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University of South Alabama - Campus Master Plan

 

Campus Amenities Recommendations
 
This section of the report illustrates ways to improve, enhance and provide the campus with visual character and identity through the use of consistent and unified materials and amenities (i.e. walkways, lighting, signage, site furniture, etc.) Implementation of these recommended improvements is vital to reduce the disharmonious character noted in the Existing Inventory and Analysis section.
 
Boundaries and Entries
 
As stated before the property lines serve as the official boundary for every campus. Roads, sidewalks, vegetation and other attributes define the physical boundaries. The approach and access to the Campus primarily rests along University Boulevard and Old Shell Road. Providing consistent amenities along these "front" boundaries is recommended for campus wide identification. These amenities could include hedges, fencing and signage. Providing an attractive fence along some of the side yards that are adjacent to roads may be impractical from a monetary standpoint. In this case, it is recommended that a four (4) foot tall black chain link fence with a hedge should run along the property line. Some shrubs that would serve this purpose are the dwarf Burford holly, compact holly or some juniper varieties. Using fences and hedges not only helps define the campus in an aesthetically pleasing manner, but also helps in directing pedestrian access to desired locations. Rows of identical trees that are proposed on the Campus Master Plan map, can also further reinforce the University's boundaries. Recommendations for signage and its usage for identifying the Campus are described in a separate section below.
 
Another method of creating identification as well as a sense of arrival is the establishment of portals at the main entries of the campus.
 
It is recommended to create larger monumental portals at several of the primary entrances such as USA North and South Drives and Stadium Boulevard. Smaller, less prominent portals can be placed at secondary entrances such as Jaguar Drive or Mitchell Center Drive. These portals should be of brick and cut stone, which can stand up to the test of time physically and aesthetically and also are materials present in much of existing campus architecture. Signage, hardscaping and landscaping should be part of the design for these portals. The portals also should engage the proposed fencing along the campus boundaries. This can be accomplished by providing brick and cut stone columns periodically along the fence.
 
Open Space/Landscaping
 
Open spaces and landscaping are important in providing a base for the other amenities. They should work hand in hand to provide the campus with a visually and spatially pleasing environment and to augment new architectural buildings and features. They are combined into one section because of this close connection.
 
The USA Campus has a number of existing and proposed open spaces. These spaces range from planned linear open spaces to the existing natural wetlands. Besides the athletic fields and the Mitchell Center plaza the Campus has very little planned or formalized open spaces. Several recommended locations for formalized open spaces have been portrayed on the Campus Master Plan map and will be described here.
 
The proposed pedestrian open spaces or "greens" will provide students, faculty and staff with a place for social interaction and extra curricular activity. They also will create visual and spatial links between buildings and across lengths of campus, aiding in a sense of unity. The use of sidewalks, roads, buildings and landscape will help define these spaces. The proposed open spaces for the campus can be seen on the Campus Master Plan map. Several of them run on the east, north, and west sides of the Student Center. The space running East and West between the Student Center and the Library connects the spaces running North and South. Although these spaces do not have a continuous elevation they work together in providing the desired visual and spatial effect. The space west of the Student Center also connects with the proposed Mitchell Center plaza expansion. Another open space should be designed into the site of the proposed apartment housing, which is on the Campus Facilities Master Plan Projects list.
 
Other formalized open spaces recommended are the plazas at the proposed Science and Engineering Building and the expansion to the Mitchell Center plaza. The proposed plaza at the Science and Engineering Building will provide not only a sense of entry for that building, but will also link the other two (2) major buildings on that corner of campus, the Mitchell College of Business and the Laidlaw Performing Arts Building. As mentioned previously the proposal of a bell tower or other emblematic feature requires for expansion of the Mitchell Center plaza. With this expansion it is recommended that seating and attractive landscaping be provided to help shape this area into a desirable setting for outdoor gatherings and activities.
 
Landscaping has a high impression value because of its dominance and visual appeal. Thus, it can be effective inventing and reinforcing the overall visual image on campus. Landscaping can serve as a link to unify various unrelated elements.
 
It is recommended that a comprehensive campus landscape plan be prepared that concentrates on attracting visual interest on campus through the use of color, texture and form. Planting designs should be prepared for main entry points, prominent buildings, parking areas, streets, service areas, paths and walkways. A pallet of landscape materials should be applied throughout the campus to create a sense of continuity and reinforce building styles and campus layout.
 
Recommended comprehensive landscape improvements include:
 
Landscape "Campus Greens" and along walkways to reflect the college's Gulf Coast setting.
Soften building edges and define open space areas.
Plant large shade trees to provide shade.
Plant small flowering trees to provide color and pedestrian shade.
Landscape along campus boundaries to include entranceways, fences with brick columns and planting of street trees along public right-of-way and peripheral roads.
Develop on-going tree replacement program to ensure continuation of the planting scheme.
Screen service areas.
 
