University selects Baltimore architectural firm to develop campus master plan for facilities

The Program and Budget Committee, made up of officers of the University, has selected the firm of Ayers/Saint/Gross Architects and Planners to create a comprehensive master plan and long-range campus development plan for the physical facilities of Emory. The $750,000 project is expected to take 14-16 months to complete. President Bill Chace has been widely credited as the force behind the move to hire an outside firm to create such a plan, according to Earle Whittington, senior project manager in the department of campus planning and construction.

"We need effective and strong master planning for the entire campus--attention to buildings, spaces between buildings, thoroughfares, pedestrian avenues, landscaping, parking, oases of learning and conversation, `sacred' places wherein the intellectual life of the University can be enhanced, and the perimeter of the campus so that one knows when one has entered upon Emory and when one has departed from it," said Chace. "Our 600 and some acres are our precious home and to the degree that we feel comfortable `at home,' our work and our well-being as Emory citizens will be enriched."

"Emory's been on a fast track for 15 years," said Bill Fox, vice president for Institutional Advancement, who served on the committee that selected the firm. "It's time to slow down and look at the campus and how we treat our environment. We want to make Emory more community-oriented, more pedestrian and more beautiful."

"Our master planning in the past has been fairly site specific," said Whittington. "What we are about to do is going to put all the parts of Emory's physical presence together. It will be an inclusive process and involve people at the University, Emory Village, the Druid Hills Civic Association, Victoria Estates, DeKalb County planning and development offices and MARTA. What we hope to obtain is a framework that will serve as a flexible guide for decision making as we respond to continuing changes in higher education."

In a draft master plan and long range campus development proposal prepared as part of the selection process, Ayers/ Saint/Gross wrote, "The new campus plan must be a call to action for a physical plan which engages the entire University community with its power to reflect and embody the goals, culture and mission of Emory."

The development of the master plan by Ayers/Saint/ Gross will occur in five distinct phases. The first is an observation phase that will include observations, data collection and analysis of Emory's programs, place and precedents regarding boundaries, connections and buildings which will lead to the definition of guiding principles behind any design. The second phase is a conceptual plan that will reflect the guiding principles and focus on issues such as how open spaces and the buildings which define them can be organized to meet the goals of the principles. This stage, which includes land use studies and functional adjacency diagrams, will begin to define the locations of buildings and open spaces to link them together. The third phase will consist of precinct studies, detailed studies of campus areas such as the central campus, health sciences area, Lullwater, University Apartments, northwest Clifton and Emory Village. The fourth phase will include the comprehensive plan that will include a plan diagram, landscape plans, transportation and parking plan and historic preservation. The fifth and final phase will include guidelines for the placement and design of buildings and grounds and a phased implementation plan.

"The firm we have retained has done wonderful work on other campuses--UVa, George Washington, etc.--and we anticipate their guiding us to see how better we can live here," said Chace. "They were selected in a vigorous nation wide competition and we selected them because of their energy, imagination and past successes. I look forward personally to working with them because I believe that what they can bring to our attention will spellthe difference between having a campus that truly works for Emory and one that only exists for Emory."

The selection process for a firm to create a master plan began nine months ago. "We talked to some schools who have undergone this process and initially identified 30 firms," said Whittington. "We sent requests for qualifications to 19 firms and received 13 replies. We then narrowed it down to five firms, all of whom were invited to interview on campus and make presentations." The master plan selection committee, made up of members of the Program and Budget Committee and Trustee Ben Shapiro; Robert Williams, vice president for business; Russ Seagren, director of campus planning and construction; David Gojdics, assistant vice president for facilities management; and Whittington, then selected two firms, Ayes/Saint/Gross and Sasaki Associates, to proceed into a more in-depth pre-planning and selection process.

"Both firms spent three days on campus this fall and held 60 meetings that involved 80 people, including deans, directors, trustees, county officials, students and University Senate members," said Whittington. Final presentations were made to the Program and Budget Committee in late October, and in early November Ayers/Saint/Gross was awarded the commission.

Whittington said the planning process will be very open and involve input from all segments of the campus community. "A campus model will be created as part of the effort and, there will be a series of workshops and processes for community input," said Whittington.

Whittington said a steering committee, chaired by Chace, will make final decisions during the planning process. A broad-based coordinating committee has also been established to meet regularly with the consultant group.

The firm of Ayers/Saint/ Gross, established in 1970 and based in Baltimore, has created master plans for a number of universities including the University of Virginia, Old Dominion University and George Washington University. They are also involved in a project to reconfigure the 1996 Olympic Stadium to accommodate the Atlanta Braves. The firm has 60 employees.

In their statement of qualifications, Ayers/Saint/Gross wrote, "This notion that there is a reciprocity between the academic mission and the physical plan is at the foundation of our design philosophy. Our belief is that for any piece of architecture to be truly successful, it must grow from a commitment and approach which balances the critical issues of design, management and technology."

At Oxford College, a master planning process was initiated by the Oxford Board of Counselors in October 1995. Robinson Fisher and Associates, a landscape architectural firm in Athens, has created a landscape plan for the Oxford campus that has developed into a master framework plan, according to David Rowe, Oxford's director of development. "The plan is linked to the feasibility study for an arts center on the Oxford campus and other facility needs that will be identified by the Dean's Council on Long Range Planning," said Rowe. "We want to make sure that what we do at Oxford is consistent with the University's overall master plan."

To that end, Dean Bill Murdy has asked Whittington to be a member of the Oxford Master Plan Task Force. "Being involved in both campus planning efforts provides a unique opportunity for us to share information and expertise," said Whittington. "A planning statement is essential, as programs expand and space becomes more limited for each campus; we need to have a well thought out direction for physical development which will outlive all of us."

--Jan Gleason

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