SCHOOL OF COMPUTER SCIENCE
Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA (2004–2009)
MVVA’s design for the School of Computer Science Complex landscape on Carnegie Mellon University’s West Campus, in association with Mack Scogin Merrill Elam Architects’ design for the new Gates Center and Hillman Center buildings, increases the site’s green space from 52,000 sf to over 120,000 sf and transforms a former service space into a new extension of the formal campus. The extremely steep site, the need to connect to new and existing building entrances at multiple elevations, and the challenge of coordinating service, parking, infrastructural, academic, and social uses, have resulted in a new type of landscape for CMU: a robustly planted and sculpted network of circulation and open spaces that is interwoven with the architectural experience.
The positioning of the Gates Center creates a a major new campus neighborhood for CMU. The 5 acre site activates connections between new and existing campus destinations and has become an integrated part of the existing architectural context and circulation networks. The School of Computer Science landscape intricately interlaces many elements, and creates a continuous campus connection through 75 ft. of grade change, 11 points of entry into the Gates Center and Hillman Center buildings, and 6 surrounding buildings. The creation of straightforward connections between these many campus elements necessitates a landscape that slopes dramatically.
Each landscape edge creates its own environmental circumstance that is reflected in individualized planting microclimates. The southern landscape is characterized by a dense planting of Black Locusts edged by unmown meadow. Emerging from this hillside of meadow grasses is a manicured lawn that covers a 300 car garage. The west approach to the building begins with the encounter of large sculptural Kentucky Coffee trees leading into the more intimate experiences of the Winter Garden, Rain Garden and Moss Garden which bring winter seasonal color into the courtyard between the two buildings composing the new computer science complex. The entry from Forbes Avenue is announced by dramatic clumps of Honey Locusts and paths edged by a cascade of Weeping Forsythia.