University of Wisconsin-Madison Master Plan

UW Master Plan SmithGroup
UW Master Plan SmithGroup
UW Master Plan SmithGroup

The University of Wisconsin-Madison, one of the nation’s top research universities and the flagship institution of the UW system, was in need of a master plan that could help sustain its campus growth and development.


University of Wisconsin-Madison


Madison, Wisconsin


Campus Master Plans, Campus Planning, Green Infrastructure, Higher Education, Landscape Architecture


936 AC

Featured Awards

Society for College and University Planning (SCUP) -- Excellence in Landscape Architecture Award – Open Space Planning and Design, 2017 

ASLA-Michigan, Honor Award

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American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) -- Award of Excellence - Analysis and Planning, 2018

Building on a nearly 25-year planning and design relationship, SmithGroup led a team to help UW renew and advance its guiding 20-year framework for campus growth and development. The resulting master plan update provides future-forward recommendations for utility systems, long-range transportation needs, campuswide design guidelines, and the institution’s first ever landscape master plan, integrated with an innovative green infrastructure plan.

The University’s scenic 936-acre campus is directly adjacent to the capital city’s downtown and stretches for nearly five miles along the shore of Lake Mendota, requiring a thoughtful interface between community, campus and lakeshore. Recognizing that the health of the campus and its complex watershed are interdependent, SmithGroup merged a traditional campus landscape planning process with a visionary, performance-based green infrastructure approach.


The design and implementation of a successful campus master plan is often a decades-long process built upon partnerships, trust, teamwork, talent and a shared vision. Teammates from SmithGroup and UW share the far-reaching and positive impact that the East Campus Gateway Plan and resultant projects have had upon the University.


This award-winning plan specifies an array of green infrastructure improvements, restores wetlands and other natural habitats, protects remarkable ancient effigy mounds, and enhances beloved campus gathering places and viewsheds. The process broadly engaged the public both on campus and beyond, fostering collaboration with the City of Madison and multiple regional partners to significantly reduce runoff pollution at a watershed scale.

Collaborative, integrated campus master planning that supports broadly shared decision-making and the Wisconsin Idea is vitally important to our culture at UW-Madison. The SmithGroup team helped make this master plan “our plan”: a guiding framework that is used daily and provides direction for all development across the campus for buildings, sites and our many community connections.

Gary Brown
FASLA, Director, Campus Planning & Landscape Architecture, University of Wisconsin-Madison

This vision for a more sustainable, more connected campus fabric infuses the entire master plan. As expressed in the project’s theme, “Extending Our History, Embracing Our Future,” the plan provides UW-Madison with a blueprint for enhanced stewardship of the institution’s resources and its legacy.