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Teachers-Dyer Complex
University of Cincinnati

Landscape Architect by Human Nature, Inc., Cincinnati


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At the University of Cincinnati's Teachers-Dyer Complex, clay brick paver bands intersperse the concrete pavement. Two heavily planted rain gardens in the courtyard capture and cleanse stormwater before conveying to an underground storage tank beneath the sunken classroom (below). The sunken classroom is sandwiched between a landscape of Chinese dogwoods (right) and Zelkova serrate Musashino trees.


For many educational campuses, the landscapes surrounding classroom buildings are often underused assets that simply contribute to the aesthetics of the campus, rather than supporting the educational mission of the institution. Over the last 20 years, the University of Cincinnati campus has undergone a startling transformation--from focusing more on the buildings than the spaces between them, to developing a meaningful collection of landscape spaces that define the university brand, create a unifying framework, organize the campus pedestrian network and create places for students to gather, study and relax.

For the Teachers-Dyer Complex, home to the College of Education, Criminal Justice, Human Services and Information Technology, the landscape is an extension of the college's educational mission: providing a multipurpose, place-specific and sustainable learning landscape.

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LED bollards and metal halide posttop luminaires provide two levels of lighting for students navigating the U-shaped space between the academic buildings.


The Teachers-Dyer complex consists of two buildings--Teachers Hall and Dyer Hall--which have grown together over the last 87 years to form a roughly U-shaped structure surrounding a large courtyard. In the early 2000s, the college made the decision to update its buildings and site to create a more attractive and modern learning environment for students. As part of a large design team led by Champlin Architecture, the Cincinnati landscape architecture firm Human Nature interviewed university and college staff to gain a better understanding of their specific needs and aspirations for the site. The college's dean and faculty requested a variety of outdoor spaces at different scales for teaching, learning, studying, socializing and holding special events, such as the all-college cookout held at the beginning of every fall semester to welcome students back to school.

It was imperative the site acknowledge and complement the architectural character of the buildings, but also follow the design guidelines established by the campus master plan developed by Hargreaves Associates and approved in 2000. This plan identified a series of campus-wide force fields, based on existing site geometries, to help unify the campus and create a coherent system that would guide the orientation of subsequent building and open space projects.

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The entry plaza is bordered on one side by continuous brick and limestone seatwalls, called the "Topographic Seam." The seatwalls step up the slope to provide amphitheater-like seating for classes. The sunken classroom is nestled around a bosque of four bald cypress trees.


Human Nature developed a site master plan for the Teachers-Dyer Complex in 2004, but the site portion of the project was put on hold until phase II of the building renovations was completed in 2012. Construction documents were completed in 2014, and the site construction and final phase of the building renovation were completed in July of 2016.

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It was imperative the site acknowledge and complement the architectural character of the buildings, but also follow the design guidelines established by the campus master plan developed by Hargreaves Associates and approved in 2000. As part of a large design team led by Champlin Architecture, the Cincinnati landscape architecture firm Human Nature interviewed university and college staff to gain a better understanding of their specific needs and aspirations for the site.


The site's new design vocabulary expresses the materials and character of the historical buildings. The central courtyard is conceptually organized based on left and right brain functionality. Therefore, one half of the courtyard is more hardscape and geometrical (left brain), and the other part is more softscape and contemplative (right brain). Garden courtyards around the buildings provide outdoor spaces of various scales that can comfortably accommodate use by people, small groups, classes and large gatherings. The central courtyard's main walkway opens up toward the new building entry and creates a plaza for larger gatherings.

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Site amenities include stainless steel backless benches with black powdercoated arms/supports, and one-piece table/chair picnic tables.


The entry plaza is bordered on one side by continuous brick and limestone seatwalls, called the Topographic Seam, that step up the slope to provide amphitheater-like seating for classes. On the opposite side of the entry plaza, a sunken classroom is nestled around a bosque of four baldcypress trees that will, in time, make the space feel more intimate and less exposed. A separate, smaller sidewalk connects the sunken classroom to the Scholar's Grove, an open lawn panel surrounded by lush plantings and populated by three groupings of Shumard oaks and custom precast concrete benches engraved with inspirational quotes. Two heavily planted rain gardens in the middle of the courtyard capture and cleanse stormwater before conveying to an underground storage tank below the sunken classroom.



As seen in LASN magazine, June 2018.






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September 25, 2018, 10:47 am PDT

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