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Designing for education at the University of Illinois Arboretum

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Title: Designing for education at the University of Illinois Arboretum
Author(s): Giannetti, Gina F.
Advisor(s): Lawson, Laura J.
Department / Program: Landscape Architecture
Discipline: Landscape Architecture
Degree Granting Institution: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Degree: M.L.A.
Genre: Thesis
Subject(s): landscape landscape architecture landscape design arboretum arboretum design arboretum planning botanical garden design botanical garden planning University of Illinois arboretum U of I arboretum University of Illinois campus planning environmental education outdoor education experiential education landscape design process education center design planting design planting design theory wayfinding visitor interpretation illinois habitat development habitat design educational landscapes educational landscape design landscape aesthetics aesthetic qualities of plants aesthetic characteristics of plants intrinsic plant characteristics woodland savanna shrubland grassland cultural landscapes environmental landscapes plant community development
Abstract: This thesis project consists of the development of a framework for visitor experience at the University of Illinois Arboretum that focuses on educational programming and includes the design of a Discovery Center - a facility that serves as the locus for educational experience - at the core of the arboretum. The development of both the visitation framework and the Discovery Center is the result of a progression that begins with research and is followed by a series of design investigations that lead to the final design for the arboretum. The thesis presented here is both a research and a design project because the site design stems from a synthesis of research regarding site context, educational goals and philosophies, and precedent studies. This research is integrated with design explorations and a theory of planting design that I have developed to produce a framework for visitor experience and detailed design of the Discovery Center. Determination of the arboretum’s context involves investigation into the origin of the arboretum and the established mission and programmatic goals for the arboretum; investigation of the arboretum’s unique situation within the local and university community and usage of the site by frequent and occasional visitors; consideration of site features such as topography, soils, and existing built elements; and evaluation of plans for future development of the areas immediately surrounding the arboretum and their potential influence on arboretum usage and offsite connections. Research on three educational philosophies - outdoor, environmental, and experiential education - inform the design by providing ideas about how an arboretum can best be developed as an educational institution and ways to facilitate different types of learning to satisfy programmed and unprogrammed educational goals throughout the arboretum. Evaluation of precedents including other arboreta, educational institutions, and literary examples provide a basis of information regarding educational concepts applicable to an arboretum setting and possible ways to implement these ideas on site. Following research on site context, educational philosophies, and precedents, the design project evolves into a study of the expression of form in the landscape, a road development study, a spatial relationship analysis, an architectural prototype study, and the development of a theory in planting design. Explorations of landscape form are used to express ideas about educational goals and provide a meaningful design hierarchy throughout the arboretum. The road development study analyzes points of access to the arboretum and seeks to integrate the arboretum within its neighborhood setting while optimizing access for both frequent and occasional users. The spatial relationship analysis determines ideal locations for the Discovery Center within the arboretum to increase visibility and recognition from an exterior perspective, to facilitate access to the Discovery Center for varying group sizes and event types, and to establish effective relationships between arboretum elements. Architectural prototype studies identify ways to integrate notions of interior versus exterior spaces and provide functional educational facilities. The theory of planting design outlines the role of cultural and environmental influences in the development of plant communities - namely grassland, shrubland, savanna, and woodland - and seeks to express these relationships through planting design and maintenance practices throughout the arboretum. The culmination of research and design exploration is the production of a detailed design for the Discovery Center, illustration of the framework for visitor experience throughout the arboretum, and application of planting design theory to various areas of the arboretum. The Discovery Center design involves identifying and spatially organizing the necessary educational facilities and developing a design language that supports the educational goals of these facilities. The framework for visitor experience includes providing a system of circulation throughout the arboretum, implementing wayfinding devices at key locations within the arboretum, and developing a system of visitor interpretation to emphasize arboretum program goals and enhance experience of the site. The application of planting design theory is used to further promote educational goals within the arboretum and to illustrate the aesthetic differences between plant communities influenced to varying degrees by environmental factors and cultural factors. The design project is followed by a post-design evaluation that identifies the success of the design in relation to the initial program goals, outlines lessons learned throughout the design process, and suggests next steps for further development of the arboretum. The purpose of this thesis is threefold: to explore methods of designing landscapes for educational purposes, to design the Discovery Center and a framework for visitation throughout the University of Illinois Arboretum with specific educational goals in mind, and to communicate the development of the project from initial concept through final evaluation.
Issue Date: 2010-05-18
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/2142/15974
Rights Information: Copyright 2010 Gina F. Giannetti
Date Available in IDEALS: 2010-05-18
2012-05-19
Date Deposited: May 2010
 

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