Special Citation - Excellence in Landscape Architecture for General Design

University of Michigan

Eda U. Gerstacker Grove
University of Michigan - Eda U. Gerstacker Grove
Jury Comments
““. . . transformation is remarkable, and the diversity of spaces and blend of ecological/stormwater features is excellent . . . great way to reimagine the traditional campus quad . . . this landscape architecture transforms a desolate outdoor space into a rich exterior experience . . .””


    • Site – 4 acres
    • The grove sits at the heart of the College of Engineering.
    • The design provides enhanced circulation and social space in an environmentally sustainable landscape.
    • The Grove was designed with student social life in mind.
    • The Grove’s unique lighting design lights up the dreariest days.
    • The design puts students in touch with nature.
    • Custom-designed benches provide a continuous linear element throughout the space.
    • To increase the site’s biodiversity, 160 new trees (19 species) were planted to create a symbolic and literal green lung for the campus.
    • Lush stormwater gardens infiltrate 95% of stormwater on-site.


The intention behind Eda U. Gerstacker Grove was to transform a barren void at the center of the University of Michigan’s North Campus into a lush, vibrant, and resilient social space that knits the campus community together. The goals included creating a sense of place and encouraging relaxation, socialization, play, multidisciplinary learning, and connection with the natural ecosystems that underpin the campus. While the site had to maximize circulation,
it also had to be flexible—able to accommodate everything from picnics to performances—within a lively, varied, and ecologically sustainable environment.

Gerstacker Grove exemplifies how flexible, innovative open spaces can serve as catalysts for social activation and community building. This quad was transformed from a barren void into a verdant, vibrant space for students, faculty, and staff. The Grove was enriched with over 160 new trees and features dramatic topographies; grassy hills rise to form shaded overlooks and frame lushly planted infiltration gardens.

The infiltration gardens play an important role in the project’s sustainability agenda. The grading of the path and grass areas directs 65 percent of the hard surface stormwater runoff as well as 95 percent of the total stormwater runoff on site to the infiltration garden area, as compared to the previous existing condition where 100 percent of the site drainage was via catch basins and inlets. As stormwater enters the gardens, over 100 reed-like acrylic rods with LED lights gently flicker, creating a sensorial experience on dreary days. Sinuous custom benches of concrete and steel frame the walkways, tracing the edges while supporting people as they sit, lounge, perch, play, and interact with one another.

Gerstacker Grove acts as the heart of North Campus. It’s a central connector that provides social cohesion, opportunities for active recreation, high-performance stormwater management, and a distinct campus identity. This quad, once a flat, barren void, became a beloved place for the community to connect, recharge, learn, and play together through explicit design decisions. The plaza is designed to seamlessly accommodate everyday circulation, active play like swinging and “beach” volleyball, quiet gatherings in carved-out nooks, and larger open spaces for special performance events. Gerstacker Grove is now an active, lively destination for the university community.

Project Team

Stoss Landscape Urbanism; Mannik Smith Group; Illuminart; Fennessy Consulting; Landscape Forms; Wausau, J.S. Vig Construction