03-03-21 | Department

Versatile Hardscape Design at Connell Center

Corporate Park to Pedestrian Friendly Campus
by Lynn Yahia, Melillo|Bauer|Carman

At Connell Center in Berkeley Heights, New Jersey, firm Melillo|Bauer|Carman Landscape Architecture designed this custom granite fountain to have water cascade over the mutli-purpose steps as it wraps the plaza. By design, the water volume is adjustable and can be controlled to have dry sections for seating, completely turned off for seasonal reasons, or to complement the various programmed activities in Connell Plaza. The trench drain was provided by Eric'sons Dura Trench.
Every granite block was custom cut to achieve the desired irregular waterfalls.
Chess and backgammon game tables flank the southern edge of the circular plaza defined by a low retaining wall and plantings. Theatrical lighting ringing the circular space illuminates Connell Plaza during the evening hours.
The overall design solution for The Grove addresses an extensive amount of grade change throughout the site. Sitting steps, retaining walls, steps and accessible, sloped walkways provide opportunities for the creation of varied outdoor spaces and seating nodes throughout. No detail was overlooked as demonstrated by The Grove logo in the laser cut metal ping-pong net.
A variety of paving materials in various colors and textures throughout The Grove add interest to the ground plane. Here, the crossing radial patterns of concrete contain Scofield's Chromix French gray and a Lithochrome wood float finish. The pattern begins at the base of the steps and flows into the plaza.

The Connell Real Estate and Development Company had an idea to transform the Connell Center Corporate Park in Berkeley Heights, New Jeresy into a pedestrian friendly campus featuring multiple recreational experiences and environments. Connell Center was expanding, a new hotel was in the works, and plans were being developed for a residential component to create an active mixed-use campus. Melillo|Bauer|Carman Landscape Architecture was retained to create a dramatic vision for a multi-functional park space that would form the nexus of pedestrian circulation throughout the entire campus. The Grove was envisioned as a place that would offer outdoor workspaces, social gathering spaces and event space to address the modern workforce and new mixed-use nature of Connell Center.
The Grove is now a lushly landscaped, two-acre park at the heart of Connell Center, situated on a sloping site overlooking the Green Brook stream corridor beyond. The Landscape Architects creatively addressed the transition from the steeply sloping upper portion of the site to the lower flatter section by the creation of various nodes connected by The Ribbon - a sinuous, accessible walking path.


The Ribbon links the adjacent 200 Connell Drive office building entry with Connell Plaza at the lower end of The Grove. Along The Ribbon are several multi-level seating nodes which include broad sitting steps, movable furniture and outdoor workstations. Charging stations, both solar and powered, are located throughout the park, and wireless internet service allows employees to be productive in these exterior workspaces. Populated with outdoor foosball and ping pong tables, the dining node has become a hive of activity during the lunchtime hours. The Ribbon is planted to create a more serene wooded landscape, and its intimate seating nodes provide an alternative spatial experience from the open plaza and lawn below. These nodes also provide a more informal space in which the park's users may experience nature in a different, more interactive way.

Connell Plaza, the main park feature, sits at the center of the lower portion of the site, at the termination of The Ribbon. The main plaza feature is an interactive, sculptural granite water fountain and amphitheater that embraces Connell Plaza along its northern perimeter. During warm weather months, the center portion of this sculptural granite formation becomes a series of cascading waterfalls, flanked by sitting steps to either side. The rush of water lends a pleasing acoustic element to the space. Once the water is turned off, the entire length of the feature becomes an amphitheater available for expanded seating, all with a southern solar orientation. The broad circular plaza provides ample room for events, gatherings and diverse performances. Along the southern edge of Connell Plaza, a low wall with custom bench seating creates more intimate gathering spaces at the fringe of the plaza. Chess and backgammon tables, as well as additional workstations allow employees to escape their desks for a time and experience the outdoor environment.

Above the fountain is an overlook terrace, shaded by a custom designed trellis. Workstation benches and picnic tables provide vantage points from which to view the fountain, plaza, open lawn and vistas to the Green Brook. A sweeping Promenade frames the expansive lawn panel and provides an accessible connection from Connell Plaza to the Connell Trail, the walking and fitness path that weaves through the entire corporate campus. Attention to detail by the Landscape Architects is evident throughout The Grove including custom walls with integral Ipe bench seating at the Promenade and Connell Plaza, the use of various paving materials and patterns, dramatic lighting, unique seating options and even a custom laser cut metal net for the ping-pong table.

With its vast array of amenities, The Grove now offers an opportunity to experience the corporate campus in new ways. As the campus continues to expand and transition to a mixed-use community, The Grove will continue to serve as a gathering and event space for employees, residents and visitors alike.

As seen in LASN magazine, February 2021.


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