A Sustainable Campus Quad

During a recent trip to Salem, Massachusetts, I visited a well-designed quadrangle within a new residence hall complex at Salem State University. A linear bioswale runs along one side of a large lawn area, collecting runoff from the complex, and cleaning this water before it enters a tidal marsh adjacent to the development. Stepped stone-filled gabions line the walkway along the swale, and are intermittently capped with wooden bench seating. Wooden ramps bridge the swale from the walkway, providing access to the lawn area. I think the juxtaposition of the linear architectural elements and the free-form planting design of the swale work well. Even in winter (unusually without snow on this visit), the grasses and other plantings provide visual interest.

Bioswale with adjacent gabions

Wooden bench seating caps portions of the gabions. A green roof sits atop the single-story dining hall (in background).

A row of ornamental grasses visually reinforces yet softens the line of this concrete wall, and attractive pavers complement the building colors.

Plantings along this building remain colorful in winter.

Photos by Alice Webb

3 thoughts on “A Sustainable Campus Quad

  1. Alice,

    Thanks for this post, I subscribe to your blog and always enjoy the format of large pictures and good descriptions for what you see. Talking about bioswales especially sparked my interest this time, because I just did some research on bioswales myself. I work for a designer and supplier of boardwalk systems, and one of our recent projects was installed as a crossing over a bioswale. I realized bioswales were a foreign concept to me and that needed to change! Hopefully you like the post, I’d be appreciative to hear your thoughts.




    1. Stephen,

      I read your post — it’s a good description of the environmental (and aesthetic) benefits of bioswales. Unlike rain gardens, water is intended to move along the swales, albeit very slowly to allow the water (and pollutants) to settle into the soil. They typically have a raised catch basin at the low end, to collect any excess water that the swale can’t handle during very heavy rain events.


  2. Alice,

    I enjoyed knowing more about the bioswale and how it looks in winter. It would be most interesting to see how it looks in summer as well. You certainly gave it good coverage. I like the idea of various elevations.


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