SCUP Excellence in Landscape Architecture,
University of Virginia for The Dell with Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects
The Dell is an 11-acre hybrid landscape that resurrects a buried stream at the University of Virginia, transforming derelict and unused land into a state-of-the-art stormwater pond and forebay system. The park reintroduces vanishing wildlife habitat, provides recreation opportunities, is a memorable entrance for visitors, and is a demonstration landscape and Virginia-native ecobotanic garden.
The jury said, “ . . . this was a huge intervention that saved the institution millions of dollars in infrastructure . . . campuses are getting closer to integrating rainwater gardens and stormwater management strategies to enhance the campus fabric in an aesthetically pleasing way . . . it feels like these sustainable measures really do enhance the campus and are not just a LEED point . . . ”
The Dell has been an important landscape from its founding by Thomas Jefferson who purchased the acreage to protect a water source for the institution.
Materials were selected for their vernacular character. Stonewalls, comprised of Shenandoah field stone with Pennsylvania bluestone caps, reference the local use of stone in the Civil War Cemetery walls and are a connection to the mid-Atlantic geology.
The Dell is an example of innovative regional stormwater management. It set the standard for landscape-based sustainability practices including reduction of maintained lawn areas, emphasis on indigenous plant species (all but one species was native to Virginia); extensive use of rain gardens and wetland benches to treat and infiltrate stormwater; and a forebay system just above the primary stormwater pond that allows more cost-effective sediment removal.
“The project has been a stunning success, providing a beautiful new park that serves both the recreational and educational needs of the university and adjacent city neighborhood, while also serving to detain stormwater runoff in a manner that improves water quality and reduces erosion of the waterways downstream of the project site,” says David J. Neuman, architect for the University of Virginia. It is a model of context sensitive design,” he adds.
The Dell restored natural and cultural histories of this site including re-creating a pond in the vicinity of where ponds for water and ice had been historically established. It incorporated garden artifacts from an Italianate garden that occupied the site around 1920.
Project Team: University of Virginia with Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects; also Biohabitats of Maryland; Biohabitats of Virginia; PHR&A