Stanford University Campus Planning and Projects Show Project Info Back

Reviving Olmsted's Spirit on a Contemporary Campus

Location Stanford, California

Client Stanford University / Stanford Management Company

Scope Landscape Architecture

Size

VITALS

40-year client relationship includes nearly 300 projects

Frederick Law Olmsted's defining axes restored from 1887 plan

100-year-old oak grove preserved

Bike/pedestrian circulation and gathering privileged

Revives classic juxtaposition of formal and naturalistic styles

Over the past 20 plus years SWA has been working with Stanford University to reclaim the 100 year old master plan vision of Leland Stanford and Frederick Law Olmsted for the campus. This series of campus improvement projects has restored the historic axis, open spaces and landscape patterns. With Stanford Management Company, SWA designed the Sand Hill corridor to extend the road to link to the surrounding cities. The plan provides new housing and shopping to serve the University community. After Olmsted, the formal center of the university lost much of its clarity, and what had once been a rural context became more and more urban. It was only after the Loma Pieta earthquake and the appointment of David Neuman as campus architect that the university established campus-wide principles for restoring the campus. In addition to providing master planning for larger complexes and landscape architecture for specific buildings, SWA’s work has concentrated on all the pieces of a campus that help people circulate and gather: streets, pedestrian malls and spaces, bicycle routes, and wayfinding. Olmsted used plant material to create a play between formal and informal, ornamental and native. SWA uses the California-based plant palette as a backbone, while introducing something new for each project. The focus has not been on revisiting the old, but rather re-creating the original vision for the twenty-first century. As an example, Stanford’s athletic facilities were never addressed or even envisioned by Olmsted, but grew as a series of leftover spaces on the campus. SWA began a master plan that provided a framework for 22 individual projects under the Department of Athletics, Physical Education, and Recreation (DAPER). Using a grid that differs from that of the rest of the campus and thus distinguishes the old from the new, SWA created a new arrival plaza for cars, a pedestrian entry, parking, and track and field venues. They also rebuilt the key north-south axis through the area, a critical link with Olmsted’s original plan.