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Gate 21 at Neyland Stadium

The University of Tennessee, Knoxville
Over time, the site of Gate 21 at Neyland Stadium had matured into a worn, confused space where the quality of daily student life became secondary to the functional needs surrounding the programming and activity of seven home football games each year. Pedestrian routes through the site became circuitous and marginalized by the competing loading, staging and parking of vehicles. Areas for congregating did not exist for those attending nearby classes and events most of the year, and on game day, patrons found the space severely overcrowded and unsafe. Gate 21 was entirely a pass-through space incapable of carrying the capacity it needed and lacking the sense of place and identity it deserved as a campus landmark.Existing ConditionsGate 21 After
Site Plan
As subconsultants to McCarty Holsaple McCarty, a Knoxville architectural firm who had worked with University planners and athletic department representatives to identify phased improvements for Neyland Stadium, CRJA’s Knoxville office collaborated with design team members and project stakeholders to conceptualize a new plaza and amphitheater outside Gate 21. The design of these two spaces successfully balances the activities of tens of thousands of game-day patrons with the needs and comfort of daily student life, including dozens of bus transfers each day. From initial site programming to final construction documentation, CRJA also found ways to embrace innovative technologies that would help the larger campus objective of developing sustainable sites. For example, in order to promote a healthy viable tree canopy of shade for the plaza over time, large volumes of planting soil were contained in structural cells that also support the pavement and vehicular loading above. To improve the quality of run-off exiting the site, permeable pavement was also installed in intercepting bands to slow and cool stormwater, while reducing the pollutants typically found in total suspended solids.

In 2011, the project received an Honor Award from Tennessee’s Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects, as well as a Governor’s Environmental Stewardship Award from the State’s Department of Environment & Conservation.

Here are some additional before, during construction, and after photos:

Amphitheater & Plaza




West End Longfellow Place Improvements

The existing conditions at the Longfellow Towers apartment complex in Boston’s West End neighborhood expressed failing site and structure conditions, including water leaking and penetration to parking and office structures below the on-structure deck and mezzanine. The pre-existing auto court and colonnade presented a cold, poorly illuminated, and generally inhospitable environment for pedestrians and visitors alike. The mezzanine level pool deck, which provided bathing and gathering for residents of the West End housing system, also expressed a vast, barren, and stark open space. Support structures including an odd pool storage house along with an insecure open stairway to the lower level maintenance also posed a safety concern and were an eyesore to the residents of the space. Large, overbearing yet necessary vent shaft structures also inhabited the space. In all, the client’s desire to reposition the property in order to stay competitive with the current and emerging housing market in downtown Boston served as the catalyst for this redevelopment.

existing conditions auto courtexisting conditions pool deck.jpg

Project design philosophy

The design approach for the Longfellow Towers Improvement project sought to provide warmth, clarity, proportion and continuity to a seemingly forgotten and underutilized space. The existing residential towers, with their striking shadow-play created by the strong fenestrations in the concrete, served to inform the design and proportions of the new spaces and the elements within those spaces. Understanding the movement through and views of the space, CRJA chose to use warm materials such as tan and brown stones and colored concretes throughout the design to offset the once cold nature of the environment.

View of auto court looking towards Staniford Street from Longfellow Place Building 4

The auto court, with its asphalt pavement and tall curbs, and which was once dominated by cars, has been returned to the pedestrian – shifting the access and comfort of the space to its primary user. A hard, cold center island was transformed into a planted centerpiece and textural forecourt for the urban residences, featuring custom designed granite and teak seating elements. An underlying function of “3” provides a simple rhythm within the space as well as a graphic tie to the “W” and “E” associated with the West End. The unit stone color aids in identifying movement zones from drop-off areas, with the colors associated with drop-off zones blending into the colonnade. Cutting back the pre-existing overhang of the mezzanine level allowed for increased light to make its way into the covered walkway zone.

custom benches within auto court island

The design philosophy of warmth, clarity and proportion continues in the pool deck, grounding the space on the rectangular pool form and extruding a “bar” in plan on the space. A shifting circular cabana seating zone anchors one end of this “bar”, while a new pool house finds a prominent and clear home at the other end. The surface shifts between concrete unit paver, Trex decking, and granite, with a custom reflecting paving pattern of unit stone occurring within the bar adjacent to the pool. The pre-existing concrete vent shaft was repositioned into a “lantern” art piece with a custom, backlit, Trespa lattice screen wrapping the circular form, which was designed by CRJA. Surrounding the pool area are a custom aluminum fence and concrete wall which also draw inspiration from the linear shifting shadow-play of the tower elevation.

