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Environmental Design Students Propose Bold Transformations for Campus Outdoor Spaces

Edp class 1
Edp students group
EDP 404 students present their capstone project.

During the Spring 2024 semester, students in the Environmental Design Project class (EDP 404) worked with the Faculty Student Association (FSA) as their client to apply the skills they learned into a real-world context of reimagining an outdoor patio space for West Side Dining and the Shore Club at the Student Activities Center (SAC).

The project presented a thrilling blend of simplicity and complexity. The challenge: transform the West Side Dining patio into a vibrant, welcoming haven for students to spend their time while ensuring the space is easy to maintain. Meanwhile, for the Shore Club patio, the task was to envision a dynamic space next to the food trucks that serves as a cheerful entry point for students arriving by bus and to craft concepts for extending the Shore Club’s ambiance outdoors for special events and socializing. The SBU Eats dining program is eager to expand these outdoor dining areas and plans to use the innovative ideas from the EDP 404 students to shape future construction projects.

Students met with FSA Executive Director Diana Kubik to obtain context about these sites, why these spaces are not functioning up to their full potential, possible constraints, and the plans for the future. As the project progressed, students were provided feedback to develop their ideas further.

Together, the class developed goals such as creating a welcoming environment that is inclusive, safe, and accessible for all campus users; creating a sustainable and resilient site that embraces the co-existence of natural systems and human activity; and invigorating the campus experience by creating dynamic, comfortable, and flexible spaces for a wide variety of activities throughout the year. The students researched campuses worldwide to get ideas for sustainable solutions; ways to incorporate vibrant colors into spaces for year-round aesthetic appeal; and fun ways to add interactive activities to the spaces with rock climbing walls, outdoor games, firepits, and hammocks.

“This project taught me that West Side Dining needed to undergo minor renovations and maintenance to attract more students. My team and I aimed to enhance community involvement to create a more comfortable and entertaining experience for everyone in the area,” said Madelene Julia Asuncion ‘24, environmental design, policy, and planning major.

The students in the EDP 404 class conducted surveys to gather data about the demographics of the campus population, modes of transportation used, eating habits, how students utilize the outdoor spaces, how often they visit these locations, the reasons they may not visit these areas, and what they want or need in these outdoor spaces.

The data showed that nearly 60 percent of students find themselves at campus eateries every day, making dining on campus a daily ritual. It’s not just about grabbing a bite; it’s about the experience, the community, and the convenience of having dining options right at their doorstep. Forty percent of students have a desire for more social spaces — vibrant spots where friendships flourish, ideas are exchanged and memories are made. The campus is more than a place to study; it’s a dynamic ecosystem of human connection.

The West Side Dining patio is a hidden gem. Nearly 40 percent of students have never set foot on this charming terrace. Whether due to its hidden nature, lack of appeal, or simply being off the radar, many have missed out on this potential oasis that needs a makeover. For those in the know, the patio at West Side Dining serves as a great place for students to eat, study or simply unwind with friends. 

In the bustling heart of campus lies the SAC and bus loop, where nearly 65 percent of survey respondents find themselves at this crossroads more than 50 times, each visiting as part of their daily ritual. Whether they’re grabbing a quick coffee, passing through en route to other destinations, or stepping off the bus to begin their day, this place is a constant in their daily journey. An astounding 66 percent of these students admit that their visits are purely out of necessity, not desire. They breeze through the SAC and bus loop because nothing is there to entice them to linger. These crossroads remain underutilized, waiting to be transformed from a mere transit point into a vibrant hub with a patio with cozy nooks for studying, lively pop-up events or perhaps a great place to unwind with coffee or a snack.

The survey insights show one thing is clear: there is an untapped potential waiting to be embraced. Revitalizing these outdoor spaces can provide more comfortable spots to build community. 

The class concluded with students gathering to visually display and showcase their work while explaining their proposed ideas and their rationale. “It’s so important for students to experience the challenges of the real world. Having a specific location, a client with goals and opinions, and the pressure of defending the work in public help contribute to the kind of deeper expertise you just can’t get from reading about a project in Paris or writing a paper about a hypothetical plan for your hometown,” explained Donovan Finn, associate professor, School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences, Sustainability Studies division head and director of the Undergraduate Degree in Environmental Design, Policy and Planning.


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