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The Open Space Project

By Kimberly Houston

A sketch of Krieger Court shows the winding brick walkways that replaced the original asphalt.

As a result of its master plan developed in the spring of 2000, Johns Hopkins University began that summer with an ambitious landscape renovation project on its Homewood campus in the north Baltimore neighborhood of Charles Village. With the Open Space Project, the university would create a more pedestrian-friendly walking campus with a landscape that better reflected the institution's architecture and prestige.

The Autumn flowering cherries were added to the new pedestrian friendly environment.

Then, an exciting development. An anonymous donor, reviewing the master plan, decided to donate $15 million to the Open Space Project, with two requirements. The donor wanted an additional architect and a landscape architect to partner with the existing Open Space design team, and the project had to be fast-tracked. Preferably, the new clay paver walkways would be completed before the students came back for fall classes. Work began in the summer months, and was completed the following spring of 2001.

Master plan, faster

In order to meet the time constraints of the project, Ayers/Saint/Gross, the Baltimore-based firm that created the Homewood campus master plan, involved a design team of two landscape architecture firms to design and specify all elements of the Open Space Project: the Baltimore-based Mahan Rykiel Associates, Inc., and Michael Vergason Landscape Architects of Arlington, Virginia. "We knew we wanted everything - the settings, the finish and the site amenities - to be consistent with the University's reputation and the look and feel of the rest of the architecture," says principal Michael Vergason.

"We knew we wanted everything . . . to be consistent with the University's reputation . . ."--Michael Vergason

A central feature of the project would be the winding brick walkways, which would replace existing asphalt. "Overall, we were looking to create a greater sense of coherence, to develop a treatment of the groundplain as if it had been conceived when the buildings were first built," says Vergason. "We needed a consistent treatment, and the pavers were a significant part of that."

The 222,000 square feet of pavers were installed, giving a treatment that looked as if it had been conceived when the buildings were first built.

Based on test panels, the design team selected Pathway Full Range pavers from Pine Hall Brick in Winston-Salem, NC, for several reasons. Not only could the company supply nearly a million pavers within a matter of weeks, but it was able to supply a perfect color fit in Full Range Red that achieved exactly what the planners wanted - a landscape that looked as if it had been there all along.


The fast track nature of the project was one of the things that interested Mahan Rykiel Associates, Inc.

The company designed the walkways, steps, ramps, handrails, and amenities -- such as lights, trash cans, benches, bollards and plantings.

The design lent itself to enhance the university's prestige and classical architecture.

"The timing was a huge and exciting challenge," says Catherine Mahan, president of Mahan Rykiel and Associates, Inc. They worked fast, engaging general contractor Henry H. Lewis Contractors Inc. to rip out the asphalt walkways, create foundations, footing and grading for the new pathways, and install the nearly 220,000 square feet of clay pavers. After that the curbs and ramps were placed, electric conduits for street lights and other utilities installed, and new lighting, including a fixture developed exclusively for the University, began to light up the summer evenings.

A modified Spring City fixture known as the Hopkins Lamp was chosen to be compatible with the character of the architecture on the campus.

This of course was no small feat, even just in terms of securing the materials. "Brick can be especially tough to get on a short turnaround," says Michael Vergason. "At the same time, we needed to get the pavers from one source so that color, shape and quality would be consistent.

Founded in 1876, The Johns Hopkins University was the first research university in the United States. The pavers are the backdrop for many other aspects of the project, such as the furnishings and custom lighting used and enjoyed by the more than 4,000 students who call the campus home.

"We didn't have time for errors or delays," says Catherine Mahan. "You depend on your suppliers to come through, and the pavers were such a massive part of the project, physically and aesthetically, that we absolutely had to have them to be on time and done right." The pavers are the backdrop for many other aspects of the project, such as the furnishings and custom lighting.

"The timing was a huge and exciting challenge."--Catherine Mahan

The pavers exceed ASTM C902 and C1272 standards for severe weathering and traffic as well as the PX application for dimensional tolerance. Although the PX standard requires +/- 1/8", these maintain a consistent internal standard of +/- 1/16".

An anonymous donor donated $15 million to the Open Space Project with the requirements that an additional architect and Landscape Architect partner with the design team, and that the walkways be completed before the students came back for fall classes.

"In a large project such as this, once you have chosen color and style, consistency is everything," says Ted Corvey, Pine Hall Brick paver business director. "The advantage of using clay pavers on this project is that it not only provided a more beautiful, pedestrian-friendly environment, the use of clay pavers in a sand-set system ensures a lower life cycle cost – clay pavers are more durable over time, they are easily pulled up and replaced if necessary, and enjoy a lower maintenance cost over time."

The transformed Homewood campus landscape now looks as if it has always been this way-graceful walkways punctuated by seating areas and greenery. The next step: extending the design of the Open Space Project to other parts of the campus.

Suppliers Involved in The Open Space Project:

Ayers/Saint/Gross - Architecture Firm
Michael Vergason Architects - Landscape Architecture Firm
Mahan Rykiel Associates, Inc. - Landscape Architecture Firm
Henry H. Lewis Contractors Inc. - General Contractor

Paul Foreman - Interlock Paving, Inc.
Belair Road Supply - Paver Distributor

Kimberly Houston is a Public Relations Account Executive
for King's English in Greensboro, NC.

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June 19, 2019, 11:07 pm PDT

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