By Edwin W. Gano (SEBS’18) and Giovanni A. Caputo (SEBS’20), Department of Landscape Architecture
Rutgers Gardens has been an integral and indispensable resource for Rutgers University — especially for the Cook and Douglass campuses who are closely associated with the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences. Efforts have been made to make the Gardens more physically accessible for the staff and students, but perhaps another way of looking at it is figuratively: What if we brought the idea of Rutgers Gardens to campus. We did just that with “The Garden Walk.”
The goal of the design was to bring students back to nature, and foster a sustainability culture, strengthening the campuses’ collective identity as natural campuses. Our design team was also tasked with fitting the design into the Rutgers 2030 Master Plan. As many master plans fall victim to budget constraints, we had to look at a feasible option that would not drastically change the design. We took the proposed “Campus Walk”—a primary path running through the campus that connects proposed residential with educational and transportation hubs—and created the Garden Walk.
Interstitial spaces between buildings were taken advantage of to designate potential areas for future living lab gardens. These can be installed by classes for classes to promote not only student ownership, but also stewardship. The Garden Walk modifies the Campus Walk to run along existing significant natural resources as well as existing living labs. This has the potential to promote the current living lab initiative at the University that encourages the use of outdoor classrooms.
These gardens will serve ecological purposes that address problems not only on campus, but in New Brunswick as well. These include stormwater management, carbon sequestration, and invasive species management. The research gathered from these labs will not just be for the campus, but also disseminated into the community, reinforcing Rutgers’ historic role as the land grant university of New Jersey.
The entire experience was surreal. Giovanni and I had known going into the competition that we were one of a few, if not the only, students submitting their design for consideration for an award. The rest were professionals that we hear about in our classes who do these amazing projects. So once we heard that we won, we were ecstatic. For me this, was my second award from NJASLA, but I think the win was special for different reasons. I’m also very proud of this project and what it stands for in terms of changing the culture of sustainability on campus and how we as a community—students and faculty—can work together with the University to change our campus. I’m also very happy that it puts landscape architecture in the center of it all in terms of working with every department to help create their visions. I feel as though landscape architecture is slowly coming out of the woodwork and really taking a leadership position on campus. Finally, I’m very proud and happy to win this with Giovanni who was my mentee while I was still a student in the program. Seeing how far both of us have come in our skills and knowledge, and having it recognized by NJASLA, is really gratifying — Edwin W. Gano (SEBS’18).
It truly is an honor to win this award and with Edwin Gano. At the time he was a senior in the Department of Landscape Architecture, and when he added me to this project I was very excited. I am an advocate for promoting sustainability, and to know that one of the objectives for “The Garden Walk” is to create a more sustainable campus made me even more excited to be part of this project. Landscape Architecture has the power to create beautiful and functional designs for humans while having ecological benefits for other species. We hope to see some of our proposal for the Cook and Douglass campuses to be implemented within the Rutgers 2030 master plan. — Giovanni A. Caputo (SEBS’19).