Boneyard Creek at Bardeen Quad

Planning the Illinois Landscape

Do you want a fountain on the Main Quad? Or would you prefer to see a forest to the South? In the end, it’s up to YOU.

The grounds and landscape of the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign campus need a plan.

So, on April 27, 5:30-7 p.m., Design Workshop will present preliminary models to address the needs of campus. To best accomplish this, 11 ‘districts’ were identified in the 2018 Campus Master Plan. This includes portions of campus like the Main Quad, Industrial District (Kirby Avenue between Neil Street and First Street), the Agriculture District/South Farms, and more. One concept per district is expected.

This public session will take place on Zoom; register at

Brent Lewis, university landscape architect, and other U of I leaders and experts all agree. Everyone wants local plants, grasses, and trees, and an immersive natural experience on campus.

Grasses, trees, flowers, and other natural features offer beauty and a closer relationship with the outdoors. Altogether, this feeling can help recruit, attract, and retain top-tier students, faculty, and staff. They also improve local sustainability and aid in learning and teaching experiences.

Other inputs include the Illinois Climate Action Plan, Campus Master Plan, and Resilient Landscape Strategy, as seen in this presentation.

What do you value?

The Red Oak Rain Garden

U of I students, faculty, and staff answered questions in 15 listening sessions about the landscape of campus, including:

  • What are the most important aspects of the landscape that draw new students and donors?
  • What strategies would result in a more highly maintained landscape?
  • Should there be limits to the use of the Main Quad and other quads as event spaces, knowing that these large events cause maintenance and detrimental impacts?

Hundreds of interested parties answered, revealing a few key desires.

  • More outdoor gathering spaces on campus;
  • Native shrubs, trees, and grasses to help avoid the impact of climate change;
  • Pollinator-friendly plantings to grow biodiversity and address needs of local environment;
  • Additional woodland/forested spaces;
  • And, more consistent landscape quality and maintenance.

Quad Memories Old, Current, Future

The Main Quad used to feature a full-on electric streetcar system, different plantings and light pole styles, and all sorts of other forgotten elements lost to time and memory. Formalization and symmetry are important to those lands, though, so finding a balance of new and old is important, said Lewis.

“Part of the problem is our collective memory only goes back so many decades,” Lewis said. “The understanding of how campus fits into the world and environment comes from the 1960s, which really came from earlier university planning from the 1920s. A new fountain wouldn’t conflict with the historic landscape, so long as we keep with ideals important to learning and research.”

Lewis wants current and future generations of Illini to experience the history and majesty of core campus.

“The bones of the Quad will be the same 20 years from now,” Lewis said. “We are the keepers of the Quad and we want it to basically look the same from generation to generation. We want new students to come with grandparents who say ‘Oh, we are so proud of you and, my gosh, I remember all my great days here.’ There’s an emotional tie there that we really value and want to protect.”