Honor Award -- Analysis & Planning
Landscape Master Plan for Blandy Experimental Farm and
the State Arboretum of Virginia
Susan Nelson-Warren Byrd Landscape Architects: Warren T.
Byrd, ASLA, Principal, Jocelyn Kelley, Project Maager, Anne Martin Russell,
Thomas Woltz, James Kovach, Hunter McCardle, Peter O'Shea, Lara Call,
Ann O'Hara Wilkiemeyer Woltz, John Meaney, Mary Wolf, Kennon Williams
Principal, Susan Nelson-Warren Byrd Landscape Architects
408 Park Street
Charlottesville, VA 22902
Project Purpose: To prepare a landscape master plan for the University of Virginia's Blandy Experimental Farm and State Arboretum of Virginia. The landscape architect was challenged to create a physical framework for the entire 712-acre property that would support Blandy Experimental Farm's three primary goals: to become one of the top biological field stations in the country for studying agroecosystems; to become a national leader in environmental education; and to curate a world class teaching arboretum.
Role of Landscape Architect vs, role of other participants: The landscape architect was the sole consultant, responsible for all aspects of the landscape master plan. The design team worked closely with Blandy Farm's administration, staff and Friends of the State Arboretum (FOSA) Board, as well as the University of Virginia's Office of the Architect and Facilities Management. In addition to design of the master plan and various precincts throughout the site, the landscape architect also prepared an illustrated narrative book describing the plan and communicating its intentions. The book has been used extensively for fund-raising.
- Blandy Farm is a cross between a public garden that is visited
by nearly 100,000 people every year and a biological research
station in a rural area that is undergoing intense development
- Blandy Farm has a particular focus on the study of the complex
relationships of agroecosystems. The Farm is endowed with a rich
mosaic of woodlots, meadows, hedgerows and wetlands typical of
the Shenandoah River valley that offer unique opportunities for
interpretation and research.
- Blandy Farm is located in a karst region of limestone geology
and hosts the only significant arboretum in the country located
in this type of region. The geology manifests itself in both built
and natural systems throughout the site and in the proposed master
plan (as walls, outcrops, site hydrology, soils, and plant communities).
- Blandy has a significant cultural history that creates an important
layer in the landscape master plan.
Significance: This project emphasizes the intersection of the natural and cultural history of a rural site, and strives to balance the scientific agenda of the research arboretum with the exposition of this work to the public. Multiple organizational strategies have been employed from the traditional collecting of plants by families, to more complex systems that understand the relationships between flora, fauna, geology, climate, water and human involvement. This composite of strategies allows for a more holistic understanding of the place as a series of dynamic and ongoing processes, from woody plant succession to evolving human settlement and land use patterns. The activities of research, display and education combine to structure a garden/ arboretum experience that explores the site at many levels and engages both the public and the scientist within each of these levels. The master plan innovations lie in transforming this complex research mission into publicly accessible places that underscore the research and education missions of the arboretum. Everything, from the banding of the overall master plan to the details of satellite sites, reinforces the structure, pattern and character of these evolving, all-inclusive ecosystems.
Client Statement: The challenge was to create a landscape design
that was forward-looking while paying homage to the past. Another challenge
was to improve visitor accessibility and services within a field research
facility. The Master Plan I ~ -includes precincts where historic collections
of plants are displayed while other areas call for new collections. It
includes a loop road with satellite sites where the public experientially
learns about plants and about scientific inquiry. The plan provides a
programming template for educating the public about plants, about how
science progresses, and about the biological and cultural diversity of
the Shenandoah Valley.