Honor - Excellence in Landscape Architecture for Open Space Planning

Duke University

Unified Vision: A Landscape Approach to Enhancing Life on Duke's West Campus
Duke University - Unified Vision: A Landscape Approach to Enhancing Life on Duke's West Campus
Jury Comments
“. . . transformational . . . successfully executed common language/connective tissue between multiple projects, achieving a cohesive landscape . . . thoughtful response to historical context . . . appreciate the focus on accessibility . . .”


    • Site – 9.18 acres
    • The landscape renovation and new construction project anchors the south end of Duke’s West Campus.
    • The project created accessible connections between disparate parts of campus.
    • Across three phases, a singular landscape vision unites the work.
    • The project actively blurred the line between internal/ external program space.
    • The project negotiated challenging topography to create new accessible connections.


Under recent administrations, Duke University has strived to improve the undergraduate student experience. This effort involved establishing programs and interdisciplinary initiatives and implementing an extensive plan of additions to and renovations of the physical campus. A critical component of this was on-campus residential living—restoring historical residence halls, updating those from the mid-century, and constructing new ones to meet the changing needs of 21st-century students. While the buildings unsurprisingly garnered much attention during the design and construction processes, it has become clear in hindsight that the associated landscape transformation has been at least as important to the quality of student life on campus.

Key to improving the undergraduate student experience has been the renovation of the landscape surrounding the Collegiate Gothic residence halls, the renovation of Edens Quad, and the construction of the 265,000 sf Hollows Quad, which houses 700 upperclass students. The renovated landscape respects the work of the Olmsted Brothers while acknowledging that appropriate changes are needed to keep the spaces relevant, functional, and sustainable.

The work is seen as a single project with three interconnected phases and balances the vision outlined in the master plan. Through enhanced open space amenities, improved pedestrian infrastructure, and the application of a coherent palette of site and planting materials, the project elevates undergraduate student life within a unified expression of campus identity.

Overall, the work is a testament to the ability of a singular landscape vision to unite otherwise disconnected projects into a cohesive whole. The application of accessible pathways created a visual and physical connection across challenging topographic conditions. Proactive forest management and deliberate tree preservation allowed for an unbroken and cohesive canopy to emerge across the breadth of the project. Finally, the consistent and thoughtful use of materials bound the three phases of work together despite their unique architectural and site contexts.

Project Team

Surface 678, PA; William Rawn Associates (architect); Skanska (contractor); Clark Nexsen (architect); NV5 (civil engineer); McAdams (civil engineer); Shelco, LLC. (contractor); LeChase Construction Services LLC. (contractor)