UMass Design Building
Amherst, MA In Progress
COLLABORATORS
  • Leers Weinzapfel
  • Nitsch Engineering
  • Atelier Ten
PHOTOGRAPHY
  • Ngoc Doan
  • Charles Mayer
  • Stephen Stimson

The Design Building at the University of Massachusetts Amherst is the new home of the Architecture, Landscape Architecture, Regional Planning, and Building and Construction Technology Departments. Bringing these four interrelated disciplines together under one roof is a bold and historic move that provides unprecedented opportunities for integrated learning about the built environment at the UMass flagship campus. Designed in unison, the building is organized around an open common gallery while the landscape is a collection of gardens represented by familiar ecosystems from this part of western MA, each one with a particular function relating to the site’s hydrology and topography. The site was once the historic test plots for the Landscape Architecture Department in the early 1900’s, and this notion of experimental design still prevails, both in the timber frame construction of the building and in particular, with the design of the rooftop courtyard. This garden on the third floor was conceived as an alpine summit landscape, built on almost entirely less than 6” of soil, and is one of the first of its kind to embrace native lichens, mosses, groundcovers, and wind tolerant shrubs and trees, taking cues from the planting palette of the nearby Berkshire Mountains. The project is envisioned as a living laboratory for learning about the built environment, in support of the curriculum and progressive mission of these disciplines. The distinct and diverse gardens of the Design Building are a reminder that regional ecologies can and should inspire place-making.