MNLA Smith College Landscape Master Plan

Photo Image Courtesy: MNLA

MNLA has completed a 20-year landscape master plan for Smith College, a private women's liberal arts college in Northampton, Massachusetts, which opened in 1875. The original 27-acre campus was planned and planted as a botanical garden and arboretum by renowned American landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, and two other plans were subsequently implemented. MNLA’s 21st-century plan meets the current and future challenges of the campus, which has grown to comprise 147 acres over nearly 150 years.
Valuing the performance of the campus landscape over a particular aesthetic, the new plan recalibrates the relationship between humans and their environment. Grounded by the four foundational themes of inclusive, adaptive, educational, and connected landscapes, implementation guidelines were developed for achieving this ambitious goal.
Aligned with MNLA’s and Smith’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion, the new plan’s approach innovatively invited Smith community members to express their thoughts during each step of development, the results of which were woven into the design process. Robust on-campus engagement sessions and interactive student projects brought the initiative alive on campus. Groundswell Magazine, an inventive online resource designed and implemented by MNLA, informed Smith’s community and alumnae of the project’s development, continuously inviting their feedback and comments.
Each of the three distinct districts of Smith’s campus—River, Core and Town—has its own unique character shaped by unique history, locality, ecology, and cultural influences. Mutually dependent landscape systems— circulation, land cover, hydrology, and cultural systems—form a matrix within the campus, grounding the landscape and connecting it to its regional context. The new plan seeks to accentuate what is most important about each district while maintaining a cohesive campus feel throughout the landscape systems.
To date, several projects have been developed to a detailed level. Smaller scale pilot projects can be quickly implemented to demonstrate and test the space transformations that herald longer-term initiatives, while larger scale priority projects invest in the landscape’s future by addressing multiple guiding principles of the plan. A visceral demonstration of the college’s values, educational goals, and strategic priorities, MNLA’s Landscape Master Plan will guide the evolution of the Smith College Campus for the next two decades.
About MNLA
MNLA advocates for connected communities and purposeful ecological design solutions through thoughtful place-making and inspired transformation of landscapes. For over a quarter century, the firm has worked to reinvigorate, heal and mediate places that strengthen and empower communities. We utilize the design process to engage with governing bodies, community stakeholders, and private clients to advocate for incremental and strategic advances in policies and regulations affecting the public realm, as well as ethical design decisions that add long term ecological value and performance to the project. MNLA imagines cumulative and holistic design vision for every project. Our process always starts with the big idea, and we see it as our role to maintain that conceptual thread throughout our efforts. With over 500 built works, we know how to execute our big ideas while preserving the design intent and delivering on budget and on time.  Our designs are as insightful and artful as they are performative. Follow MNLA on Instagram and LinkedIn.

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