When the Massachusetts Agricultural College was founded in 1864,
William Smith Clark was one of a handful of visionary Massachusetts
educators whose imaginations were inspired by the ideal of public
democratic education. Here they created a land grant college to
educate regional farmers in contemporary agricultural methods and
to promote the ideal of equal educational opportunity for all. The
resulting campus of orchards, vineyards and fields and a few very
elegant buildings--all organized on the principle of the agricultural
grid--was an organic expression of the practical, yet idealistic
nature of their vision. It was a place which supported social, intellectual
and spiritual growth hand in hand with practical agricultural training
for its students. The emerging campus was as experimental as the
early crops which grew here, testing the means of achieving equality
in education in the years after the Civil War.
Clarks Passage is a 600 foot long, four-acre, pedestrian-only
district within the Eastern Area of the University of Massachusetts
Amherst campus. It is a design proposal that resurrects the historic
"passage" between the center of Amherst and the heart
of the Massachusetts Agricultural College. It replaces what had
evolved into a haphazard automobile-oriented landscape. Clarks
Passage includes The Path and The Wall which defines it. It is bounded
on the east and west by the facades of historic buildings and Durfee
Gardens as well as a series of new courtyards and gathering spaces.
It is anchored on either end by new pedestrian plazas.
The Path is a patterned progression of alternating brick and
native stone bands stretching the length of this area and linking
all building entrances and open spaces.
The Wall, composed of brick and native stone, stretches along
the edge of The Path and also undergoes a progression: beginning
with raw, unrefined and minimally-assembled materials, and ending
in a highly-refined, polished and processed stone and brick wall.
Throughout, the wall is designed to provide a variety of places
At The Falls, The Wall exists in its most primitive state as
piles of rocks which the students stream between on their way to
the center of the campus. Resurrected from the context of their
historic sentences and reassembled in the rocks, words like "agriculture,
democracy, duty...etc." are a subtle reminder of the historical,
ideological bedrock upon which the school is based. The jumble of
rocks and assemblage of words begins in mist and resolves in a waterfall
passing over them.
At the opposite end of The Path is The Gate, an ever-changing
pattern of water creating a grand gateway through which people pass.
The Wall, from which the water emanates, exists in its most refined,
highly-polished, finished and assembled state.
The Courtyards are located beside the path in front of each
of the important historic buildings, providing building residents
a place to gather.
The Garden, already in place as Durfee Gardens, is symbolic of
the historic fields, orchards and vineyards which formed the early
campus of the Massachusetts Agricultural College.
Collectively these elements help to recreate a contemporary
expression of a functional and meaningful campus by redressing some
of its practical problems and re-establishing our connections to
our land grant heritage. Although as yet unbuilt, the design for
Clarks Passage has been published by Landscape Architecture