09:04 AM

Workshop plans Mirror Lake future as a living lab

A lecture about physics is underway at Browning Amphitheatre as a class tests water samples along a wetland barrier. Students take notes on iPads of new trees and plant growth in the shadow of Oxley Hall. It’s not the Mirror Lake District of today, but it might be the one of tomorrow.

This week, students, staff and faculty discussed how this historic area could serve as a classroom and laboratory of the future. Two workshops at The Ohio State University Faculty Club focused on how the new Mirror Lake area could be used for academic purposes.

“The change we are making is bringing [Mirror Lake] back to its natural roots,” said University Landscape Architect Steve Volkmann, who helped lead the conversation.

The meetings come as the university Board of Trustees approved about $6 million to fund the restoration of Mirror Lake and the surrounding district.

The district, including Browning Amphitheater and Oxley and Pomerene Halls, is being renovated to create modern learning environments for students and faculty in data analytics, linguistics and the history of art – while keeping the character and history of this iconic part of campus.

Much of the discussion among faculty and students focused on what that environment will look like.

“I’d like to see more natural plants,” said Haley Ingram, a graduate student in the School of Environment and Natural Resources. “It’s important to have native species. If they are planted and maintained well, it reduces the opportunity for invasives.”

Others in the work groups suggested Browning Amphitheater could be used as a classroom. Better Wi-Fi and charging stations in the area could help make that idea a reality. New signage to highlight the history of the area was also discussed.

Students suggested water sampling and other experiments could be a regular part of the new Mirror Lake. Current designs call for more landscaping and a more natural design for the lake. The concrete and stone façade is already being excavated.

“We want to see something that’s not artificially supported and becomes self-sustaining,” said Jason Kentner, associate professor of practice in landscape architecture at the Knowlton School of Architecture.

Construction crews continue the work to clean up Mirror Lake and renovate parts of Pomerene Hall. Renovations are expected to be finished in 2018.