Not far from where I live, in northwest Washington DC, American University has been establishing an arboretum on its campus that provides student, faculty and visitors with a garden-like setting to enjoy and take pride in. I’ve been photographing the campus for its landscape architect, H. Paul Davis (who also has designed many beautiful residential gardens in the DC area) since 2004, and thought I would share some photos with you.
While the original campus plan for AU (which was founded in 1893) was created by Frederick Law Olmstead Sr., it underwent changes over the years. These days, Olmstead’s plan is being revisited, but some of the most visually exciting areas of AU’s landscape are directly attributable to Davis’ vision.
Older parts of campus include mature trees and a wandering brook,
a “pocket park” with unusual perennials and a Japanese maple with benches inviting you to sit and talk,
and large expanses of lushly planted sweeps of colorful long-flowering perennials in front of the President’s House and neighboring Glover Gate.
In spring, I found Euphorbia paired with luscious yellow and white tulips along a walkway between buildings.
The landscape design around academic buildings is impressive almost everywhere.
In 2010, the plantings surrounding Battelle-Thompkins earned Davis and AU a Landscape Design Merit Award from the Perennial Plant Association.
AU’s arboretum is not only visually beautiful but is becoming a leader in sustainable management of an urban landscape. Its new LEED Gold Certified School of International Service building showcases a host of new green technologies, and the campus’s Media Production Center boasts a green roof. If you’re in the area, I hope you’ll take a tour of the campus – even if you’re not in the market for a return to academia yourself, it’s inspirational and an opportunity for learning more about how an institute of higher learning has something to teach us all.