Chatham News

Chatham University landscape architecture students win UPMC student design competition

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PITTSBURGH (August 31, 2012) …Three Chatham University Master of Landscape Architecture students teamed up to win a first prize in the UPMC-sponsored Living Visual Barrier Student Design Competition for their design for UPMC Mercy, one of two competition sites.

The goal of the students in the competition was to appropriately screen adjacent areas without obstructing access, create aesthetically appealing and visually engaging landscape design elements that is easy to maintain across the seasons, optimize storm water management, comply with the City of Pittsburgh’s property management regulations, and incorporate sustainable landscape planting techniques that fit the challenging urban environment of Pittsburgh.

The Chatham team of Jordyn Melino, Julia Morrison, and James Christopher Ray conceived a design that draws on the environmental context and rock outcroppings of the Monongahela River, developing an efficient retaining wall system for the corner of the Mercy Hospital campus. The terrace rock walls proposed for the site are set in a double helix pattern that guides the eye and references both the flow of the river below and the wind currently found on the site. The design met two primary objectives: blocking the view of the loading dock operations from passersby and providing a visual respite to patients, doctors, and visitors.

“More importantly, the natural aesthetic of the proposed landscape has the potential to inspire patients in the hospital as they gaze out their windows,” said Kyle Beidler, Ph.D., assistant professor in Chatham University’s Master of Landscape Architecture program. “I believe the students’ design proposal was a practical and elegant solution that exceeded the client’s expectations.

“The competition provided us an opportunity to apply what we learned in a classroom studio to a real setting,” said Chatham team member Morrison. “It challenged us to go beyond our comfort zone and acquire new skills that helped push our design to the forefront.”

Criteria for judging included content, demonstration of expertise, overall effective communication, frame valuation of structure, design plan, project timeline, budget, and maintenance plan.

“From an instructional perspective, the most inspirational part of the Living Visual Barrier project was that it was completely student driven,” added Dr. Beidler.  “This group of students took it upon themselves to participate in this competition. My role was simply to guide and encourage; it was their individual enthusiasm and dedication to the profession of landscape architecture that is recognized by this award.”

Penn State students won first prize for the second site, UPMC Shadyside, as a total of seven student teams from both Chatham University and Penn State participated.

About Chatham’s Master of Landscape Architecture
Chatham University’s fully accredited Master of Landscape Architecture Program prepares students for professional careers in landscape architecture. It has a particular emphasis on educating and training a generation of professionals who are grounded in the principles of sustainable design and planning; knowledgeable about the advanced approaches of environmental conservation and management; and skillful in applying ecologically responsible methods and techniques in all types of development.

About Chatham University
Chatham University, founded in 1869, is located in the vibrant Shadyside neighborhood of Pittsburgh, Pa. Preparing students from around the world, Chatham’s enrollment throughout the past decade was the fastest growing in the Pittsburgh region.

Consisting of an undergraduate women’s college and graduate and online programs for both men and women, Chatham has consistently been ranked among the top master’s level institutions in the Northeast by U.S. News & World Report and The Princeton Review. Offering challenging academics and innovative programming in the fields of sustainability and the environment, the health sciences, and business and entrepreneurship, a Chatham education is designed to meet the needs of tomorrow’s economy, today.

Chatham has also demonstrated institutional commitments to reach carbon neutrality by 2025 and has been recognized as a leader in sustainability by The Princeton Review, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the League of American Bicyclists, and Citizens for Pennsylvania’s Future. For more information, call 800-837-1290 or visit