Engineering professor, students ‘DIVE’ into Fleming Yard renovation
When the new academic year began, students, faculty and staff filled the university’s classrooms, residence halls and centers, as well as a dynamic, newly redesigned space: Fleming Yard.
The redesign of the outdoor space, located between Alumni Lawn and Sarratt Student Center, was the culmination of collaborative initiatives among students, faculty and administrators from the Division of Administration. The updated space was re-dedicated Friday, Nov. 15, 2019.
Lori Troxel, professor of the practice of civil and environmental engineering, was among those who spoke about the campus collaboration. Before any work took place, civil engineering students interviewed people on campus to gather their impressions about Fleming Yard and their ideas for using the space.
Most did not know where it was, Troxel said. That tune has changed.
“Now, many students say it is their favorite place on campus,” she said.
The park-like setting features recycled plastic decking and furniture, accessible pathways and routes, a hydration station for filling water tumblers, LED lighting, audio speakers for outdoor events and fountain sculpture supplied by a storm water capture and filtration system.
Fleming Yard was named for Samuel Milton Fleming, BA’28, who served on the Vanderbilt University Board of Trust from 1952 to 1981, including as chairman from 1975 to 1981. Fleming Yard was created in 1988 through a gift from his daughter, Emerita Trustee Joanne Fleming Hayes, BA’68, who served on the Board of Trust from 1997 to 2015. The outdoor space’s current revitalization also was supported by Hayes, who also spoke at the re-dedication ceremony.
After listening to students and other university stakeholders during FutureVU feedback sessions, the Division of Administration partnered with Troxel to include students in the planning process for creating and maintaining sustainable, accessible and park-like environments across campus.
In 2018, students took a deeper look at Fleming Yard during Troxel’s class on sustainable design and made it the focus of their DIVE (Design as an Immersive Vanderbilt Experience) project.
“Our students studied energy, storm water and waste solutions to optimize the sustainability and accessibility of the space,” Troxel said. “Their energetic work drove tangible solutions that most of them would be able to see and use.”
Students offered their research, ideas and feedback to Division of Administration Chief of Staff Leigh Shoup, University Landscape Architect Robert Waits and Director of Sustainability and Environmental Management Andrea George and presented final design concepts to Vice Chancellor for Administration Eric Kopstain and Associate Vice Chancellor for Facilities Mike Perez.
“Reimagining the space through FutureVU principles offered a perfect opportunity to collaborate with our faculty and student partners, especially after hearing from our students that the area clearly was underutilized,” Kopstain said. “It has been absolutely wonderful to see our campus community walking through the area and using it as a place to study, relax and socialize.”
Design recommendations were then reviewed with members of Vanderbilt Student Government throughout last academic year, with furniture being selected in summer 2019.
“Applying sustainable and human-centered design principles to reimagine Fleming Yard shows that Vanderbilt is committed to creating a built environment that enables community to flourish all over campus,” said Jerom Theunissen, BE’18. Theunissen contributed to the project as a student and will see the final result when he returns to campus. “I can’t wait to come back and see it in person. It’s really exciting,” he said.
For more information, visit the FutureVU website. [Note: This story was updated on Nov. 18, 2019.]