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Thomas Jefferson University Lubert Plaza

Landscape Performance Benefits

Environmental

  • Captures and detains at least 1 inch of precipitation for a 1.6-acre area, approximately half of a city block.
  • Captures and reuses up to 17,700 gallons of stormwater and air conditioning condensate for irrigation.

Social

  • Improves mood of visitors to the plaza, with 88% of survey respondents reporting to feel more positive after spending time in the plaza.
  • Improves ability to cope with work/school stress, with 63% of respondents feeling more able to cope after spending time in the plaza.
  • Increases satisfaction with TJU as a workplace/university, with 81.2% of respondents saying that the presence of the plaza probably or definitely increased their satisfaction.
  • Increases overall satisfaction with the city environment, with 90.7% of survey respondents saying that the plaza probably or definitely increased their overall satisfaction.

At a Glance

  • Designer

    Andropogon Associates, Ltd.

  • Project Type

    Courtyard/Plaza
    School/University

  • Former Land Use

    Institutional

  • Location

    S 10th Street & Locust Street
    Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19107

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  • Climate Zone

    Humid subtropical

  • Size

    1.6 acres

  • Budget

    $60 million - Total project; $1.6 million - Landscape architecture

  • Completion Date

    2006

This 60,000 sf plaza transforms the 14-acre Thomas Jefferson University campus in center city Philadelphia by providing a new “heart of campus” where two above-ground parking garages once stood. The new plaza, built above a 215-space parking garage, was designed to accommodate academic events and ceremonies and to serve as a shared space for the surrounding neighborhood. The elliptical forms radiating from the center make this space feel expansive despite being surrounded by tall buildings. The plaza is embraced by 53 trees, which offer shade in the urban environment. Plaza plantings are irrigated with rainwater, air conditioner condensate, and potable water collected in an underground cistern.

  • 1.6 acres of new park space overlay an underground parking structure. The new space accommodates multiple activities from studying to eating to play, whereas the former space was primarily dedicated to parking.
  • The new plaza and lawn area increase pervious surfaces from 7% of the total site area to 40%.
  • Organic materials and light-weight aggregates augment the engineered soil of the green roof to increase water-holding capacity.
  • A 17,000 gallon cistern adjacent to Locust Street provides irrigation for trees and lawn. The cistern is approximately 12 ft x 159 ft and runs parallel to the sidewalk avoiding utilities and trees, with several ‘cut outs’ to avoid root conflicts.
  • 53 new shade trees line the streets and embrace both the oval plaza at the center and the large event lawn.
  • The new plaza adds valuable green space to this dense urban neighborhood and has become a social and environmental asset valued by both the University and the surrounding community.

Challenge

The design for the site had to respond to multiple program demands and users, including students, faculty, hospital staff, and neighborhood residents/office workers. The program for the site called for passive recreation (eating, sitting, studying) and lawn space for active recreation (informal play, ball tossing, etc.) The university’s desire to include lawn areas would mean that the site would require irrigation. Because the plaza site is located 3 feet above a parking structure, it had all of the structural and planting constraints associated with rooftops.

Solution

The plaza is designed to accommodate academic events and ceremonies, as well as be inviting to the urban community with its public art and diverse, sunny and shaded seating areas. The plaza landscape demonstrates TJU’s commitment to sustainability by being irrigated in part by rainwater and air conditioner condensate, which are collected in an underground cistern. The elliptical forms radiating from the center make this space feel expansive despite being confined by tall buildings, and the openness of the design makes the plaza feel welcoming and secure.

No information available.

  • Post construction monitoring of plant performance and irrigation demands indicate that light weight soils require more water than most other soils.
  • An organic management program was instituted post-occupancy to address plant health. Irrigation refinements continue. These are just two of the factors pointing toward the importance of involving the landscape architect post-occupancy for a project’s health and sustainability.
  • Survey respondents indicate that they would like more water in the plaza, and site furnishing, such as tables. Water and comfort are highly appreciated in the urban setting and landscape architects should be cognizant of this. As the plaza evolves it may be possible to include these elements.
  • Most survey respondents were unaware of the site’s benefit to the urban stormwater infrastructure. The performative function of landscape is of interest to the public and helps support the role of landscape architects in environmental design. Future design could make the stormwater performance aspect of the plaza more visible and readily grasped by the public.

Project Team

Landscape Architect: Andropogon Associates, Ltd.
Architect: Burt, Hill
Irrigation Design: Irrigation Consulting, Inc.
Cost Estimator: P. Agnes, Inc.
Civil Engineer: Barton and Martin Engineers (Stantec)

Role of the Landscape Architect

The landscape architect performed landscape design including planting, circulation, lighting, and grading, soils design, comprehensive stormwater management coordination, coordination and design of stormwater cisterns and irrigation systems, and soil and plant landscape maintenance assistance.

Case Study Prepared By

Research Fellow: Mary Myers, PhD, RLA, FCELA, Department Chair, Temple University
Research Assistant: Andrew C. Hayes, PE, MLA Candidate, Temple University
August 2011

Topics

Stormwater management, Water conservation, Recreational & social value, Health & well-being, Green roof, Rainwater harvesting, Trees, Mental wellness

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