The Boston Society of Landscape Architects has awarded Stephen Stimson Associates with a 2018 Honor Award for Analysis and Planning for the development of a Master Plan for Tower Hill Botanic Garden.
The Master Plan is a 30 year vision for Tower Hill, including new gardens and facilities proposed in phases over the coming decades. Throughout the Master Plan process, Stephen Stimson Associates (SSA) consulted with a broad range of stakeholders to examine the relevance of Tower Hill to both horticulture and the larger society of botanical gardens. With this in mind, themes were developed focusing on four areas of intellectual exploration for the garden: botanic beauty, agrarian gardens, cultivated wild, and sustainability.
The plan calls for a new entry and expansion of visitor services and education facilities, construction of a native woodland garden with special appeal for children and families, a new glass house to house a permanent indoor collection, a sculpture garden, an expanded and accessible trail system, rotating “gallery gardens,” an expansion of the orchard of rare heirloom apple trees, and many other projects driven by Tower Hill’s strategic goals.
The funding for the Master Plan was made possible by the financial support of the Mildred H. McEvoy Foundation and by a generous gift from an anonymous donor.
“We’re thrilled that Stephen Stimson Associates is being recognized and excited to start putting the first building blocks of this shared vision in place,” said Tower Hill CEO Grace Elton.
Stephen Stimson Associates drafted the Master Plan after a thorough study of the landscape, regional demographics, and national horticultural trends, while also incorporating feedback from the Worcester County Horticultural Society’s Board of Trustees, Tower Hill staff and members, area residents, and community groups. The firm completed the plan in 2016 and Tower Hill is currently fundraising in advance of breaking ground on the first phase of development, which includes a redesigned entry experience to welcome visitors and alleviate traffic delays on busy days.
The Boston Society of Landscape Architects selected 19 projects from more than 100 submissions from sites spanning California to Bangladesh. The winners were selected based on excellence in the diverse practices of landscape architecture, and awarded projects reflect careful stewardship, wise planning, and artful design of the cultural and natural environment, according to the Society.
This year’s submissions also demonstrated a strong focus on issues of sustainability and climate resilience, as more public and private entities — from homeowners to institutions to municipalities — start to think differently about the additional work their landscapes can do, and as the role of landscape architecture in dealing with climate change continues to grow.
In Tower Hill’s case, the Master Plan calls for careful management of storm water run-off as it relates to the nearby Wachusett Reservoir, which is an important drinking water supply for eastern Massachusetts. For example, the expanded parking lot will feature “bioswales” and cascading storm water pools to filter rain water before it heads down the drumlin Tower Hill sits atop and eventually makes its way into the reservoir.
“The Master Plan will guide Tower Hill in a time when more visitors than ever before are seeking out public gardens,” said Elton. “They are coming for health and wellness, for beauty, for community service, and maybe as a respite from our increasingly hectic and technology driven lives.”
In addition to the new entry and expanded parking, the first phase of development includes construction of The Ramble, the native woodland garden for children and families, and dramatic enhancements to Pliny’s Allée – an allée of stately oaks that lead to The Ramble – to improve accessibility.
Stephen Stimson Associates, based in Cambridge and Princeton, was founded in 1992. The firm’s founder, Stephen Stimson, grew up on a 10th generation dairy farm in Central Massachusetts. Decades before becoming a botanic garden, Tower Hill was a dairy farm.
“It’s no surprise that Stephen and his team produced an award-worthy Master Plan, given his connection with the land and their expertise in landscape design,” Elton said.
Stephen Stimson Associates also received an Honor Award in Design for Pulaski Park in Northampton, Mass.; as well as Merit Awards in Design for the John Olver Design Building and Crotty Hall at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst from the Boston Society of Landscape Architects (a full list of the awards can be found here).
Tower Hill Botanic Garden is nonprofit organization located in Boylston, Mass., just minutes from downtown Worcester and under an hour from Boston. It includes 171 acres and opened in 1986.