UMBC Interdisciplinary Life Science Building

Catonsville, Maryland
Promoting Learning and Creating an Experience

Central to the ILSB project is the Grove Plaza, inspired by The Knoll, a preserved woodland adjacent to the site. The preservation of two mature oak trees and a new collection of native trees give a sense of being in and amongst nature. Green infrastructure takes center stage in the grove plaza which is punctuated by lushly planted micro-bioretention gardens. Interpretive signage teaches visitors about the multi-layered planting scheme highlighting some of the best qualities of Maryland native plants, as well as the benefits of green infrastructure. Water quality improvements, carbon sequestration, habitat creation, and reduction of urban heat island effect are some of the performative impacts of the landscape. A sinuous field of paving combines a campus standard palette of materials to guide pedestrian circulation through the site in a motion that aims to connect minds with the ecological processes of water. Long arcing seatwalls provide abundant seating while protecting the planting and accentuating the plaza forms.

Unify Campus Core

While serving as an outdoor extension of the new ILSB building, the Grove plaza and project at large are designed to create linkages between several important sites on campus. Students stream through the plaza from commuter lots and a new vehicular drop-off to the east while a generous walk collects pedestrian traffic from on-campus housing to the north. The Grove Plaza becomes an impressive front door for The Commons and ILSB building where students and faculty spill out and into the landscape. On the west the landscape provides an overlook and integrates the new building with The Quad, gently stepping down from the building entrance at the arcing Quad Terrace.

It’s all About Logistics

Construction of a 130,000 GSF building and disruption to such a large area of campus is no small feat and required a tactful approach by the designers. The landscape design creates a pedestrian environment in an area which previously served as truck loading and unloading as well as an active vehicular drop-off area. The necessary vehicular functions are preserved and accommodated by retractable bollards and areas of heavy-duty pavement. A new pedestrian drop-off is configured around an existing stormwater management facility. The new underground utility tunnel constructed as part of the project to connects ILSB to the campus infrastructure, but required disruption to The Quad and a pedestrian way between classroom buildings. After implementation of the new tunnel under The Quad, the lawn and paths were replaced with a manufactured soil blend, sod, and soft-impact paths so that functionality could be returned to the recreation space and location of the annual ‘Quadmania’ Spring Festival.