Architects, planners selected for Lake Campus Master Plan project at Princeton

May 2, 2018 10:01 a.m.

Two award-winning design firms will collaborate to develop a master plan for Princeton University’s proposed Lake Campus. The project aims to transform University lands south of Lake Carnegie into a vibrant, mixed-use community that includes academic partnerships with external collaborators in an expanded innovation ecosystem.

Princeton has selected Skidmore, Owings and Merrill (SOM), a renowned architecture, design and planning firm, along with James Corner Field Operations, an interdisciplinary landscape architecture and urban design practice, to create a Lake Campus Master Plan.

Watercolor of aerial view of land south of Lake Carnegie

Two design firms will develop a master plan for Princeton University’s proposed Lake Campus on land south of Lake Carnegie. Princeton’s Campus Plan envisions Lake Campus as a mixed-use community that could include academic partnerships and innovation initiatives; administrative offices; athletic and recreational facilities; graduate student housing; retail and amenity space; and a parking area and transit hub. This painting from the Campus Plan looks north from the proposed Lake Campus; it is an artistic interpretation and is not intended to suggest a design or layout. 

The University’s most recent Campus Plan, published in December 2017, envisioned Lake Campus as an integrated extension of the current campus that could include academic partnerships and innovation initiatives; administrative offices; athletic and recreational facilities; graduate student housing; retail and amenity space; and a parking area and transit hub.

Development would take place on open lands along the east side of Washington Road that the University purchased almost a century ago.

“A vision for activating our lands south of Lake Carnegie is one of the most intriguing ideas to emerge from our new campus plan and the strategic framework underpinning it,” President Christopher L. Eisgruber said. “The Lake Campus will enable Princeton to foster a vibrant community of graduate housing, enhance the quality of athletic facilities, strengthen the region’s innovation ecosystem, and create opportunities for partnerships with the nonprofit, corporate and government sectors.”

University Architect Ron McCoy said SOM and Field Operations were selected because of their “deep understanding” of the University’s goals for Lake Campus, and for their ability to create a campus that will become a “natural yet distinctive extension of the central campus.”

SOM and Field Operations have extensive planning experience. The firms worked together on the Cornell Tech Campus, with SOM leading master planning for the new applied science campus in New York City, and Field Operations designing the landscape architecture and open spaces. SOM also has completed master plans for Harvard University’s north campus project, Bowdoin College, the University of Connecticut and other universities.

“I’m delighted that SOM and Field Operations will lend their extensive expertise to developing the master plan for this dynamic addition to Princeton’s historic campus,” Eisgruber said. “We look forward to working with officials from West Windsor, Princeton, Mercer County and the state as we refine our vision for new and innovative facilities that will advance our mission and enhance our ability to make an impact on the world.”

Aerial view of Cornell Tech Campus in New York City

Skidmore, Owings and Merrill (SOM), an architecture, design and planning firm, along with James Corner Field Operations, an interdisciplinary landscape architecture and urban design practice, will create Princeton’s Lake Campus Master Plan. The two firms also collaborated on the Cornell Tech Campus (shown in this photo), with SOM leading master planning for the new applied science campus in New York City.

Princeton’s Lake Campus Master Plan will focus on developing the area over the next 10 years, and also will provide a flexible framework for the next 30 years.

“The goal is to transform the lands south of Lake Carnegie into a lively and integrated community that connects to the University’s existing campus,” McCoy said. “SOM and Field Operations have the ability to respect the unique setting of Lake Carnegie and to create a welcoming campus setting.”

McCoy said immediate goals are to develop space for graduate student housing, to improve facilities for varsity and recreational athletics, and to accommodate academic partnerships with government, nonprofit and corporate sectors in an expanded central New Jersey innovation ecosystem. New shuttle, pedestrian and bicycle connections to central campus and the community also will be created.

In the last five years, the University has enhanced efforts to collaborate with state and municipal leaders and non-academic partners to advance its teaching and research mission and strengthen the region’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. Princeton’s innovation initiatives include: the Princeton Entrepreneurial Hub (eHub); the Princeton Innovation Center BioLabs, a new incubation space for Princeton and New Jersey startups; the Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment’s E-ffiliates program; and a range of other activities and collaborations involving faculty, students and external partners.

Lake Campus will support new academic partnerships and spaces for innovation.

“The master plan will refine the programmatic requirements and identify specific sites for all of the individual programs,” McCoy said. “The plan will also create a design for the community spaces, landscapes and shared campus amenities.”

SOM Design Partner Mustafa Abadan said his team is excited to work on a project that represents the future of Princeton University.

“Lake Campus represents the future not only in the way the area will be planned for growth, but in the way it relates to the campus core, and how its character will influence the perception and experience of the University as a whole,” Abadan said.

Douglas Voigt, SOM urban design and planning partner, said the master plan “speaks to the kind of work SOM relishes. It engages our sensitivity to small-scale campus moments, the kind of placemaking at the scale of a pedestrian or cyclist that makes a space intimate, pleasurable and memorable.”

James Corner, founding partner of Field Operations, believes the Lake Campus project will be truly transformative for Princeton.

“This site is extraordinarily special and beautiful; in developing the master plan we will look at how this bucolic, pastoral character may inform and influence future development while fulfilling the extraordinary mission of the University,” Corner said. “Lake Carnegie itself suggests a magnificent new centerpiece for the campus as a whole, transforming the entire area into something very special indeed.”

View from campus plaza at Cornell Tech Campus in New York City

James Corner Field Operations designed the landscape architecture and open spaces for Cornell Tech Campus in New York City. This photo shows a view from the campus plaza. For Princeton’s Lake Campus Master Plan, the firm hopes to enhance the existing natural landscape around Lake Carnegie.

Tatiana Choulika, principal of Field Operations, said her team hopes to build on opportunities presented by the area’s existing landscape and enhance them so they become “essential parts of the identity and fabric of the new Lake Campus.” She noted the land’s history, situated adjacent to the Delaware and Raritan Canal and among former farm fields.

“The landscape of Lake Campus presents a unique and fascinating opportunity to showcase and celebrate Princeton University’s campus history and culture while enhancing its natural ecosystems and beautiful landscape to create a rich and diverse 21st-century campus experience,” she said.

Choulika hopes to employ existing features of the nearby landscape, noting for example, that the Washington Road Elm allée — a more than half-mile corridor lined with elm trees — has the potential of becoming a “beautiful central axis tying Lake Campus to central campus and Nassau Street.”

SOM Associate Director Meredith Bostwick-Lorenzo Eiroa, who received a master’s in architecture from Princeton in 2003, said she is excited to work on the project.

"It is tremendously exciting to return to Princeton as a partner in the process of planning a new, vibrant campus on the other side of Lake Carnegie — one that will support Princeton’s mission in new ways,” she said. “We are excited by Princeton’s ambition to create new campus experiences through landscape, open space networks and pathways and inclusive places, complete with new opportunities for graduate student life, athletics and academic partnerships.”

Colin Koop, design director at SOM, said he expects designers will spend considerable time listening to constituents across campus to inform plans.

“Throughout our process, we will engage with the University to collaboratively test different scenarios and use stakeholder feedback to refine the design until we’ve developed consensus around a compelling vision,” Koop said. “The excitement of working on this project comes from the challenge of helping the University define the nature of Lake Campus for generations to come.”

The University expects to complete the Lake Campus Master Plan in 2019.