If you’ve crossed campus in the last several months, you’ve no doubt walked through the completely renovated Smith Plaza—a space considered the “heart” of UNM. The project which was completed just in time for the beginning of the fall 2018 semester was recently honored with the Urban Design Merit Award from the American Institute of Architects (AIA).
“The goal of the Smith Plaza renovation project was to create a place that was a flexible, welcoming space for students to study, gather, and socialize,” says Kim Kloeppel, chief operations officer and project lead for Student Affairs. “To be rewarded for accomplishing those goals is an added bonus.”
The award was given to the project based on its skillful geometric scheme. The project maintains fluidity and flexibility of use throughout the plaza which improved the previous design’s limited accessibility and deteriorating infrastructure.
The project team of MRWM Landscape Architects, McClain +Yu Architects, and Surface Design, Inc. sought to transform the inhospitable mostly-concrete plaza into a design that enhances the space for both academic and social activities while addressing the accessibility issues.
Many materials from the original Smith Plaza were repurposed and reused in the renovation project including demolition materials, dirt, and bricks. The design included drought tolerant plant palettes and more permeable surfaces—which the AIA says were of particular merit. The AIA also notes that the larger scale of the plaza and the surrounding buildings and the intermediate scale of sitting areas adds visible anchors for the gathering zones.
Thanks to the redesign project, the 3.3-acre Smith Plaza boasts greater accessibility, more shade, beautiful landscaping, moveable furniture, and what the AIA refers to as, “Thoughtful details and playful treatment of edge conditions to create a welcoming and accessible space.”
Several events have already christened the new space including Welcome Back Days and Silent Lights, and Hanging of the Greens, and Kloeppel says that the opportunities for teaching, performances, and other events will be more feasible now.
For more information on the project visit the Smith Plaza Renovation webpage.