Beth Cavanaugh 301-405-4625
COLLEGE PARK, Md. – A group of University of Maryland landscape architecture students were recently given an opportunity to apply what they've learned in the classroom to a real-world situation. Officials at the National Institutes of Standards and Technology (NIST) in Gaithersburg enlisted the students to redesign an outdoor space and help turn their underutilized courtyard into an inviting space for employees.
Taking on the challenge, the group of sophomore College of Agriculture & Natural Resources students visited NIST, talked with NIST staff members who care for the grounds or work near the courtyard in question, and came up with plans to redesign it into more of a destination space.
"This NIST courtyard doesn't invite people now. People are just walking through it, getting from point A to point B," says Kelly Cook, an adjunct assistant professor for UMD's Department of Plant Science and Landscape Architecture (PSLA). "There was a desire to have someone rethink what this space could be—to come up with ways to make it more comfortable, to create sheltered places in it where people can get out of the lab and read a book. There's also the opportunity to redesign the more formal outdoor space right outside the library to make it a more inviting place to work or congregate."
The students created 20 different designs, which they recently shared with NIST staff. Their innovative plan featured fountains, pools, shaded arbors, comfortable chairs and tables in sheltered spaces, a 30-foot-long piece of a twisted World Trade Center steel girder as a commemorative object and sculptural element, and ground plants and shrubbery that deer don't like to eat.
NIST architect and planner Susan Cantilli says the students' work is generating interest among NIST employees in creating a more inviting space. "Clearly people see the need for these kinds of enhancements. I'm hoping that we might be able to do something in the future," says Cantilli.