A Rubric for Campus Heritage Planning

Article excerpt

The idea is to make architectural preservation a part of the living progress of the institution.

rubric: Crü-brik) 5. an established custom or rule of procedure

Context

This article is inspired by recent observations, events, and publications, as well as by a general and rising concern for and appreciation of the culture of American historical heritage as manifested on college and university campuses.

Interest in this topic stems from the October 2007 symposium "Campus Heritage Planning: The Urban Challenge" convened in Boston by the Boston Preservation Alliance with the sponsorship of the office of the mayor, Thomas M. Menino, the Boston Redevelopment Authority, and the Boston Society of Architects and with the participation of the Society for College and University Planning (SCUP). Approximately 175 institutional representatives, city planners, and planning and design professionals gathered for presentations and discussions on the current status and challenges of historic preservation, practicable renewal, and reinvigoration of urban campuses.

Among the influences and inspirations for this article are Richard R Dober's (2005) Campus Heritage and the Ford Foundation-sponsored monographs on the topic he prepared early in his career. Dober's work has long advanced campus heritage as a topic of study. Campus Heritage catalogs numerous American examples of historic distinction, buildings and campuses that have shaped our collective imagery and consciousness of higher education. This article proposes to extend Dober's scholarly rigor beyond identification and citation toward a study methodology useful to campus planners and institutional stewards.

Rising societal trends and topics of professional interest have bearing on current considerations for historic preservation and planning. The Green movement and sustainable design principles suggest to owners and practitioners that the most ecologically responsible building solution is often to retain what is already constructed. The recycling of buildings and building materials restrains one's carbon footprint. Green thinking recognizes that typically less energy is required for the conversion of historic structures, in addition to the value of the carbon embedded within them being conserved.

The campus heritage studies funded by the Getty Foundation (2003-2007) collectively represent another groundbreaking venture into campus heritage planning that has advanced the discourse. The Getty Foundation grants have resulted in an array of thoughtful studies that record a sampling of historic campuses in the United States. A review of these documents, recently collected and digitized for access by scholars and practitioners by SCUR shows a broad range of approaches to addressing campus heritage. Some campus studies are rigorously historical chronologies of campus development. Others are focused on architecture and landscape development, eliding examination of sociological contexts or mention of the critical influences of leaders, donors, theorists, or influential practitioners in other professional disciplines, notably engineers and planners. Yet other studies can be characterized as reasoned and thorough campus plans, with a modicum of historic reference and research. While the nuances of unique sites and histories will and should always influence campus heritage planning, this article proposes an initial definition of a comprehensive campus heritage planning procedure in an effort to promote a common understanding of the discipline. It defines the constituent elements of a plan, the critical areas of study, and the necessary components for documenting heritage as manifested in college and university environments.

Fundamental Propositions

American college campuses and the buildings on them are reminders of youth and the challenge of learning. They are repositories of local, regional, and national memory. More than any other examples found in the built environment, they exhibit the full panoply of American architecture, from 18th-century Georgian to High Victorian to Collegiate Neo-Gothic to minimalist Modern. …