MARY REED HALL AND WARREN CIRCLE GATEWAY
THE UNIVERSITY OF DENVER
When the University of Denver was confirmed in 2012 as host to the first presidential debate on campus, improving the sense of arrival to the historical gateway to the university, along with solving the universal access issues to the historical Mary Reed Hall, became a critical priority for the university. The first step was to recognize the larger context and the unique history of the site. When the university was created, Warren Circle was planted with a large number of trees, inscribing the campus as a grove prominently located on the top of a gentle hill. In addition, historical photographs from the 1950s show the dense canopy of the campus connected to the city of Denver via the planted University Avenue.
Working closely with university architect Mark Rodgers, Didier Design Studio developed a design strategy to enhance the sense of arrival to campus and to Mary Reed Hall. The most important design move was to inspire the ‘replanting’ of Warren Circle and further enhance its connection to University Avenue and the larger community. The second design move was to articulate the edge of the campus with a more clearly defined landscape as a democratic and academic ground. Our design provides a clear landscape-architectural language and sense of place with a well-defined lawn framed with seat stone walls and a layered planting. Thirdly, the design answers the need for improved safety and the sense of flow when approaching Mary Reed Hall. Due to the lack of universal access, an add-on concrete ramp obstructing the grand main door to the historical structure had been conceived as a temporary solution. Our attention to grading and detailing allowed us to promote the integration of a universal route; an elegant, gently-sloped pedestrian path.