Project Description

JMU Newman Lake

Harrisonburg, Virginia

The Vision Study for Newman Lake began with an interest in exploring the regenerative possibilities for this highly visible central gateway of James Madison University (JMU). The project became more urgent due to changes in federal and state regulations for dams that would radically alter the size and character of the Lake. The alternative dam configurations studied by the project engineers suggested that the smaller lake was the most cost effective approach to the new dam configuration. The proposed new configuration of Newman Lake has less open water than it does today, but offers numerous ecological opportunities within the reshaped regenerated landscape. The new vision for the Lake has the ability to regenerate the landscape through the creation of significant new wetlands, riparian edges, wildflower meadows and aquatic gardens while improving water quality, creating habitat and assisting in the university’s compliance with state regulations. From an environmental perspective, the new configuration of Newman Lake can be more complex, diverse and broadly educational for students, visitors and faculty.

The conceptual plan developed by Michael Singer Studio focused on how the new Newman Lake configuration could ultimately be seen as a net positive gain for JMU through the regeneration of ecological diversity, water and soil quality improvements, public access and use for environmental research. The new configuration of Newman Lake creates almost two acres of new wetlands on the southern lower half of the dam embankment. This area was designed with meandering water courses though an open landscape of grasses and wetland meadows, retaining the expansive views from Bluestone Drive. In the proposed plan the flow of water from Newman Lake would be experienced at two key locations: the new outfall or spillway through the dam and the outflow through the existing culvert under Bluestone Drive. Both locations were proposed with sculptural outfalls to enhance the flow, aeration, aesthetics and acoustical properties of the cascading water beyond their engineered purpose. The intent of the design was to transform these infrastructural elements into sculpted elements within the landscape, demonstrating infrastructure as an aesthetic amenity. The conceptual plan for Newman Lake also included a vortex micro-hydro renewable energy research project, a waterside pavilion, restored riparian edges and a floating restorer aquatic garden.

Artist / Designer: Michael Singer
Singer Studio Design Team: Jason Bregman and Calen Colby PE
JMU Project Team: CJ Broderick Hartman, Abe Kaufman, Gary Shears,
Maria Papadakis and JMU President Linwood H. Rose
Project Engineers: Timmons Group

JMU Newman Lake