Three years ago, our team completed and unveiled the restoration of Mirror Lake at the Ohio State University. The goal of the project was to return the lake to a more natural and sustainable state, while increasing the accessibility and usability for students and visitors alike.

Starting in the fall of 2016, the area now known as Mirror Lake District underwent a massive restoration. The structures surrounding the lake- Pomerene and Oxley halls and Browning Amphitheater- were all updated to better support the campus community. The lake itself was renovated to beautify the area as well as increase safety after several accidents had occurred in recent years.

Prior to the project, Mirror Lake was comprised of a fountain, brick bottom, and hard edges. The vision for the new lake was inspired by the original spring-filled pond 150 years ago. Natural banks with abundant plant life were to be the main elements along with a pergola and stone grotto. The area surrounding the lake was to be updated with benches, chairs, and WIFI for students to do schoolwork outside.

EMI was tasked with restoring the natural beauty of the lake. This project was broken down into several steps: first was the addition of new sloped edges to replace the unprotected drop-off edges of the previous design. This new grade gave the area an organic feel while increasing the surface area available for plant life. The water level was also decreased to a max depth of four feet to focus on safety.

Next, natural landscaped beds were added to feature an array of plants to support pollinators. Aquatic plants were installed in and around the lake to reduce the reliance on chemical treatments for the water. From these changes, the amount of algae in the lake has decreased drastically. The students are now able to use Mirror Lake as a study in environmental design and sustainability.

Finally, the surrounding area of the lake was updated with benches, a water fountain, pavers, a grotto, and a pergola overlooking the lake. Everything was planned to accentuate the natural curve of the water, to retain its organic feel. From the grotto, there is a lovely view of the Browning Amphitheater and the Scholars House while the pergola off Neil Ave offers the full-length view of the lake, with the spire of Orton Hall poking out behind the trees.

In the three years since the completion, EMI has maintained the grounds and promoted plant growth in the area. This project was a great example of EMI’s commitment to sustainable practices and planning for years down the road. The plant patterns have had time to fill in and the original spacing has allowed the plants to reach maturity and to thrive in their environment. Our goal is to have the Mirror Lake District look better with each passing season.

Every student who has gone to Ohio State has a memory of Mirror Lake, whether that be the annual jump during Michigan week, lazy days spent overlooking the water, or just passing by on the way to Mirror Lake Eatery. This iconic landmark holds a deep emotional significance to the OSU campus and all alumni who have walked these paths. The renovation has increased student traffic to the area and has provided a wonderful outside study area during the pandemic when students needed to be social distanced. Here at EMI, we are proud of the great work done at one of Ohio State’s most recognizable landmarks. We are thankful for the opportunity to continue to educate students on environmental design and sustainability while maintaining the beauty and integrity of the lake.