Upgrades Coming for West Campus Walkways

First restoration of walkways since 1930s to improve landscape

Construction is taking place this summer to remove bluestone sidewalks along the West Campus Quad in order to improve drainage and irrigation before replacing the same stone. Work will occur through August as the first phase of a three-year project. Phot
Construction is taking place this summer to remove bluestone sidewalks along the West Campus Quad in order to improve drainage and irrigation before replacing the same stone. Work will occur through August as the first phase of a three-year project. Photo by Bryan Roth.

New fencing placed along the West Campus Quad this summer represents the first phase of a project to restore the historic landscape with upgraded irrigation, drainage, walkways and plantings in order to improve one of Duke’s most important spaces for years to come.

Mark Hough, university landscape architect, said this summer offered a good opportunity to start the multi-year project to align with other construction taking place at the West Union, Duke Chapel and Rubenstein Library. Construction along the quad will only take place during the summer months and could last about three years, Hough said, adding that some plantings may be installed during the school year.

This summer, pedestrians will be detoured around the work as it moves from walkways near Kilgo Quad toward the West Union. Future work will shift the project east along the quad to the Davison Building.

“Most of these paths have never been rebuilt in 85 years, so this work is about trying to make the area more functional, while also improving the aesthetics,” Hough said. “This is the right time to look holistically at our iconic landscape as changes take place at nearby buildings.”

The biggest effort along the quad will be restoring Duke’s bluestone sidewalks, which were installed in the early 1930s. Crews will remove the roughly 8-feet-wide sidewalk and install a new concrete base before repositioning the same stone pathways with a new, three-feet wide strip of granite cobble pavers, which will provide extra room for people to walk. The pavers are pervious in order to allow drainage and will prevent water from crossing the bluestone walkways.

Work will also provide better access to Perkins Library and West Union for people with disabilities, offering entry directly off the quad without use of steps. 

Extra care is being taken to work around trees that line the quad, some of which may be around 85 years old. Duke is working with arborists from its own Facilities Management Department and Bartlett Tree Experts, a national tree-care company, to perform daily inspections of progress. The new pathways will be built around tree roots to help prolong the life of the trees.

“These trees have the potential to live here long after we’re gone if we treat them right,” said Katie Rose Levin, natural resource manager with Facilities Management. “They’re important to the quad and help provide its sense of place.”

At the end of the summer, Facilities Management will oversee an effort to restore portions of the natural landscape where renovations took place. 

“There hasn’t been a significant restoration of this particular landscape in the school’s history,” Hough said. “After the project is complete, we will have a beautiful place that everyone at Duke will be proud of and can enjoy.”