Located on the Carnegie Mellon University campus, the 32,000-square-foot Kraus Campo is a rooftop garden enclosed by tall buildings on three sides, with only one side of the garden affording open views to campus. Tightly curved bright orange concrete paths intertwine with a low rolling densely shrubbed topography, converging on a large central seating area called “the Campo.” A start-to-finish collaboration between Michael Van Valkenburgh and conceptual artist Mel Bochner, the garden provides an outdoor study and social area for the surrounding business- and art-school communities.
The rolling rooftop topography reflects an underlying grading plan that creates several mounded areas raised to five feet above the roof deck. Although the grading plays a role, however, it is the plants themselves, with mature heights ranging from 3 feet to 8 feet that create the majority of the spatial drama, greatly extending and exaggerating the underlying topography of subtle earth mounds. The planting design is a dense mosaic of a limited variety of plants that combine for contrast in color and texture over multiple seasons of the year. As the plants reach their mature heights they will obscure the paths running through them, adding drama and mystery to the choreography of the small space.