Honorable Mention - Excellence in Planning for an Existing Campus

George Mason University

George Mason University Master Plan
George Mason University - George Mason University Master Plan
Jury Comments
““. . . data-driven approach to building consensus and decision-making is excellent . . . landscape works to clarify circulation and connect campus and community . . . successful example how a plan can help drive focused growth and investments . . .””


    • Site – 817.5 acres; Building – 8.8 million gsf
    • 38,000 students; 7,400 faculty and staff
    • The master plan shows what is possible when rigorous analysis links with bold design.
    • Enrollment trajectories were derived from history, workforce projections, and strategic objectives.
    • Physical analyses included natural systems, topography, forest cover, and circulation.
    • Identity enhancements include gateways, landscape connections, and transparent ground floors.
    • Space analytics detailed improved space management, utilization, and needs modeling.
    • “The Necklace” on the Fairfax campus will be a linear park that combines ecological functions with art and cultural markers and transforms the pedestrian and bicycle experience.


George Mason University is the largest public university in Virginia. It operates three distinct primary campuses: a traditional suburban campus in Fairfax, an urban campus in Arlington, and an exurban campus in Prince William County. When the project began, the university was undertaking a presidential search and had last completed a physical master plan in 2002. As a result, the individual campuses lacked clear programmatic identities, and the university’s overall strategy was in flux. The project’s scope was to remedy this situation by creating a framework to guide ongoing decision-making around the university’s physical environment and capital investment.

The challenge was to design a planning process for three very different campuses, absent a significant institutional planning culture or operative strategic plan, in the middle of a presidential transition, during a global pandemic
that prevented face-to-face interaction. The planning process was divided into two year-long phases. In the first
phase, relevant hard and soft data was analyzed to provide a holistic institutional picture, and thus motivate clear programmatic campus identities. Phase two then synthesized specific design responses and defined substantive principles that Mason will use to evaluate future opportunities. The plan was created collaboratively by the Mason community with 2,000 people participating in eight town halls, over 100 stakeholder meetings with both internal and external constituents, and about 5,000 people participating in an on-line interactive mapping exercise. Participants in the virtual mapping exercise dropped 51,000 icons with over 9,000 comments, then machine learning algorithms were deployed to identify positive and negative sentiments.

To harmonize Mason’s many diverse viewpoints, pedagogical, student life, and research imperatives; existing space use; program connections; future demographics and enrollments; potential future space needs; financial realities; and the campuses’ physical structures were analyzed. This rigorous approach allowed the university community and its key partners to reach consensus.

The resulting framework provides Mason with an initial mission-based strategy and consists of principles; policy guidance; data sets and tools; physical plans describing land use, open space, and potential building locations; ecological planning; infrastructure planning; and transportation and mobility planning. The plan integrates with the university’s six-year capital plan.

Project Team

DumontJanks; Lee Partners; Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service; Arup; Biohabitats; CannonDesign; Gorove Slade