With a commitment of creating a hub of innovation and collaboration, the Knight Campus for Accelerating Scientific Impact (KCASI), launches the University of Oregon into a bold new direction of scientific discovery.
Set along the south bank of the restored Millrace corridor, the site and landscape play a pivotal role in supporting the cooperative alliance of science education, research, and entrepreneurship. A series of dynamic gathering spaces climb up from the water’s edge up to the building’s terrace serving KCASI, the UO campus, and the community. The site is a functional platform for the campus’ circulation, ecology, education, and celebrations.
The KCASI, through its location and architectural presence, is a key addition to the north campus and a critical link to the Willamette River. It serves as circulation feature, a destination, and gateway element for those traveling across or along the city’s busy Franklin Boulevard. By its nature, the north campus has a series of entry points including the bridges and tunnels, regulating access and limiting porosity of the district. Entries focus circulation and direct it through the KCASI site, creating a welcoming gateway, a functional passage, and unifying campus experience.
Generous and inviting courtyards amplify a warm welcome. Inspired by the natural stone formations, the water feature at the building’s edge is grounded in form and materiality and honors a sense of arrival. Complementing informal connections, KCASI offers opportunities to host outdoor events on both the Millrace terrace and roof garden with programable spaces of multiple scales and character. Wrapping up and onto the second-floor terrace, a mix of native trees and ferns creates a lush garden in the sky. Vine Maples and Dogwood bring the Millrace’s leafy canopy into the terrace’s sheltered understory connecting the adjacent green corridor to distant views of the Coburg Hills. Heated benches bracket the garden and warming fire tables beckon visitors. The space is covered by a 2-story high rooftop translucent canopy for weather protection. Along Franklin Boulevard, dense plantings shelter the south entry and filter views contrasting the north side’s implicit connections to nature, the Millrace boardwalk, and overlooks offering connections to water and engaging the beauty of the corridor.
Knight Campus and the burgeoning Innovation District benefit from the character and renewed quality of the Millrace, as an asset to the campus, and the Eugene community. Efforts to reestablish native vegetation and increase water quality have been amplified by the dredging of contaminated soils and laying back of steep side slopes to engage the Millrace as a vital natural resource. Envisioned as an extension of the Millrace’s riparian corridor, the planting wraps up the KCASI providing a lush layer of green. Native plantings offer shelter and provide food for a wide range of resident and migratory birds. Red Elderberry festooned with ruby colored berries feed over 50 species of birds and wily mammals. In sunnier spots, native roses offer arching branches of pink flowers to the campus pollinators. Native and naturalized vegetation extends out to Franklin Boulevard’s edge allowing the sidewalk to dip into the site enveloping pedestrians in a corridor of trees, shielding them from the speed of Franklin, and connecting to the campus.
Along its newly restored banks, groves of Heritage River Birch and Serviceberry create a filtered condition along the frontage offering dappled light to a fern clad stormwater basin near the entry. The Millrace is braced with logs, root wads, and boulders in an orchestrated tangle of natural armor. Strategically located to reduce erosion and provide an occasional seating perch, the boulders also trap sediment in a manageable manner, reducing harmful deposition. A recirculating water element pulls the Millrace up and into the basin densely planted with native rush and sedge, hungrily absorbing, and filtering the site’s rainwater before being released into the Millrace in a cascade of sound and energy, newly infused with dissolved oxygen. Linking the more urban and energetic south side with the more natural and subdued north side water is both a defining landmark and unifying seam that brings life and movement through the site.
By leveraging KCASI as a north campus catalyst, the development takes a bold attitude towards site resilience, climate change, and the restoration of the Millrace. The site and planting design reflect Knight Campus goals of connecting to place amplifying the campus’ environmental stewardship with opportunities for research, pilot projects, and direct connections to curriculum in service to humanity.
Other landscape architecture offices involved in the design of landscape (if any):
Architecture offices involved in the design (if any): Ennead Architects and Bora
Location: 1525 Franklin Blvd, Eugene, OR 97403
Design year: 2017