Cabana seating looking towards vent shaft lantern and pool house

Sun deck, pool house, and vent shaft lantern

Project Significance

To create a truly integrated design, CRJA worked collaboratively with Elkus Manfredi Architects to develop a strong relationship between architecture and landscape. Often, design creativity is tempered or hindered by a site’s context or construction limitations. The Longfellow Place Improvement Project chose to draw from what many consider a “Brutalist” architectural expression the essence and unique moments of shadow and repetition in the site design and detailing. Working within the very strict, tight spatial and weight limitations of the on-deck condition, the design team finely detailed and executed a rich and complementary pallet of materials. By employing lightweight structural fills, CRJA achieved the desired pavements and surfaces within the pool deck area. Reuse and repositioning of existing site elements which many would have chosen to demolish or ignore, such as the Vent Shaft Lantern, and turning them into fitting focal elements within the space further helped to express a truly creative landscape design approach. The transformation succeeds in creating a true urban oasis for the users of the space, providing unique and identifiable pedestrian level spaces as well as graphically contextual overhead views of the property for all of the inhabitants of the towers and adjacent structures.

Here are some additional photos of the completed auto court and pool deck:

view of auto court looking towards longfellow place building

view from auto court island looking at Longfellow Place Building 4

Sun deck

Trellis_Cabana Seating

aerial of pool deck

All finished site photos by Chuck Choi Photography

From the CRJA design team’s statement about the highly collaborative endeavor that generated the design of this healing garden:

Dana Farber Cancer Institute (DFCI) supports the active involvement of their Patient and Family Advisory Councils, an international model for patient- and family-centered care. The Healing Garden Working Group that oversaw the design was co-chaired by two DFCI patients. The Group included representatives from the Patient and Family Advisory Council, pediatric and adult nursing, safety and infection control, research management, physicians, members of the Arts and Environment Committee, DFCI Facilities and Project Management staff, architects and landscape architects. A garden was envisioned that would provide a warm and inviting space within the new outpatient clinical setting: an area of quiet respite in a natural environment for patients, families, and staff with adequate space for reflection and healing amid nature’s beauty.

In a highly collaborative endeavor, working under the direction of the project architects, the landscape architects developed conceptual alternatives for review by the Healing Garden Working Group. A detailed preferred Schematic Design was refined to facilitate cost estimating and allow the architects and engineers to plan for the required infrastructure, as the building itself was already well into construction during Schematic Design for the garden. The landscape architects provided visual examples of garden character and materials, and illustrative plans and sections which led the Working Group to express a clear preference for natural materials and a warm, naturalistic feel to the garden. A generous donation from Thea and James Stoneman later made possible the final design, construction and support for the maintenance of the garden.

This 2400 SF garden is part of a new, 275,000 SF state-of-the-art outpatient treatment and research facility of DFCI which is expected to receive LEED Silver certification for sustainability.

We welcome your comments about the process or final constructed design.

CRJA is excited to share an update on the North Bank Bridge Project currently under construction in Cambridge, downtown Boston, and Charlestown. Commuters and office workers have surely noticed the spate of construction activity on the banks of the Charles River beneath the span of the Leonard P. Zakim Bunker Hill Bridge. Although there is not yet much finished landscape work to show, the heart of the project is taking shape: fabrication has begun on the 700’ long North Bank Pedestrian Bridge. When complete, the bridge, originally conceptualized by bridge engineers Buro Happold, will span from North Point Park in the west over the MBTA railroad tracks and Miller’s River to Paul Revere Park in the east. Representatives from bridge designers Ammann & Whitney, along with members of the Joint Venture construction team, recently visited Newport Industrial Fabrication in Maine to witness the bridge fabrication progress.

As seen in these photos, the bridge structure begins below the bridge deck and quickly arches overhead through the center span as the bridge passes over the MBTA tracks and Miller’s River. The twelve-foot-wide bridge deck will allow pedestrians and bikers to stroll or ride over the bridge, thereby connecting North Point Park in Cambridge to Paul Revere Park in Charlestown.

Click through these images of the bridge, which is due to arrive on site in Boston later this summer, and post a comment to tell us what you think.

The North Bank Bridge and Park is designed by the Joint Venture of Greenman-Pedersen, Carol R. Johnson Associates, Stantec Consulting, and Ammann & Whitney for MassDOT. Barletta Heavy Division is the general contractor.

by Tom Hand

A campus rain garden through the seasons

CRJA’s team for projects at the University of Rhode Island designed and oversaw the construction of this rain garden at the Center for Biotechnology and Life Sciences (CBLS). Since it was constructed, admirers have commented on its success not only as a successful sustainable design feature, but as a commanding visual presence. Here, a look at the rain garden through the seasons:

1. The stone and steel within the rain garden provide visual interest while the landscape hibernates for winter.


2. Multi-colored astilbes steal the show in springtime, blooming and signaling the awakening of rain garden plantings.


3. Birds and butterflies arrive in numbers while the foliage of the perennials and ornamental grasses peaks in summer.


4. Bronze tones of the astilbes create eye-catching contrast with the golden hues of the ornamental grasses in fall.


by Lisa Esterrich (all text and photos)

Carol R. Johnson Associates (CRJA) is an award-winning landscape architectural design and environmental planning firm with offices in Boston, Knoxville, and Beijing. Founded in 1959, our practice has expanded over the years into a 50-person firm serving clients throughout the U.S., the Middle East, China and other international locales.