University of Vermont

University Communications

Senior Plots a New Landscape for Davis

Release Date: 05-13-2009

Author: Jon C. Reidel
Phone: 802-656-8206 Fax: (802) 656-3203

Daniel Lim

Senior Daniel Lim sketches his landscape design for the Davis Center Oval. His "Park Garden" is the vision for the 2009 Senior Class Gift. (Photo: Fernanda Perez, UVM '09)

For the past two years, undergrad Daniel Lim made daily treks across the oval drive — a sparsely landscaped patch of grass and criss-crossing pathways — just outside the main entrance of the Dudley H. Davis Center. Pedestrian it may be, but Lim had a dream to turn the plain-looking area into a vibrant community space that reflects UVM's environmental, social and ecologically sustainable values. That dream eventually became the basis for his Honors College senior thesis project, and later, the vision for the 2009 Senior Class Gift.

Although it's yet-to-be-determined how much of that vision will be realized, Lim's "Park Garden" design offers some intriguing ideas for the future transformation of the area surrounded by the Davis Center, Aiken Center and Jeffords Hall. Lim, a natural resources major with a self-designed concentration in ecological design and community development, says the design, which he envisions as recreational spaces where students can relax, study and enjoy amidst gardens, trees and other vegetation, was driven by the belief that nature and culture should nourish each other.

"I've always thought the oval was stark and barren and could do much more to support horticulture, aesthetic beauty and community space," says Lim, who was born in Burma and grew up in Brooklyn. "The inspiration for the park came from my spiritual and professional belief that a landscape should be ecologically sustainable and reflect a society's values and needs. The Garden Park is ecologically restorative, reveals the UVM community's views on nature, and supports social needs such as recreational space, art and education."

The proposed landscape design of the Davis Center oval space marks the 22nd anniversary of the Senior Class Gift Program. Past gifts include the Catamount Statue near Royall Tyler Theater; a fountain; an archway; a speaker series that brought Spike Lee, Maya Angelou, Mo Rocca and Seth MacFarlane to campus between 2002 and 2005; and more recently an aquarium, a clock, and a blown-glass sculpture all located inside the Davis Center.

Seeking the help of experts

After consulting with Rosemarie Leland, UVM's grounds manager, Lani Ravin of Campus Planning Services, and his adviser Sarah Lovell, assistant professor in plant and soil sciences whose research focuses on sustainable landscapes in intensively managed urban and agricultural systems, Lim realized he would need to make some choices to stay within the $35,000 budget. He is currently working with the Campus Master Planning Committee in an effort to comply with the guiding principles, design district guidelines and standards in the UVM Campus Master Plan.

"Daniel is an exceptional student, and without his perseverance, this project would not have been possible," says Lovell, adding that Lim gave a passionate and concise description of the project to the Campus Master Planning Advisory Committee. "In order to achieve the design, he had to obtain feedback from many stakeholder groups. He learned to filter this information, pulling out the most critical elements, while also retaining the integrity of the design concept. This project helped him develop a strong appreciation of cultural values specific to the users of the landscape."

Once completed, students, faculty, staff and visitors walking across Main Street towards the Davis Center will enter the park on a flagstone path and walk through a park-like scene on their way to the entrance of Davis. In consultation with advisor Mark Starrett, associate professor of horticulture in plant and soil science, Lim recommended plants, trees and shrubs based on durability, aesthetics and in some cases edibility. His suggestions include red oak, American elm, honey locust, black cherry, mulberry bushes and ferns to create an ecologically restorative area where students can sit together on park benches in a functional landscape they can actually interact with instead of quickly pass through.

"I wanted to challenge UVM's landscaping concepts by showing that landscapes can be more than just aesthetics, but something that has social and recreational benefits and that is ecologically restorative," says Lim.

Making the most of the UVM experience

Park Garden was the culmination of a college career filled with meaningful experiences. In addition to being in the Honors College, Lim was a McNair Scholar, active in the ALANA Student Center, and worked as a research assistant under Dot Brauer, director of LGBTQA Services, investigating different bias protocols and institutional responses to campus hate crimes. This led to further research on the social climate at UVM and a project that was one of the more talked about displays at the Davis Center.

Inspired by a visit to campus from Frank Warren, creator of PostSecret, a website and blog that displays post cards from people who want to reveal secrets about themselves and others, Lim created the SecretBias Project. He received more than 150 postcards from students describing acts of bias they experienced or committed. The point of the project wasn't to highlight hate crimes or egregious acts of bias, but to show that most acts of bias involve small statements that go beyond race, gender or ethnicity and often occur without people realizing they are committing one. Some of the post cards included bias pertaining to hair color, political affiliation, Greek life associations, academic majors, religion and more.

"The range of acts and statements that people experienced as bias transcended common salient identities that UVM usually works on such as race, sexual orientation and gender," says Lim. "Hopefully, the project encouraged people to assess their language and actions in terms of fostering an inclusive culture for other people at UVM."

For Lim, bringing people closer together through integration and mutual understanding in welcoming and inclusive places like Park Garden is where he spent most of his energy at UVM. He plans to do the same as a graduate student at Pratt Institute and hopes to one day own a community design and planning firm focused on transforming New York City neighborhoods into green spaces that help foster a green economy and achieve social equity. "Creating a holistic, integrated society that works together to see other views is the key to finding solutions," he says.