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Landscape architects, students, faculty to examine future of Windsor Road


Melissa Mitchell, News Editor

Gary Kesler
Click photo to enlarge
Photo by L. Brian Stauffer
Gary Kesler, interim head of landscape architecture, stands along the Windsor Road corridor. U. of I. owns and controls all property adjacent to Windsor Road from Neil Street in Champaign east to Race Street in Urbana. In conjunction with the department's centennial celebration, landscape architecture professionals, students and faculty will explore ideas for its development.

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Some of the nation’s leading landscape architects will work with University of Illinois students and faculty members next week to explore ideas for development of the Windsor Road corridor linking the campus, Champaign and Urbana.

The professionals – many of them Illinois alumni – will visit the campus in conjunction with the U. of I. landscape architecture’s centennial celebration. Each will be assigned to lead one of seven teams of landscape architecture students in a design charrette, which will take place Oct. 21-24.

The charrette – a continuous design-planning session involving input from team members and campus and community stakeholders – will take place in the landscape architecture studios in Temple Hoyne Buell Hall, 611 E. Lorado Taft Drive, Champaign. The charrette is expected to yield a variety of possible plans, with an emphasis on ecologically sustainable, or “green,” design principles and practices.

The U. of I. owns and controls all property adjacent to Windsor Road from Neil Street in Champaign east to Race Street in Urbana.

The teams’ final designs will be on view on Oct. 24 beginning at 1 p.m., prior to their formal presentation by team members from 2-5 p.m. in the Temple Buell Gallery in the Architecture Building, 608 E. Lorado Taft Drive, Champaign. The public is welcome to attend the viewing and presentation.

“This is a visionary process in which designers will be looking at the potential for what the corridor might be,” said project organizer and interim department head Gary Kesler. “It’s really just a dialogue at this point.”

Click image to enlarge
A map shows the Windsor Road corridor that will be the subject of the landscape architecture charrette Oct. 21-24.

Ideas and plans that emerge from the charrette will be published at a later date, he said, and ultimately are expected to inform future development discussions and decisions.

Kesler said charrette participants will consider a number of design options that would position the area surrounding the roadway as “an outstanding southern entry to the campus at the University Research Park,” and “a green ecological design corridor from Neil Street through the Research Park-South Farms interface to the University Arboretum.” Student designs may also consider a university sculpture park that extends the philosophy and benefits of Urbana’s Meadowbrook Park.

David Chasco, the director of the U. of I. School of Architecture, said the charrette presents the potential for “an opportunity and outcome of historical proportions – for the university to define a complete southern border.”

“Not since its funding as a land-grant institution have we had this opportunity,” said Chasco, who proposed the idea of the charrette to Chancellor Richard Herman following informal conversations with former landscape architecture head James Wescoat. Herman, Chasco said, supports the project and is looking forward to review and discussion of the ideas presented.

Among the issues the design teams will address, Chasco said, are fundamental practical and aesthetic considerations: “Does it (the corridor’s development) become an opportunity to add to the built environment or to showcase the natural environment to create an ‘ecological corridor’? And what does that mean?”

Kesler, the author of a department-published book, “Cultivating Breadth: 100 Years of Landscape Architecture at the University of Illinois,” said that considering the department’s heritage, students are well-positioned to tackle the challenges that will be raised during the charrette.

“The landscape architecture department at Illinois is one of the oldest programs in the country,” he said, adding that “it is the longest running landscape architecture programs that has continuously met prevailing professional standards for educating undergraduates.”

Charrette teams will be led by senior designers and junior associates from offices across the country including Olin Partnership, Philadelphia; Stoss Landscape Urbanism, Boston; EDAW, Irvine, Calif.; JJR LLC, Chicago; Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, New York; oslundandassoc., Minneapolis; and Conservation Design Forum, Elmhurst, Ill.

Editor’s note: To reach Kesler, call 217-333-0176; e-mail: