Brock Commons at Longwood University
by Betsy Boykin, ASLA

Project Description 

Longwood University, a liberal arts college, is set in the middle of the small central town of Farmville, Virginia. Historically, the campus was characterized by the town street grid and bisected by busy Pine Street. Brock Commons was intended to transform this busy street into a vibrant and safe pedestrian central spine, and in turn a new heart to the campus.


Existing plan. Image courtesy Ayers Saint Gross 

Proposed plan. Image courtesy Mahan Rykiel Associates   

This goal was established through a campus master plan, which was completed one year prior to the installation of the project. Together the landscape architects and master planners designed Brock Commons from its inception to its grand opening. Architects assisted the landscape architects on structural and architectural detailing for the garage and pavilions.
The plan involved removal of Pine Street at Brock Commons and transforming it into a pedestrian zone composed of a series of linked open spaces with plazas and lawns of differing sizes and characters.

Before. Image courtesy Ayers Saint Gross  

After. Image courtesy Ayers Saint Gross and Robert Creamer  

Because of the rolling topography along the nine acres of street and 20 foot elevation change along its length, the site section was layered to include pedestrian spaces at grade, with parking and utilities tucked under this new ground.

Student Life Plaza with parking below. Image courtesy Ayers Saint Gross and Robert Creamer   

Trees, lawn, plaza, and pathways form the core of the Commons landscape. Two north/south paths line this elongated space, reinforced by allees at the edges and a swath of lawn in the center. Plazas punctuate this lengthy system at critical junctures, providing a sense of place along the new strip. The lawn is edged with flowering trees and benches, while a variety of canopy trees rhythmically float through the central open space. Seasonal bulbs form a temporal garland that runs the length of the lawn, and a line of hedge defines the west edge.

Lankford Plaza. Image courtesy Longwood University  

Lankford Plaza, within the Commons, provides a gathering space between the dining hall and the student union and is anchored by a memorial reflecting pool. [insert Lankford plaza.jpg] The Student Life Plaza (previously at the intersection of Pine and Redford), lies to the south, links the existing entry levels of the surrounding student life buildings, and becomes a central, ceremonial gathering space.

Student Life Plaza at grand opening. Image courtesy Longwood University

The car is now accommodated as a parked vehicle—there is parking for 145 cars below the level of the plaza. Rectangular in shape and accessible from both sides of the Commons, the garage is integrated into the overall structure and materiality of the plaza. The Entrance Plaza into the garage is marked by a grove of canopy trees and planted flower beds at their base. Above the parking garage east entry is the Presidents’ Pavilion, an open, roofed structure that serves as the focal point of the Student Life Plaza. Flanking pavilions anchor the western edge. A new Entrance Court is east of Lankford Plaza at the parking garage level and serves as the symbolic entry to the campus.

Local Significance 

Brock Commons creates an open space core to the Campus of Longwood University. 

The Lawn. Image courtesy Ayers Saint Gross and Robert Creamer

The closure of the street improves the safety of pedestrians through campus—those associated with the school, town residents, or visitors. Brock Commons also allows full accessibility to all the campus buildings flanking this core by negotiating and reintegrating a grading strategy that relinks existing building and campus landscape together.

Another view of The Lawn. Image courtesy Ayers Saint Gross and Robert Creamer

The Commons initiates an outdoor, physical embodiment of the collegiate community. The series of linked open spaces accommodates a range of activities, from University events and outdoor classes to student recreation and informal gatherings of students or local residents. Parking provided below the plaza reduces student parking in residential neighborhoods to a minimum.

Special Characteristics

By layering the site section, Brock Commons creates multiple uses from what had previously been a single purpose street. It creates an accessible open network at the heart of the campus and uses the grade change to accommodate parking below. Brock Commons also significantly improves stormwater management on the site. Asphalt is replaced by the lawns of Brock Commons which contain a stormwater collection system below their surface.

See Brock Commons at Longwood University for more information and additional images.
Betsy Boykin, ASLA, is president of CORESTUDIODESIGN in Baltimore. She can be reached at

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