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Landscape as Laboratory

Set on a 35-acre portion of the former Mid-Point Technology Park in Redwood City, California, Stanford University’s new satellite campus embraces nature-based solutions for stormwater, biodiversity, climate change, and human health. Seeking a flexible, resilient approach, Office of Cheryl Barton (O|CB) along with the architect and client developed a Master Plan and Amenities program for the site, allowing the campus to be developed sustainably in phases based on the needs of the University.

Completed in 2019, Phase 1 features a 7-acre linear public greenway serving as the central organizing open space for 500,000 SF of administrative offices, research and development, and medical clinic use, as well as fitness, dining, and childcare facilities. The landscape is predicated on a green infrastructure approach in which rainwater is captured in bio-retention gardens before it is released to San Francisco Bay. The site presented severe technical challenges including existing flooding, a high water table, and compacted, expansive, alkaline clay soils. Additionally, due to the low elevation of the site, it was threatened by sea-level rise. Problem soils were amended, and the site was graded and elevated to tilt the landform toward the Bay, reducing the risk of sea-level rise.

A major challenge for the project was the new California State regulation that requires all new developments to use reclaimed water for irrigation. The water source for the project has an unusually high salt and chemical content that most plants will not tolerate. Working in collaboration with a renowned horticulturist O|CB developed an adaptive public ‘landscape laboratory’ that is primed for climate change.

Stanford University has a rich tradition of integrating architecture and landscape architecture to establish a strong sense of place. This ethos, coupled with the O|CB’s emphasis on blending cultural and natural systems, led the design team to weave courtyards and bio-retention between buildings and under covered walkways, blurring the separation between inside and outside. Likewise, interior staircases were shifted to the outside of buildings and extended into the landscape, visually tying the interior to the exterior while subtly promoting physical activity. By connecting directly to city streets and surrounding neighbourhoods, the campus invites local residents into the site to take advantage of amenities: using outdoor workspaces nestled in a grove of fastigiate English oaks, running along the quarter-mile greenway loop path, or walking their dogs along the meandering greenway.

Recognizing the challenges that the natural systems faced on site, a ‘Landscape as Laboratory’ approach was adopted by the team. Closely monitoring the performance of the landscape through an extensive commissioning process has been essential to the success of the campus. O|CB continues to work closely with horticultural experts, the University’s facilities team, and the maintenance contractor to ensure that the performative and green infrastructure elements of the landscape are functioning to the highest standard, learn how plants and soils respond to available recycled water, and then adjust as needed to ensure the health and adaptability of the landscape for future generations.

 

Architecture offices involved in the design : ZGF

Project location: 505 Broadway, Redwood City, CA 94063

Design year: 2014-2016

Year Built: 2019

Photo Credit for Images 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 9, 10, 11, 12: Millicent Harvey

 

 

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