Wolff Landscape Architecture
University of Illinois, Business Instructional Facility; Champaign, Illinois

Client: College of Business, University of Illinois
Urbana-Champaign
Architect: Pelli Clarke Pelli
Architect of Record: PSA Dewberry
Engineers: Gilbane; KJWW; PSA Dewberry
Contractor: Gilbane
Consultants: Atelier 10; Fountain People; LEED and
Sustainable Design
Category: Design -Institutional

Having contributed to the building's LEED Gold certification, the landscape of the new Business Instructional Facility at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign is an expression of not only the University's environmental goals, but the school's program.

For decades, the prevailing landscape paradigm at the University has been shade trees, bluegrass lawns, and sheared yew foundation hedges. This project breaks that mold with a perimeter landscape and streetscape that has no lawn and no hedge. Instead, the perimeter streetscape between the sidewalk and the building façade is planted with a combination of native deciduous shrubs and native perennials, which provide greater seasonal interest and a greater sense of depth.

The site is also a shining example of the relationship that can be achieved between architecture and the landscape. Taking cues from the interior ‘commons' space, the architecture flows out into a courtyard designed to serve as a venue for College of Business events and receptions. The architectural organization of the commons is brought out to the courtyard through bands of paving that align to become a strong graphic feature in the landscape and break down the scale of the space.

The courtyard design also reflects the College of Business's program for outdoor use and its curriculum, which involves considerable student collaboration. The space's circular and rectilinear stone benches with inside corners support small group discussions through the lack of an ‘alpha' location for one member to dominate the conversation. The landscape contributes to the courtyard's sense of place. It is composed of a largely native or adapted landscape that provides wildlife habitat and required no potable water after the initial period of establishment.

While the landscape design provides spaces for effective team communication, as the first LEED building and site at the University, the Business Instructional Facility is also a catalyst for conversations about environmental responsibility and the correlation between buildings and how they meet the landscape.