University of Southampton, Salisbury Road - GreenBlue Urban
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University of Southampton, Salisbury Road


The University of Southampton, in the South of the UK, is one of the Russell Group of Universities, and a highly regarded research-intensive university, founded at the Hartley Institute in 1862.  Having seven different campuses, the university has approximately 22,000 students and is one of the leading engineering universities in the UK. As with many such academic institutions, campus developments are ongoing. The main campus, Highfield Campus, was opened just after the First World War, and students were accommodated in a range of buildings, some of them temporarily in construction. As the century went on, other buildings were constructed, and the campus grew. The famous architect Basil Spence was commissioned in 1956 as a Consultant Architect, and many buildings bear his distinctive style, although not all were actually designed by him. In the 1990s, the Rick Mather Partnership lead a site-wide review of the layout and building requirements of the campus, and the new masterplan leads to a tree-lined boulevard running North/South through the campus. Many buildings were refurbished, and following a devastating fire, the Mountbatten building was substantially refurbished. Salisbury Road, which ran between the buildings on the north of the campus was a busy street, serving the buildings on each side of it, and acting as a service road for the western buildings. This road was also the main pedestrian thoroughfare, leading to constant vehicle/pedestrian confrontations, and a safer design became necessary. GreenBlue Urban worked with LUC in London to overcome the challenges that appeared when the new design of the roadway was under construction. The new design gave a new paved finish, with pedestrian protection with bollards and extensive tree planting. Unfortunately, sub-surface utility arrangements severely compromised the tree pits, as it became evident that the original excellent design would have to be adapted.
The new design, with its combination of road narrowing and trees, aims to slow traffic considerably, making it safer for cyclists, pedestrians and motorists.
Liriodendron Tulipifera trees were chosen for this avenue, the Tulip Tree, as these trees can cope well with full sun, and are relatively early successional species. They have a spring flowering, looking a little like a tulip, and in autumn have a beautiful butter-golden leaf colour. They usually need good soil volumes, as these trees can grow to a very large size, but in this situation, the soil volumes were limited by utility runs, so are very unlikely to attain a large size. Working with the main contractor, BAM Construction, GreenBlue Urban provided valuable on-site support to help maximise available soil volumes, and install the trees into full GreenBlue Urban ArborSystem tree pits. Using the world-leading RootSpace soil cell system, with ArborVents to keep the soil alive, Arborguy underground tree anchoring systems, ReRoot root barrier solutions and the highly popular Castle drive-over inlaid tree grille, these trees had an excellent start to life. Protected from vehicle collision by bollards, these trees have thrived, and are providing an attractive backdrop to this re-imagined street. The challenges posed by utilities on this site were significant; in fact, some of the trees could not be planted without utility diversion, which in certain cases was prohibitively expensive. In these instances, the trees were not planted, which was a pity, but reality dictates that there is no point in planting a tree which we know will have to be removed. Other tree pits were moved slightly to allow the trees to be installed, and some other trees had sub-optimal soil volumes. At the time of writing, all of the trees are healthy and growing, but it is anticipated that these trees may plateau in growth, being limited in their ultimate soil volume, unless they can colonise other soil volumes outside of the tree pit, which would allow them to continue growing.
The trees form an important part of the shared surface traffic calming measures, and also define the width of the road – therefore we can't really move them north/south, so are limited to adjustments east/west and fitting around services where possible - LUC
GreenBlue Urban was glad to be able to support both the designers and the installers on this project, to come up with a workable solution. The final result gives an acceptable compromise, with the best urban landscape available to students to support their learning, but also their health, both physical and mental. Green clean pleasant surroundings have been proven to help in educational establishments, and dovetail with the GreenBlue Urban philosophy of creating healthy urban environments, in harmony with nature.