This precedent-setting plan achieves measurable improvements in stormwater management and water quality within a restored network of historic and culturally rich landscapes. By creating a cohesive landscape environment and improving the overall green space of the campus, the master plan transforms the university’s campus into a series of engaging spaces that are rooted in history, place, and connectivity.
The University of Wisconsin at Madison’s 936-acre campus occupies a vital intersection between the capital city and Lake Mendota. Founded in 1848, the state’s oldest and largest university features miles of shoreline, a compelling diversity of cultural, historic, natural, and urban landscapes.
With almost five miles of shoreline at its base, the University recognized that the future health of both the campus and lake were interdependent; any improvement to the campus was no improvement without consideration for the lake. University leadership determined that a plan was needed to better connect the campus to its surrounding natural resources and use innovative stormwater practices to optimize the university’s placement on the water, all the while creating open spaces and recreational opportunities for students and faculty, alike.
Hoerr Schaudt was engaged as part of the overall campus master planning effort (led by SmithGroup) to develop a campus-wide landscape framework and typology plan aimed to support teaching and research, protect and enhance known historical cultural landscapes, provide recommendations for future growth and sustainable development, and strengthen the campus connection to Lake Mendota. The underpinning of this set of guidelines was the campus identity, with place-based districts guiding each recommendation, ultimately yielding a new national bar for campus-wide landscape analysis and planning, and the role our campus landscapes can play in an urban environment.
Proposed green infrastructure improvements were integrated with the preservation and restoration of culturally and historically significant landscapes, providing a comprehensive guide for campus landscape improvements. The resulting plan updates the university’s stormwater standards to ensure all new development and construction projects contribute towards campus-wide sustainability and green infrastructure goals.
The recommendations for historic Observatory Hill exemplify the planning team’s overall approach to iconic but culturally and environmentally sensitive areas of the campus landscape fabric. Views to the lake here are the most dramatic in the region, providing the inspirational grounding for one of UW-Madison’s oldest open lawn spaces – as well as the site’s much older effigy mounds. The plan enhances this key viewshed, provides better protection and interpretation for its Native American heritage, and reduces run-off through a restored oak savanna and conversion of a lakeside parking lot to a perched wetland. The plan also structures lakefront access around a multi-use trail balanced with the preservation of a shoreline habitat corridor. The historic open lawn remains at the center, providing that deep sense of connection and appreciation of place that has long been a defining feature of UW-Madison campus life.