Unique Partnership Yields Sustainable Inspiration

UC Riverside partners with Cal Poly Pomona on new approaches to campus landscape

UCR’s Ron Coley and Cal Poly’s Dean Michael Woo discuss draft landscape design plans for the Chancellor’s residence at UC Riverside. Carlos Puma

By InsideUCR staff

A group of four dozen environmental design students from California Polytechnic University (Cal Poly), Pomona used UC Riverside’s Chancellor’s Residence as a laboratory project to identify a range of landscaping approaches and techniques that will be integrated by the campus as new capital projects are designed.

The UCR Chancellor’s Residence, built in 1959, is located on the edge of campus in a quiet suburban neighborhood. It was selected as the concept site because it combines in a discretely bounded two-acre area many features shared by the campus as a whole: a small arroyo, vistas of the Box Springs Mountains and orange groves, public and private space, and interface with the neighboring community.

Led by Cal Poly Associate Professor of Landscape Architecture Andrew Wilcox, the undergraduate and graduate students organized in teams of 12 to present four distinctive approaches to transforming grounds surrounding the mid-century home in ways that improve both function and beauty: “Atypically Suburban,” “Food for Thought,” “Habitat is Everywhere,” and “Beautiful Resilience.”

“The students really did a magnificent job inspiring us to think more creatively about our surroundings,” said Vice Chancellor Ron Coley, who coordinated the project for UC Riverside. “They gave us a toolbox of new design elements that we can deploy in a range of locations around campus as we think more holistically about our green space.”

The concepts introduced by the design team include gabion walls – cages filled with reclaimed concrete – and swales – low, marshy features that allow for water runoff that can recharge subterranean aquifers. Heavy emphasis was placed on drought resistant plantings and reuse of existing materials in new ways, consistent with UCR’s carbon neutrality and sustainability efforts.

Cal Poly students present draft landscape designs for UCR's Chancellor's Residence. Peter Phun

Cal Poly students present draft landscape designs for UCR’s Chancellor’s Residence.
Peter Phun

Cal Poly Dean of Environmental Design Michael Woo noted, “real-life experiences like this help to prepare students for successful, meaningful careers. The project challenged the teams to think both conceptually and concretely, and provided them with valuable exposure to the complex process of creating cohesive, actionable designs around client needs and desires.”

While no renovation of the Chancellor’s Residence is planned, the lessons learned will inform design decisions across the nearly 1,200 acre campus.

UCR Vice Chancellor for Planning and Budget Maria Anguiano, who oversaw creation of a new physical master plan, praised the students’ work. “Our goal with the new plan is to bring a beauty, function, and coherence to the campus,” she said. “The ideas that emerged from this class project will help ensure that the grounds surrounding our structures complement the architecture and overall design aesthetic of UCR.”

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