2001 Colorado Chapter of ASLA
Professional Design Awards Submittal
Category 2: Planning and Urban Design
Williams Village – Residential Academic Village
University of Colorado
Purpose of Project
Affordable student housing in the City of Boulder becomes more difficult to obtain each year.
There are several factors contributing to the shortage, including the City’s limited growth
ordinances, a strong real estate market, high rental rates and an attractive environment. The
University of Colorado at Boulder recognizes and is greatly affected by the housing shortage in
its midst. The University proposes to construct new student, faculty and staff housing units at the
Williams Village site, adjacent to the existing Williams Village towers. The site is ideally suited for
development and it has been planned for housing. Providing additional housing units will
alleviate some upward rent pressure for students, slow the increasing number of commuters into
Boulder, reduce increasing demand for on-campus parking and improve air quality.
The existing campus has evolved as a “village”. Williams Village is envisioned as a smaller village
within that larger context. This “village within a village” idea suggests that Williams Village will
have a social and physical responsibility to the larger village. The idea of creating an
environment where students and faculty live, learn and recreate together in a village-like setting
is the basic principle behind the Master Plan for the site. The goal of the Williams Village Master
Site Development Plan is to advocate a direction for development that provides a living
environment organized to foster direct exchange among students, faculty, staff and the
Williams Village is planned to accommodate 1,900 new student beds in flexible apartment style
units and 200 new faculty and staff townhouse style units. The changing needs of today’s
student require more flexible living space, with kitchens and bathrooms in each unit and
updated connections to the digital environment.
Role of Landscape Architect/Entrant
The Landscape Architect was integrally involved in the master planning effort taken on at
Williams Village. The entrant was the lead consultant on the master planning team consisting of
architects, civil engineers, flood engineers, wildlife and environmental consultants, and
transportation engineers. This involved facilitation of goal setting, program determination and
decision-making throughout the life of the project. The Landscape Architect’s consensus
building skills were called into play to successfully manage the complex and political nature of
As master planner, the Landscape Architect assisted the client with visioning the future
development and communicating that vision to the University and Boulder communities. The
entrant produced physical plan alternatives and design development over a three-year period
of exhaustive review process. University agencies, City planning staff, students, faculty and
concerned citizens all had an impact on the development of the Master Plan. The Landscape
Architect’s role was to facilitate that process.
The University of Colorado will direct land development with the assistance of the Master Site
Development Plan and Design Guidelines documents, prepared by the Landscape Architect.
The Master Site Development Plan provides general parameters for development – establishing
locations of building sites, roadways, utility needs and routing, density, open space, etc. The
Design Guidelines address more specific details of individual site planning, architectural design,
landscape design, signage, lighting and site furnishings. Together, the documents provide the
University reviewing agencies with a set of tools to guide the character, quality and design of
the development at Williams Village.
Boulder is an attractive community to live in, driving real estate values ever upward. This creates
a housing market that is out of the reach for many students, which in turn drives them to live in
surrounding communities and commute to campus. Providing affordable housing for students
has reached a critical point and the City of Boulder supports it; however, the University needs to
bridge a lack of confidence with the community. The existing Williams Village Towers – their
design and sheer size – were not what the community expected and this issue has left
community members skeptical of the University’s intentions. It is an issue whose significance
looms, physically and emotionally, over the surrounding neighborhood.
The Williams Village site is graced with spectacular views of the Flatirons Range and the Bear
Canyon Creek water course, bisecting the site into east and west halves. The Landscape
Architect and design team worked to balance the program requirements with a development
potential that would respect and preserve the natural forces of the site and benefit greatly from
such inherent factors.
The proposed development strategy at Williams Village includes the partnership of the University
of Colorado with an outside developer team. The developer would lease the land from the
University, develop and operate the project for 30 years, at which time the University would
assume project ownership and operation. The Master Plan must be feasible, yet also uphold the
consistently high standards of development on the Boulder Campus.
The significance of this project on the profession of landscape architecture and the public’s
perception of the profession must be judged over a period of time appropriate to the scale of
the project and the timeframe required to reach implementation of village build-out. The sheer
size of the project, its program and goals, place it among one of the largest, most ambitious
student housing developments in the country.
The primary significance of this project is to provide affordable housing in the City of Boulder for
its student community. Nowhere in the country is student housing of such significance. Boulder,
with similar housing problems to many of the thriving resort communities that dot our mountain
landscape, has an obligation to house the bodies that support it. The University is doing its part,
and Williams Village is the beginning of a new commitment to housing its people.
The Plan and Guidelines strive to complement the existing identity and character of the main
campus. They must reflect the positive aspects of the existing Towers while compensating for the
negative aspects. To achieve this the mass, scale and character of proposed buildings must be
sensitive to the surrounding natural and built environment.
The Plan controls and guides that commitment. The impact of the new village of 4,000 people,
living, interacting and learning together will be significant. The Plan guides a development that
promises to be responsible and integrated, giving something back to the community.
Click tabs to swap between content that is broken into logical sections.