard and lifeless in contrast to the beauty that grows from our soil? Why should the building envelope not employ organic, living systems to heat, cool, and light itself? Our proposal takes the landscape – the soil, the plants, the birds and the bees – and integrates them into the walls and rooftops. By applying Barker’s “campus as a garden” concept to the construction of our built environment, we are creating a “building as a landscape.”
Status: School Project
Location: Clemson, SC