Design Standards for Yale's landscapes, gardens, and more

May 28, 2020

Yale University Design Standards, used by architects and engineers to build and remodel structures, or design landscapes, are regularly reviewed and revised. Recently, new standards and guidelines were developed for exterior landscape design, management, and maintenance. The latest updates are posted on the Yale Facilities website. Landscape architects can refer to these guidelines for all future projects.

The basic premise behind these updates is to align the exterior landscape design with Yale’s distinctive campus character, taking into consideration what regular maintenance would be needed. Also, providing durable, low maintenance landscapes that unify Yale campuses and are respectful of Yale’s landscape design history. In addition, these exterior designs would adapt to urban conditions, encourage ecosystem health, reinforce a sense of place, and produce harmony and integration across various campus areas.

Beatrix Farrand Cultural Landscape Study

All of these updates resulted from the Beatrix Farrand Cultural Landscape Study that was completed late last fall. Yale Facilities engaged the services of Heritage Landscapes, LLC, to develop this study. Beatrix Farrand (1872-1959), a prominent landscape architect, provided landscape design services for the Harkness Memorial Quadrangle from 1920 to 1922 and served as Consulting Landscape Gardener to Yale University from 1923 to 1945. This study identifies, documents, and assesses, for integrity, the landscapes to which Beatrix Farrand contributed. It also provides an understanding of what remains of her legacy on the physical campus.

Once the Farrand Landscape Study was complete, it became clear that her influence is pervasive in many of Yale’s landscapes. These new design standards will ensure comprehensive consideration of these influences within the design and that the required level of maintenance is considered as the plan is developed. The standards layout to architects how Yale wants its landscapes organized. “It doesn’t hold them to any specifics but tries to organize spatial relations. Also, it provides them historical references that are characteristic of the Yale landscape,” said Kristina Chmelar, Major Project Planner. Many of these landscape characteristics stem from Farrand’s time.

These include planted beds alongside the buildings, trees placed in a parklike setting, and even vines growing up walls are all visual cues from Farrand’s work. The guidelines will help designers to recreate these Yale specific characteristics in new landscapes, including areas of Science Hill, West Campus, and more. “This includes specific features that call out the identity that is familiar to Yale, so we have more continuity across the campuses overall. On the back end of that comes the site maintenance plan in which we ask architects to create a design while looking at it from a labor standpoint,” said Chmelar.

Making old gardens new again

As a result of the study, a new program has been established. Each year, a set amount of Yale’s landscapes and gardens that need renewal will be refreshed using these new principles. Many of these areas to be worked on, feature Farrand’s original design, including Library Walk (between High and Wall Streets), Harkness Memorial Quadrangle, and the Branford College Courtyard.

Special thanks to the individuals who worked on this project:

  • Kristina Chmelar, Major Project Planner 
  • Dev Hawley, Director University Planning and Facilities Operations
  • Joe Signore, Supervisor Landscape and Maintenance Services
  • Michael West, Manager of Planning and Standards for Landscaping and Grounds Management
  • Heritage Landscapes, LLC – Preservation Landscape Architects & Planners, Charlotte VT

Suggestions for new or revised standards by anyone in Facilities are welcomed by the Design Standards Committee. Please send information to