Sasaki’s work at Bates College began with a campus plan, from which came the concept of creating a pedestrian walkway through the heart of campus and a corresponding dining and campus life center. The original campus contained several city streets, and the existing condition for Bates Walk was one of these remnant city streets that had become a service lane with parking. The project’s goal was to convert this automobile space to a vital pedestrian district that unites several major campus buildings along the street corridor with a new residence hall at one end and a new dining commons at the other. Additionally, the project was necessary to rectify multiple surface drainage problems in the district, including cleaning stormwater before it entered an adjacent pond, and to enable major improvements to campus utilities.
The resulting Bates Alumni Walk and Bates Commons have transformed the college spatially and culturally. The Bates Alumni Walk is the geographical center and the heart of activity on campus, but also serves as an important ecological connection between two significant stands of forest. It connects the academic and the social-cultural centers of campus with the Bates Commons. The Bates Commons is a dining and campus life center designed to meet the expanding needs of the college and provide opportunities for informal conversations and socialization among students, faculty, and staff.
The Bates Alumni Walk is composed of two parallel walks defining a lawn and birch grove between them. The birch trees are consistent with the surrounding landscape and impart boldness, simplicity, and grace to the space. Parallel bars of precast seats with integrated lighting form seating groupings perpendicular to the overall 80-foot by 1,300-foot linear space. These serve as meeting places, animate the space in day and night, and augment the vertical lighting along the walk. An amphitheater/outdoor classroom utilizes these same precast elements. Hidden below the site improvements is an integrated stormwater management system that addresses poor soil infiltration capabilities, high groundwater, and the City’s regulatory requirements.