Design Principles, Design Guidelines, and Standing Review Committees

Additional Images


Eastern Inner Loop

Helianthus decapetalus L. (thin-leaved sunflower) is a native perennial herbaceous plant that blooms from July through September. It typically grows in moist bottomlands, along roads and stream banks, and in fields throughout Pennsylvania.


Planning and Design


Looking into the tented event terrace of the overlook pavilion in Phase I of the H. O. Smith Botanic Gardens

Planning and design for The Arboretum at Penn State are occurring in three stages, corresponding with three levels of detail.

Stage I was development of the preliminary master plan by Sasaki Associates, Inc., Watertown, Massachusetts, under the general supervision of the Arboretum Task Force, a committee of University faculty and staff chaired by Kim Steiner. Work on the preliminary master plan began in November 1996 and was completed in January 1999. The plan was approved by the University Board of Trustees in March 1999 as part of the University Park Campus Master Plan.

Stage II will involve the preparation of master plans for sectors of the Arboretum in which the programming and use will be discretely different as defined in the preliminary master plan: the Mitchell Tract (botanic gardens and associated facilities), Overlook Heights (agriculture research and demonstration), and Big Hollow North and South (natural areas).

Stage II master planning for the Mitchell Tract was performed by M·T·R Landscape Architects, LLC (formerly Marshall·Tyler·Rausch), Pittsburgh, with oversight by a core design team of Penn State faculty and staff and with input from the Faculty Advisory Committee to the Arboretum, Penn State administration, and members of the public (through scheduled public meetings). The Mitchell Tract master plan was completed in spring 2002.

In 2005, when the Penn State Dickinson School of Law decided to expand to a two-campus system, they chose to erect their building at University Park directly east of the site for the botanic gardens on Park Avenue. In response to this decision, the Arboretum revised the Mitchell Tract master plan in 2006 to integrate the gardens aesthetically and functionally with our new neighbor’s site.

The Stage III level, which depends on private donations, involves the design and construction of individual buildings, gardens, and other facilities identified in the master plans. This phase began in May 2007 when we received a lead gift $10 million from Charles H. Smith to begin constructing the H.O. Smith Botanic Gardens. Construction for this phase began in June 2008 and was completed in fall 2009.

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