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Locally inspired

Botanical Garden, HOK partner on Core Science Facility landscape design

Campus and Community

By Ryan Howell

Now that the Core Science Facility is open to the public, many members of the community will want to check out the impressive building.

But before you go inside, be sure to take in the learning experience available outside.

A white building with numerous windows
The Core Science Facility was designed with icebergs as the main source of inspiration.
Photo: Rich Blenkinsopp

The exterior of the building was built to resemble an iceberg.

HOK, a design, architecture, engineering and planning firm was tasked with the design.

“The overall narrative of the building drew on specific identifying local features, including the form of an iceberg,” said Jeff Churchill, senior project architect at HOK.

“The design also draws on local vernacular architecture, including fishing buildings.”

Local inspiration

Once the building design process was underway, Memorial’s Botanical Garden was engaged to handle the landscaping work.

Garden staff met with designers from HOK and took a mini-tour of the Avalon Peninsula, visiting sites like Signal Hill and Cape Spear for design cues.

Several different kinds of plants grow low to the ground in zigzag patterns.
The landscaping at the Core Science Building was designed to include numerous native Newfoundland and Labrador plants.
Photo: Rich Blenkinsopp

They were inspired by the Newfoundland and Labrador barrens and devised a landscape scheme based on those observations.

Particularly, the iceberg inspiration can be seen in the zigzag flower beds at the southwest corner of the building.

With their contours and sharp edges, they reflect how icebergs can scar the landscape as they drag along the shoreline.

‘Tried and true’ flora

From there, HOK partnered with the Botanical Garden on the design and planning.

A view of the Core Science Facility looking west.
Photo: Rich Blenkinsopp

“Our focus was primarily on hearty plants – plants that are able to grow in our conditions, but also tried and true plants,” said Tim Walsh, nursery manager, Botanical Garden.

“All of the plants selected were based on their ability to grow in the Newfoundland and Labrador environment while also considering the maintenance and the amount of wind and snow clearing that will be in the area.”

In total, there are 3,500 perennials and 110 woody plants on the Core Science Facility grounds. The plants are a mixture of native and exotic, like the lupin, which was introduced to the island years ago.

Several different kinds of plants grow low to the ground in zigzag patterns.
The flower beds were built in zigzag patterns to echo the impact of icebergs dragging along the shoreline.
Photo: Rich Blenkinsopp

“A fair number of the plants are native Newfoundland and Labrador plants,” said Todd Boland, horticulturist, Botanical Garden.

“We have lovage growing in the area, which is a native plant, and New York asters, which we collected from seeds of native plants. We also have the lance leaf goldenrod, silver weed and the blue flag iris which are all native.”

Nearly all of the perennials were grown from seed at the Botanical Garden or came from seed that was then divided further throughout the nursery into holding beds to bulk up the numbers.

Planted at last

Getting the plants ready was a lengthy process, says Mr. Walsh, amounting to at least three years.

“We needed a long timeframe to work with and we needed to know specific planting dates.” — Tim Walsh

As is to be expected, the COVID-19 pandemic created major uncertainty in terms of successful planting.

“We needed a long timeframe to work with and we needed to know specific planting dates,” said Mr. Walsh.

“The pandemic delayed us by a year, however, and that created big challenges. We had to hold onto the plants for an extra year than we had intended to.”

Several people in safety gear plant small plants along a white building's edge. The Memorial Tower and University Centre are visible in the background.
The Botanical Garden planting team hard at work, prepping for the Core Science Facility’s opening.
Photo: Submitted

In total, six staff were involved with the planting process, three of whom are Memorial students who worked with the garden this summer.

“We’re very happy that the plants are now in the ground,” joked Mr. Walsh.


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