Students scatter to study in green spaces


Potential American Idol contestants line the border of Schenley Plaza waiting to audition in June 2015. (Photo by Theo Schwarz | Senior Staff Photographer)

By Joanna Li / Staff Writer

Although Pitt’s campus has a lot of the amenities a traditional campus would, it doesn’t have a central green space that all the buildings on campus surround.

Instead, Pitt has scattered spaces — and while there aren’t many, they still allow for a good balance between urban life and a college campus.

And Pitt didn’t always have green spaces. Without even a second glance, passersby were ignorant to the lack of color as they walked past an immense gray asphalt parking lot along Forbes Avenue that stretched from the edge of the Hillman Library to the Carnegie Museums.

Up until 2006, that was exactly what Pitt students saw on campus — not the green space students now know as Schenley Plaza. The revitalization of this new open space on Pitt’s campus has provided students and community members with a spacious lawn, food kiosks, a ton of outdoor seating and a large tented area for shade.

Abby Yancy, a first year majoring in environmental science, said the convenient location of the plaza is beneficial and opportune, allowing her to fully utilize her study time.

“Even though Pitt is a city campus, Schenley provides space for the outdoor activities that I enjoy,” Yancy said. “Studying is easier when I’m there because it’s not as busy and I’m in a space that I love. It’s not too far of a walk from my dorm so I can easily go there any time.”

On sunny days, people constantly amble in and out of the Plaza — grabbing Chinese food, dining at The Porch or satisfying a sweet tooth with a waffle. Although seemingly the most popular green space on campus, there are several other spaces that may be overlooked.

Schenley Park

This one-acre green space is only the opening act of a developed 456-acre park destination for adventurous nature-loving residents. Schenley Park is Oakland’s getaway from the fast-paced City, offering a golf course, hiking trails and a sports complex. Because it’s only a short distance from campus, students are able to take walks and runs on the trails, as well as visit Phipp’s Conservatory and Botanical Gardens.

Community Nature Educator at the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy Chastity Bey said the convenient walking distance of the parks is important to have around any college campus.

“[Schenley] plaza was a good touch to add. It’s important to have parks around, especially in the middle of the actual City,” Bey said. “You know, one day you might just want to be a kid and unwind — now you can.”

Cathedral of Learning Lawn

The Cathedral is not only known around campus for its architecture and height, but also for the spacious green lawn that surrounds the building. Throughout the seasons, students study, picnic and play sports such as frisbee and football. The lawn even hosts Panther fans for the Annual Bonfire and Pep Rally every fall.

Dayna Sepulveda, a first year studying business, said she enjoys the simple ambience of having convenient green spaces around campus.

“I think the green spaces really make Pitt’s campus — they bring a new element into the urban campus feel,” Sepulveda said. “I utilize these spaces by walking past them for a stress relief mechanism.”

Kylie Manuppelli throws a football to Hannah Panzica on the Soldiers and Sailors lawn in February. (Photo by Anna Bongardino | Assistant Visual Editor)

Soldiers and Sailors Lawn

Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall and Museum is a well-known building associated with Oakland. It’s marked as the largest memorial dedicated to every branch of the military in the country. A seemingly endless walkway of stairs splits two vast spaces of green grass, providing expansive space for war implements. With an available area like this, students often bathe in the sun while reading or conversing with friends when the weather is warm enough.

Petersen Events Center Lawn

One of the largest green spaces on campus is the lawn at the Petersen Events Center — a perfect location for the athletic atmosphere of upper campus. The open space is ideal for students to practice and exercise as they prepare for games, tryouts or friendly pickup games. The grass and the patio together make the Pete ideal for a variety of outdoor events and picnics. This area also persuades students to take a break from the indoors and to breathe in some fresh air — a beautiful natural reward after a hike up Cardiac Hill.

Students petting therapy dogs on the William Pitt Union lawn at the HealthU Fair in September. (Photo by Elise Lavallee | Contributing Editor)

William Pitt Union Front Lawn

Though smaller than the other green spaces on campus, the area in front of WPU is extremely convenient and used extensively for student activities. Several school events like the Arts Fest and the Welcome Back Bash are held on this lawn. Not large enough for tag football or frisbee, this space is more suitable for classic lawn games, such as beanbag toss. It acts as the perfect mediator between the WPU patio and the traffic of Bigelow Boulevard.

Robert Benjamin, a Pitt biology alumnus, rides his longboard through Posvar plaza. (Photo by Wenhao Wu | Assistant Visual Editor)

Posvar Plaza, Benedum Hall Courtyard, Hillman Library Plaza

The area between the Hillman Library and Posvar Hall was once empty, gloomy and bare, with only limestone tiles to fill the space. Because of recent renovations, this space is now lively and appealing to the eye with lined up rectangular patches of green grass, several benches and abstract art pieces. This green space allows students’ eyes to rest as they leave the library after hours of studying.

Enhancements have been made to the engineering building, Benedum Hall and the first floor outdoor space of Hillman Library. The incorporation of trees and flowers in these unexpected places throughout campus creates a coherent colorful oasis not just for studying, but also for a simple mood booster to students passing by on their way to class.

Nordenberg Patio

Located on the third floor of Nordenberg Hall is a small patio space for first-year residents to enjoy. With three hammocks and several picnic tables, the patio is surrounded with indigenous plants and grass, intended to create a nature-like atmosphere for students to relax and hang out with the other residents of their building.

“Spaces like this give you a break from studying — you don’t have to be in the library, you don’t have to be in your room,” Bey said. “The outdoors are so nice and people don’t realize it.”

Minor adjustments like these around campus, shifting spaces from gray to green, change the way our campus looks and feels. With easy access to green spaces, students are able to experience refreshing air while also enhancing their cognitive knowledge. Going green isn’t just for the environment anymore — it’s also for Pitt students.

“As a student, I appreciate having a campus that’s within the City with many resources, but still has an abundance of green space,” Sepulveda said.