Report outlines landscape enhancements at Penn State campuses

November 06, 2009

University Park, Pa. -- The Penn State Board of Trustees on Nov. 6 heard an informational report on landscape improvements of several Penn State campuses from Gordon Turow, director of campus planning and design.

Landscape influences the perception of the character and quality of the University and the educational experience it offers.

"According to a well-known study, many high school seniors base their choice of an institution in large part on the appearance of the campus buildings and grounds," Turow said. "Most of them make that decision within the first 15 minutes of arriving on campus."

Memorable outdoor spaces

In outlining changes at Penn State, Turow pointed out several improvements to various campuses that have added to their aesthetic beauty, safety and functionality. For example, at University Park, when the new agricultural sub-campus was built and parking was relocated, a maturing landscape was installed, creating a park-like setting with a continuous network of walkways and gathering spaces among the Business and Forest Resources buildings and near the Creamery.
Also, in an effort to offer a wider variety of outdoor gathering spaces while making travel for pedestrians and cyclists safer, the Verne M. Willaman Gateway to the Sciences and the Shortlidge Mall at University Park were created. With the creation of the mall, Shortlidge Road — which was a congested and unsafe route — is no longer a thruway. That section has been replaced by brick walkways, seating areas and a more pedestrian-friendly environment.

The introduction of areas such as Willard Plaza, the Schreyer Garden adjacent to the HUB-Robeson Center lawn and the Honors College, the outdoor space in front of the Electrical Engineering East Building, and well-maintained  open lawns heighten the beauty of the landscape and provide additional student space on the University Park campus. At other campuses, such as Penn State New Kensington, Berks, York and Abington, recent, aesthetically pleasing landscape upgrades have been accomplished as well.

Comfortable streets

Campus streets are another valuable characteristic that leave visitors with a positive or negative impression, according to Turow. The betterment of these streets shared by drivers, pedestrians and cyclists begins at the campus entrances for Penn State Greater Allegheny, Beaver, Brandywine and York. New entrance signs now welcome visitors. On the Penn State Altoona campus, a new covered waiting area shelters students who use public transportation.

Coherent, efficient, safe network of walkways

Turow also pointed out that in addition to these improvements, other landscaped areas at University Park, such as Fisher Plaza, once dominated by concrete, now sport less pavement and more walkways and furnishings for students to enjoy. New landscape between the Bank of America Career Services Building and University Health Services provides an important link in the network of east-west walkways. Enhancements of walkways at New Kensington, Hazleton and York also bestow a safer environment for pedestrians.

Environmental sustainability

In the midst of these improvements, the University is keeping sustainability in mind. Penn State's environmental commitment has inspired several green roof landscapes on the Forest Resources Building, the Student Health Center and the Lewis Katz Building. The University is also seeking the best ways to discourage the use of cars.

"Over the past several years, we have made getting to campus and to class on bicycles much easier and safer," Turow said. “We continue to strive for a more pedestrian-friendly, student-centered, sustainable and attractive campus."

  • Schreyer Gardens, at the foot of HUB Lawn on the University Park campus.

    IMAGE: L. Reidar Jensen
Last Updated November 18, 2010