University of the District of Columbia Commons Plaza

Location: Washington, DC

The University of the District of Columbia is an urban land-grant institution with a unique architecture and infrastructure that was showing signs of aging. Michael Baker International’s landscape architects redesigned the campus with a central-plan design concept. At the center of the plan is a plaza deck that also serves as the rooftop of a three-level parking structure. The plaza and the parking structure provide direct access to 60 percent of the buildings on campus. In addition, they provide indirect access to the remaining buildings and utilities on campus through a network of walkways, pathways, and driveways. The purpose of the project was to provide an exciting, vibrant space for social events and day-to-day activities while meeting the requirements of the Department of the Environment. This project was partially funded by a grant from the Department of the Environment to reduce the amount of stormwater entering the drainage system. The plaza deck is approximately 56,000 square feet in size. It is traditionally used for outdoor student events such as convocation and graduation ceremonies. Michael Baker’s urban design includes a ceremonial seating area for 3,000 movable chairs, and an outdoor cafe. Illuminated pillars in the plaza reference the columns found in the surrounding architecture. The design includes a garden deck with rose plantings. Sustainable design features include a stormwater harvesting area with a bioretention cell, and a small gathering area with a fountain. The fountain is fed by the collected stormwater, thereby reducing the amount of the stormwater entering the drainage system.

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