In addition, a good maintenance schedule is also suggested. The use of proper equipment and maintenance techniques can enhance and preserve the landscaping. The maintenance schedule should include regular and organized watering, fertilization, pruning, weed control, mulching, and general clean-up. This effort can be minimized by initially designing and planting low-maintenance plant materials, such as indigenous plant species that are best suited for the campus. The plants included in the recommended plant list are primarily for this purpose.
 
Besides the comprehensive landscaping plan more project specific landscaping concepts should be implemented. These can be designed to each building, but should work with the general landscape plan of the Campus. A major recommendation for one of those individual projects is a connection between the proposed Science and Engineering Building and the corner of campus at University Boulevard and Old Shell Road. The size and location of this proposed building will make it one of the most prominent buildings on campus. The busy intersection at the corner of Campus makes the signage here very noticeable. It is proposed to clear a path along the hillside between the two (2) and create a water and landscape element along this path. This will not only provide a link between them, but will provide a very attractive identification feature for the University.
 
Site Grading
 
Site grading is a very important issue to discuss with the extensive proposed site changes that the Master Plan will impose on the campus. Not only should the existing drainage patterns of the campus be recognized, but also drainage problems that may exist or result from ground plane alterations during proposed development and construction should be solved. The design of site grading should be conscious to existing landscape while providing appropriate transition of architectural elements to grade. It also must provide for and guide the flow of surface runoff to retention basins that are designed creatively to blend with the surrounding landscape.
 
Other uses for site grading besides creating the proper flow of runoff are to help aid in the visual quality of the campus. It can be used to alter flat areas with no interesting contours, it can help soften hard lines of buildings or other architectural features and can screen undesirable views such as building service areas or utility equipment. If used properly site grading can become an attractive feature and not just a necessary operation.
 
Signage
 
Signage at the University of South Alabama should be designed and appropriately placed for maximum visibility and accessibility, ease of identification, uniform appearance and provide appropriate recognition of the facility's namesake. The signs should be designed to complement the architectural and campus style. It is recommended that building signs be designed into the architectural elements of the building, such as present at the Mitchell Center and Laidlaw Performing Arts Center. This should be done on an individual project basis. Applied signage to building facades is discouraged.
 
Painted black cast metal with raised white lettering should be used for the identification signage located on ground level. The directory signs and building signs near roads and parking should have bases or surrounds of brick and cut stone, which can stand up to the test of time physically and aesthetically and also are materials present in much of existing campus architecture. Painted black cast metal posts matching the identification signs should be used with standard traffic regulatory signs.
 
Building and dedication plaques should be produced in raised cast letters and should be placed on the outside at a main entrance where feasible. If space and building design do not permit, the plaques should be placed inside the main entrance in an easily visible and tactile location.
 
Campus identification signage is to be located on the main and secondary portals. Elevations of the entrance portals with signage are included in this document. Aluminum signs of the University logo shall be projected mounted in the color black. If the University of South Alabama should be applied the typeface shall be Crown with the letters being an appropriate height for the allotted space.
 
At the primary entrance portals, directory signs should also be included. This sign's purpose is to provide building names located in the proximity of that entrance and should also be distributed around the streets of the Campus as necessary.
 
The main sign for the Campus at the corner created by University Boulevard and Old Shell Road should be located to have a high level of visibility for vehicular traffic and designed to be an attractive identifying feature. The sign should have the University name as well as the logo, so visitors unfamiliar with the University can associate the two (2).
 
Overall, signage should be kept to a minimum. Too many signs can create a very cluttered appearance and will be largely ignored. The main campus sign and the portal signage are used to draw attention and identify the University while the smaller on-campus signage shall be for informative purposes only.
 
Exterior Lighting
 
The goal for all exterior lighting is for it to be consistent throughout the Campus, low maintenance and attractive. A standardized lighting system can help create a feeling of unity, which is an important factor in creating a "sense of place." Exterior lighting should consist of streetlights, security lights, pedestrian scale lighting and flood lighting. Streetlights and security lights along roadways and in parking lots will improve campus safety and aid in reducing crime. Pedestrian scale lighting will also improve safety while highlighting walks, entries, landscaping and activity and gathering areas. Flood lighting is used to highlight landscaping, signs, buildings and other architectural elements.
 
Site Accessories
 
Site accessories include benches, trash receptacles and bike racks. These accessories should complement the buildings and landscape of the campus and help reinforce a visually unified campus. Recommendations for style and type of these site accessories are given below.
 
Benches if located properly not only provide resting points, but also direct the users attention toward key features and attractive vistas on the Campus. The recommended benches have heavy-duty cast frames, are powder coated in black and require surface mounting. The different sizes should be placed at appropriate locations and in the appropriate number. They should be around buildings as well as at intermediate locations along walkways.
 
Litter receptacles are a necessity for a campus environment. They should be tough, durable and attractive. The round litter container is made of heavy-duty cast metal, is powder coated in black and requires surface mounting. This receptacle will compliment the style of the benches as well as the architectural styles of campus.
 
The bike racks should also have a black powder coated finish and can either be surface mounted or have no mounting. The location of racks should be concentrated at building entrances, with the amount sufficiently meeting the needs of users.
 

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Last date changed: January 14, 2013 12:21 PM
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