by Christopher Streb, PE
Since the late 2000s, a landscape transformation has been underway in Midtown Atlanta that aims to restore nature and her benefits within the city. On the west side of I-75, the Georgia Institute of Technology has been implementing a core component of a vision established in its 2004 Campus Master Plan: an 80-acre green corridor called the EcoCommons. While the pandemic quieted student life through the better part of the last year, the University forged ahead in its realization of the EcoCommons on 7 acres of land adjacent to the Kendeda Building for Innovative Sustainable Design. Recently completed, the landscape aims to provide a setting for learning, examination, and reflection, while becoming a model of ecological regeneration in an urban setting.
The vision for the EcoCommons is to restore a native Piedmont ecosystem, integrating smart technology to monitor this ecologically performing landscape, and serve as a living laboratory. A historical examination of the site revealed important insights that informed the design and further contextualized the objectives. From the 1930s to 2019, before becoming the EcoCommons, the land was ecologically unproductive, consisting of surface parking spaces and one-story buildings. However, beneath the contemporary veneer lay important stories that reflect both historical events and perspective.