College of Agriculture & Natural Resources
Landscape Architecture

Greening Cities: Applying Ecological Design

Utilizing the New Landscapes of the Edward St. John Learning and Teaching Center for a More Green and Blue World
Edward St. John Learning and Teaching Center Sunken Garden
Masters of Landscape Architecture (MLA) student Katie Ferguson and MLA student Jorah Reinstein discussing the ESJ Sunken Garden to students in their respective lab sections.
Photo Credit: 
David Myers


In the fall 2017, the new Edward St. John Learning and Teaching Center (ESJ) provided an incredible opportunity to support the learning outcomes of LARC 152 Greening Cities. Over 50 percent of humanity now lives in urban and suburban areas. Greening Cities focuses on how green infrastructure, plants and the spaces occupied by plants, contribute to human health, livability, and sustainability of cities and suburbs. Students explore the science of how green infrastructure benefits health and other ecosystems services and how the practice of ecological design and planning is practiced to create green spaces. In addition to providing many of the University of Maryland's newest TERP Classrooms, which are especially designed to support active learning, the opening of ESJ provided an opportunity to showcase two new learning environments: the Sunken Garden and the Learning Green Roof.  An understanding of both of these features were assisted by the construction drawings that were provided by UMD Facilities and Facilities Staff to help inform the students about the complexity of how these two features were designed and built.

ESJ’s Sunken Garden

In class, the students explored the process of park and landscape design. The visit to the Physical Science Plaza, Frederick Douglas Plaza,  and the ESJ Sunken Garden provided the students the opportunity to dig deeper into the details of a landscape spaces.  At each site, construction drawings were reviewed, how parks are constructed, programming and landscape function and the role of the plants in the overall design of the space. This lab project complements one of the major overall course projects: The Tale of Two Parks. This project required students to venture to Washington D.C. and to compare and contrast Yards Park and Canal Park - two exemplary redevelopment parks of the Capitol Riverfront Initiative on the Anacostia River.

ESJ’s Learning Green Roof

The second landscape utilized by the course is the ESJ Learning Green Roof roof accessible from the second floor. Green roofs provide multiple benefits: stormwater retention, mitigating urban heat island, increasing biodiversity, and providing building cooling and heating moderation. There are two green roofs that were constructed - one which is accessible for classroom teaching - the ESJ Learning Green Roof. As part of one lab discussion,  students visited the green roof. Michael Carmichael (UMD BLA 2013), Facilities Management & UMD Arboretum & Botanical Garden, presented on-site information about the green roof and green roofs on the UMD Campus.

Summary: A More Green and Blue World

Landscape preservation for non-human organisms and resource forest and farmland conservation will depend on our ability to build more green and blue cities and suburbs for work, play, and  living. Two of the five strategic initiatives of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources  are to Optimize Urban Environments Through Design, Green Technologies and Community Engagement (GREEN) and to Ensure a Clean and Healthy  Chesapeake Bay (BLUE).  The new landscapes of the  ESJ afforded an incredible opportunity to assist with these initiatives and LARC 152  Greening Cities by showcasing exemplary ecological design practices that provide a place-based opportunity to showcase best landscape design practices. A deeper understanding of why and how landscapes are created will help students both with the opportunity to appreciate the UMD Campus as well as to inform them of their opportunity to create more livable and sustainable places.

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