The Landscape Architecture Foundation (LAF) selected two case studies designed by Charlene LeBleu and students in the Master of Landscape Architecture (MLA) program at Auburn University for publication on the national Landscape Architecture Foundation Case Study Investigation website. LeBleu, FASLA and associate professor of landscape architecture in Auburn’s College of Architecture, Design and Construction, led both teams. One team examined Samford Park at Toomer’s Corner in Auburn, and the other researched Railroad Park in Birmingham. Both case studies are the first of their kind in Alabama to receive this national honor.
The Landscape Architecture Foundation’s Case Study Investigation program highlights high performing landscape architecture projects that can make positive contributions to solving some of the defining issues of our time: climate change, species extinction, rapid urbanization and inequity. The Case Study Investigation program showcases LAF-funded faculty-student research teams who collaborate with leading practitioners to document the benefits of exemplary high-performing landscape projects. Teams develop methods to quantify environmental, economic and social benefits and then produce Case Study Briefs. The briefs are featured in LAF’s Landscape Performance Series, an online site that features information and innovations from research, industry, academia and professional practice.
LeBleu, an LAF Research Fellow, is a nationally recognized expert on coastal planning and design as well as water quality issues, especially issues related to low impact development design. Her student research team included Ryan Bowen, a graduate student in Building Science and Master of Landscape Architecture graduate, and Britton Garrett, Master of Landscape Architecture graduate. They worked in a two-year collaboration with the design firms, Holcombe Norton Partners of Birmingham, AL (for Samford Park at Toomer’s Corner) and Tom Leader Studio of Berkley, CA, along with Macknally Land Design of Birmingham (for Railroad Park). Each team collaboratively documented and tested the landscape performance of its research site.
The team’s first project, Samford Park, focused on the replacement of Auburn’s own Toomer’s Oaks. The designer, Holcombe Norton Partners, replaced the poisoned oaks and surrounding contaminated soil. In the process, 1,778 tons of soil were removed. The designer also used a permeable paving system to filter thousands of gallons of storm water. However, as LeBleu explains, the “redevelopment of Samford Park is about more than the beautiful trees.” An enhanced threshold under the historic gateway improves the connection between downtown Auburn and the Auburn University campus, and seat walls secure Toomer’s Corner’s tradition as a gathering place for the Auburn family. The support staff for this Case Study Investigation included Ben Burmester and Judd Langham from Auburn University Facilities as well as Tommy Holcombe, Principal, and Stephen Schrader of Holcombe Norton Partners Inc. For more information about the Samford Park case study, visit its page on the Landscape Performance site.
Railroad Park is a 19-acre green space in downtown Birmingham that celebrates the city’s industrial and artistic heritage while also providing environmental, social and economic benefits. Over five hundred newly planted trees sequester atmospheric carbon and intercept gallons of storm water. New foliage has also increased the number of bird species by 250 percent. The park now attracts 600,000 visitors annually and has improved the perception of downtown Birmingham, catalyzing $324.5 million in public and private investments. Support staff for the Railroad Park Case Study included the designers Tom Leader, Principal of Tom Leader Studio, and Lea Ann Macknally, President of Macknally Land Design, as well as Camille Spratling, Executive Director of the Railroad Park Foundation. For more information about the Railroad Park case study, visit its page on the Landscape Performance site.
“Everything today is about sustainability,” explains LeBleu. “There is a lot of accountability to the performance of landscape design, and its impact on the environment. People are looking for landscapes that do things—landscapes that contribute to the health of the environment and the well-being of the humans that use them. Samford Park at Toomer’s Corner, and Railway Park in Birmingham, AL are two such high performance landscapes.”