With an extreme drought straining the city of Durham’s utilities, Duke University engaged NBW to design a stormwater management pond that would reduce its reliance on municipal water and help conserve the region’s other natural resources. Following a process involving students, faculty, and cross disciplinary professionals, the new landscape is now deeply integrated into the daily rituals and activities of campus life.
Capturing stormwater runoff from 265 acres, more than half of which is impervious surface, Duke Pond has reduced the campus’s use of potable water by roughly 200 million gallons per year. Located between Towerview Road and Circuit Drive, the pond also fulfills the original Olmsted vision for the campus in Duke’s 1924 master plan.
Through a thoughtful use of grading, the project saved as many trees from the site as possible and utilized the harvested timber for structures, decking, handrails, and hardwood mulch around paths and plantings on site. The balance of designed formal and informal elements allows the pond to mediate both its natural and cultural contexts. A major path through the site facilitates a strong connection to the heart of the campus for cyclists and pedestrians. The northern edge of the pond is designed as a successional woodland negotiating the forested perimeter, while the south edge creates a series of wetland shelves providing multiple access points, views and experiences - a pavilion and boardwalk structure and navigate the water’s edge; elevation markers located on the pavilion pilings provide visitors the opportunity to note the fluctuation of water during massive rain events or dry periods. Working closely with faculty from Duke’s Nicholas School of Environment, NBW developed a lush pond edge planting palette with diverse native plantings that supports the school’s focus and helps to create an outdoor classroom for undergraduate students and graduate researchers. Over 40 herbaceous native plant species (emergent, wetland, and upland) respond to fluctuations in the water level depending on rainfall and campus demand. Bald cypress are featured prominently as stabilizers of wetland shelves, and their cypress knees create visual interest as they mature. With the creation of new wildlife habitat, the site has become a model for biodiversity and supports numerous species of birds, insects, fish, and mammals.
Collaborators: Mark Hough, FASLA - University Landscape Architect, Duke Facilities Management, McAdams Company