The Nevin Welcome Center at Cornell Plantations fulfills a long-standing need for identity and visitor services. It accentuates Plantations’ stewardship of the botanical garden and arboretum, and creates a campus destination where Plantations’ lands and program areas intersect with the academic community.
Enhanced access demonstrates stewardship at multiple levels and uses an environmentally responsible treatment of stormwater runoff to create a biologically diverse and aesthetically pleasing bioswale that addresses pressing water quality issues on campus and in the regional watershed.
The Welcome Center exemplifies the five core principles of the 2008 master plan: support the academic mission; promote stewardship; enhance the campus experience; reinforce community; and ensure integrative planning and design.
The jury said the project was, “ environmentally sound and natural . . . artfully done . . . from landscape perspective this project has love, tender care and maintenance . . . steward of the place.”
Cornell Plantations has a strong commitment to environmental education and an organizational mission to advance the principles and practices of sustainability. Environmentally responsible stormwater management was integral to the newly designed parking area. Its’ new location reestablished an existing natural drainage swale which had previously discharged untreated stormwater runoff into Beebe Lake, a beloved campus landmark.
Within the basin of the bioswale, soils and plants work together to reduce peak flows and pollutant loads. The diversity of native plants and their cultivars provides valuable habitat for birds and insects. Because the bioswale is designed to retain water no longer than 24 hours, it prevents mosquitos from reproducing.
The bioswale is an important outdoor teaching tool for landscape architecture and engineering students and is an example of how an engineered, environmentally functioning landscape system can contribute to the aesthetic quality of our environment. It is one of several sites on campus where gas exchange in stormwater sites is being monitored by biological and environmental engineering students.
“What truly distinguishes this project is its integration of engineering, horticultural, and landscape architectural approaches into a system that accommodates both small and large rain events while receiving visitors in a gracious and welcoming manner . . . it is a model for other university-based public gardens around the nation,” says Don Rakow, E.N. Wilds Director, Cornell Plantations.
Project Team: Cornell Plantations, Cornell University for Nevin Welcome Center Site Plan for Parking and Stormwater Management; also Wolf Lighthall; T.G. Miller, P.C.; Baird Sampson and Neuert