Duke's Landscape


When James B. Duke endowed Duke University in 1924, he envisioned the creation of a great southern university that would rival the great established schools of the northeast. He wanted Duke to not only provide a top education, but also a great campus setting with beautiful architecture and landscaping, with enough land to accommodate the potential for future expansion. The highly respected landscape architect firm Olmsted Brothers was hired to assist the architect in laying out the quadrangles, roads and pedestrian circulation system, along with the landscaping for both East Campus and West Campus.

Duke today is an 8,000 acre campus, with 6,000 acres of the Duke Forest, with the remaining 2,000 comprised of quads, open lawns, woodlands, hollows, gardens, athletic fields, a golf course, plazas, parking lots and roads. Vast and complex, old and new, functional and beautiful, the Duke campus is a prime example of a traditional American campus landscape and is the element that physically and visually unifies the University as a whole. Much attention has been paid to the landscape in recent years, both with major capital projects and the small, incremental projects that help create the overall fabric of the campus. The three principles that have guided landscape and site design since the 2000 Master Plan are:

Duke is a University in the Forest

Duke is a Collection of Memorable Places

Duke should be a Walkable Campus Supported by an Understandable Circulation System

There have been several significant landscape projects completed in the last few years, including the West Campus Plaza, Engineering Quad, West Campus Pedestrianway, and Science Terrace, that have dramatically added to the quality of the Duke campus, adding to both its beauty and its functionality. However, as with most campus environments, it is the cumulative effect of many small spaces and places that provide the overall fabric or character of a place, and it is no different at Duke. Streetscapes, sidewalks, site furniture, "leftover" plantings, parking lots, service areas and all of the spaces outside established project limit lines are real challenges toward creating a successful and consistent campus landscape. Duke has spent considerable time and resources addressing these issues, and will continue to do so.