Submitted by SCJ Alliance
Take a minute to imagine a college campus. What comes to mind?
Is it books, indoor classrooms and whiteboards? Or was the first thing you envisioned outdoor space? Students, walking to class or gathered together talking about everything from weekend plans to ideas for changing the world?
At SCJ Alliance, we recognize the intrinsic value of outdoor space to learning environments. From work on the interactive East Bay Public Plaza, to Saint Martin University’s impressive courtyard, to studies and designs to improve pedestrian and vehicle flow at area elementary schools like Centennial, Garfield and Tumwater Hill Elementary, we are full of “school pride.”
One transformative example rests at Tacoma Community College (TCC).
“The commons at TCC is a brilliant example of what a campus commons can be,” SCJ Project Manager Ross Jarvis said. “I was able to take part in the transition from an area that no one used to a gathering hub for formal and informal events.”
A one-acre area of lawn at TCC was converted into the scenic campus commons when SCJ teamed up with the school and architect Schacht Aslani in 2014. The commons provides a clearly defined outdoor gathering space that’s appropriate for large formal gatherings like graduations, to smaller events, to a meeting place with friends.
The commons has grading and planting features that hide existing mechanical units in the area while preserving the landscape character of the campus. The sustainable grading and drainage system also treats surface water runoff with a rain garden, alleviating the ponding issues experienced previously within the lawn area.
Ross also noted the project had a number of obstacles to overcome. “We navigated several hurdles during design and construction such as shallow hardpan, unmapped utilities, and ground source heat wells with shallow service lines. We also improved access to the area by replacing the existing asphalt pathways with ADA-compliant concrete ones.”
Two years after completion, he is proud to see what it’s become. “Formal events and ceremonies are often held here, but students also use it as a place to meet, throw a Frisbee or read a book,” he said. “It’s been energizing to see the flexibility we provided.”