July 2, 2021

While much of my writing in these Swartz Hall project updates has focused on the renewal of the physical building, an equally important part of this endeavor is the improvements to the campus landscape.

As major work on the building has ended and we are racing toward its opening for the new school year, crews are busy readying the green spaces on campus as well. Our landscape plan was designed by STIMSON Landscape Architects. The Cambridge and Princeton, Massachusetts-based studio has worked on our campus for decades, all the way back to when the campus green was a parking lot.

As part of this latest effort, the landscape design includes the planting of more than 50 trees as well as various shrubs and ground covering. Some of the planting is already underway, with more to be done in the coming weeks.

Stimson, who founded the studio with his wife, Lauren, said that 13 different tree types were chosen for this project and include Shagbark Hickory, Cedar of Lebanon, Sour Gum, Maidenhair Tree, Scarlet Oak, Western Red Cedar, and American Yellowwood.

“We looked into plants that would not only do well here, but also add to the diversity of the campus,” he said. “Anytime we plant, we think about the opportunity to create a more diverse canopy and to think of this space as an arboretum.”

A particular area of focus for Stimson and his team of designers on this project—Sara Lawrence and Bryan Obara—was the knoll in the southwest corner of the campus green that connects the previous main entrance to Swartz Hall with the new main entrance at the addition. This corner of the campus green will no doubt be a popular gathering space with the new outdoor fireplace, terrace area, and outdoor seating for eating and meeting. The space also provides an opportunity for flexible gatherings like large meetings, courses convening outdoors, or small, impromptu conversations. With that in mind, Stimson and his team designed the adjacent knoll area with several Yellowwoods, graceful trees that he said have white, fragrant flowers and beautiful fall colors that will create a new ceiling over that space as the trees mature. The slope of the knoll will also include evergreen groundcover and flowering shrubs with fall colors and fragrant blooms that come about during various seasons.

New trees on knoll of Campus Green near Swartz Hall addition

Three new trees on knoll of Campus Green near Swartz Hall addition

The trees, shrubs, and other plantings throughout campus will offer much in the way of blooms throughout the year, fragrant scents, and fruit that will attract birds. “What we wanted to do was create a garden that really stimulated the senses in many ways,” Stimson said.

View of campus green looking toward Swartz Hall

New trees on Francis Avenue lawn

Ground cover plantings along path of campus green

Row of new trees planted near addition

Two new trees, pictured below, will also grace the entrances to Rockefeller Hall.

Tree near entrance of Rockefeller Hall

Tree near side entrance of Rockefeller Hall

One final note: while this blog will continue, this will be my last post for it as I am retiring. I just want to quickly take a moment to thank those who made this transformational project possible, from the donors, especially Jim and Susan Swartz, to the project team including Ann Beha Architects, Shawmut Design and Construction, Stephen Stimson, all of our subcontractors, and Harvard Capital Projects. There are many others, and I truly appreciate all of your work over the years. I love it when people and organizations come together and I enjoyed being a part of this team. I look forward to reading future updates on the renewal from the project team and seeing Swartz Hall open in the near future.

—Ralph

Site work. Final building inspections are taking place. Furniture delivery and installation continues. Finishing work throughout the building is being completed. A final clean of Swartz Hall is ongoing.