WANG CAMPUS CENTER
Wellesley College, Wellesley, MA (2001–2006)
Wellesley College’s original campus plan, developed by Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr., inventively integrated both architecture and landscape and celebrated the glacially-carved structure of the university site. This legacy inspired the 1998 MVVA Wellesley College Master Plan and was reinforced through a suite of projects, including the Lulu Chow Wang Campus Center, the Davis Parking Facility, and the Alumnae Valley Landscape Restoration.
To accommodate the creation of Alumnae Valley, existing service buildings and surface parking were moved uphill out of the lakefront valley. The new campus center and parking garage were sited and designed to work closely with this landscape’s new and existing features, including the historic Diana Chapman Walsh Alumnae Hall. Today, the close relationship between topography and architecture throughout this neighborhood supports many campus functions and enhances the experience of the space.
The Davis Parking Facility is built on a site formerly used as a “borrow pit”, and its low elevation relative to the adjacent entry road make it well-suited as a below-grade, open-air parking structure. The lowest layer of parking extends under the campus drive, allowing pedestrians to exit directly to a terrace between the Campus Center and Alumnae Hall. At the level of the roadway and garage entrance, the slopes are recessed to create room for a pathway and to bring natural light down to the bottom level of garage. The resulting berms are planted with low sasa bamboo and a veil of birch trees, which ground the parking structure in the experience of the campus landscape and complement the garage’s loosely vertical façade scrim of copper pipes.
Working mid-slope and at the entrance to the campus, the Lulu Chow Wang Campus Center is experienced in the round and at multiple landscape levels. Within the space, topography, circulation, and planting are calibrated to meet the Center’s needs. The Campus Road frontage, which leads to a pedestrian bridge connection, features large rhododendrons and existing oaks, while the bridge to the parking garage passes through a sunken garden of yellow groove and sasa bambo. To the southwest, a landscape terrace shared with Alumnae Hall and edged with woodland plantings of witchhazel and ferns provides a vista toward the new Alumnae Valley topography, pathways, and wetlands. An outdoor fire pit and café seating near a grove of golden raintree create a courtyard at the base of the campus center, thereby supporting the day-to-day activities and special events that spill out from both of the adjacent buildings.