April 12, 2012

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Brad Harrison
Brad Harrison’s team came up with the winning design for the front of Nelson Hall. (Purdue Agricultural Communication photo/Tom Campbell)

Students design landscaping
at Nelson food science building

By Tom Campbell

Landscape architecture senior Brad Harrison can’t help but feel a little giddy when he walks past the front of Philip E. Nelson Hall of Food Science these days.

As part of a sophomore landscape architecture class (LA246) competition in 2009, Harrison and three classmates — Nicholas Mitchell, Andrew Scott and Amy Winter — generated the winning landscape design that has been installed there over the past few months.

The landscaping that includes precast concrete pavers, metal seats, tables and chairs, flowers, plants, trees and sod completes the front of the building that opened in 1998.

“I was lucky to get an internship here on campus,” Harrison said. “So I’ve been able to walk by from time to time to watch the progress of the installation. That’s been pretty cool.”

Phillip E. Nelson Hall of Food Science

An overhead view of the original design. The center walkway was eliminated after it was determined visitors to the building came from either the east or the west and not from the north. (Purdue Agricultural Communication photo/Tom Campbell)

The project was funded by a gift from the Reichart family, owners of the Red Gold Co. of Orestes, Ind. The Reicharts are longtime friends of Phil Nelson  and have been strong supporters of the food science department. The entryway will be dedicated Friday, May 18, at 11:30 a.m. EDT.

“It is great that this project was a cooperative effort with the Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture,” said food science department head Suzanne Nielsen, who served as one of the jurors for the class design competition.
Each year, students in Rob Sovinski’s class break into teams and design the landscaping for a construction project determined by Sovinski, professor of landscape architecture.

concrete pavers

Precast concrete pavers were donated to the project by Unilock. (Purdue Agricultural Communication photo/Tom Campbell)

It is called the Unilock Challenge, named after the paving stone manufacturer that has made the unique offer to provide free pavers to any winning design team that uses its products in the project plans.

The value of the contribution of unit pavers is about $10,000, according to Sovinski.

While many of the LA246 classes deal with conceptual projects — one class redesigned a portion of downtown Chicago — Sovinski’s students have completed designs that have been used in garden projects at Lafayette’s Thomas Duncan Hall and Thomas Miller Elementary School.


A plaque honoring the lead donors will be unveiled during a May 18 dedication ceremony. (Purdue Agricultural Communication photo/Tom Campbell)

“We like those projects because they are out in the community and they give our students the opportunity to interact with the members of the community,” said Sovinski, winner of Purdue’s Charles B. Murphy Award for Outstanding Undergraduate Teaching in 2000.

“But we also like the Nelson Hall project that allowed us to provide an addition to the Purdue landscape, the fabric of Purdue’s campus,” Sovinski said.

Nielsen couldn’t be happier with the way the building that houses her department now looks.

“The ideas the students generated for the project led to a beautiful building entrance,” Nielsen said. “The project gave them some real-world experience without having to leave campus.”

For Sovinski, it is more than a win-win situation.

master plan
An overhead view of the original design. (Purdue Agricultural Communication photo/Tom Campbell)

“There are too many wins to count here,” he said. “The students get the benefit of interacting with a Unilock representative and gaining his expertise firsthand. Suzanne Nielsen agreed to meet with our students to explain how the building was used and what she would like to see out there. Then she also agreed to sit on the jury. The entire experience was great for our students.

“The third win is to get a project built. The student portfolio usually consists of drawings and proposals, not completed projects, so this is quite a heady thing for sophomore students to be able to add to their portfolios.”

Not to mention bragging rights to fellow students.

“I’m not going to be afraid to tell my classmates that we were behind the overall design of this project,” Harrison said. “I’m sure the other members of the design team (who are away from campus on internships) will be excited to come back to campus in the fall and see what the front of the building now looks like.”

There was a fourth win, too. Between the design and implementation phases, Don Staley, Purdue’s landscape architect in charge of physical and capital planning, agreed to let the winning students participate in meetings during the design development.

“That allowed our students to see how a design evolves from a proposal to a set of working drawings and then to an installation,” Sovinski said.


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