ALUMNAE VALLEY RESTORATION
Wellesley College, Wellesley,
Designer: Michal Van Valkenburgh
When Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. surveyed Wellesley College in 1902, he emphatically recommended that the natural topography of glacial landforms, valley meadows, and native plant communities be preserved. But as the college developed over decades, the valley became the site for the college’s physical plant, industrialized natural gas pumping, and ultimately, a parking lot over a toxic brownfield. The restored Alumnae Valley reclaims its place in the natural hydrological system that structures the Wellesley College campus. The reconceptualization of the site includes an understanding of its history, from glacial valley to industrial dumping ground to parking lot. The dual role of topography on the site—both a means to a design solution and an experiential enhancement—forms the foundation of a landscape that is at once willfully artificial and unabashedly picturesque.
At the time of its original construction, the landscape-based structure of Wellesley’s campus was seen as a challenge to the more homogenous quadrangle schemes favored at all-male schools like Harvard and Princeton. Alumnae Valley continues this tradition of challenging landscape orthodoxy not by returning to the specifics of Olmsted’s master plan, but by allowing the most important experiential and ecological principles it advances to become a living part of the contemporary campus.
Alumnae Valley Landscape Restoration received the 2006 ASLA Design Award of Excellence. .
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