University Planning and Architecture: The Search for Perfection

By Turcotte, Claire L. | Planning for Higher Education, April-June 2011 | Go to article overview
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University Planning and Architecture: The Search for Perfection

Turcotte, Claire L., Planning for Higher Education

University Planning and Architecture: The Search for Perfection

by Jonathan Coulson, Paul Roberts, and Isabelle Taylor

Routledge 2011

263 pages

ISBN: 978-0-415-57110-4


"The student has no need for luxury Plain living has ever gone with high thinking. But grace and fitness have an educative power too often forgotten in this utilitarian age. These long corridors with their stately arches, these circles of waving palms, will have their part in the students' training as surely as the chemical laboratory or the seminary-room. Each stone in the quadrangle shall teach its lesson of grace and of genuineness!'

--Stanford University President David Starr Jordan's Opening Day Address, October 1, 1891 (p. 107)

This quotation illustrates the central point of this book, the importance and significance of the campus environment.

Authors Jonathan Coulson and Paul Roberts are directors at Turnberry Consulting, a London-based strategy development company, and have extensive experience in the university sector. Isabelle Taylor is an art historian now working at Turnberry as a researcher and writer. Requiring more than two years of research and writing, the book is based on the authors' experiences in preparing development proposals and master plans for several universities in the United Kingdom and elsewhere.

In their introduction, the authors note that this book "brings together two approaches, the historical and the strategic, to examine what constitutes a successful campus and how to apply these conclusions to real-life, modern day contexts" (p. i).

Written to assist planners, designers, and institutional leaders in using their campus to its full potential, the purpose of the book is clear. Campus decision makers are faced with planning choices and, in making them, direct their campus's future. By exploring the fascinating history of university plans and designs and examining 29 international campuses, the book allows the reader to learn what works well and, more importantly, how and why.

I find that the book is well-researched and well-organized, and the text is both interesting and engaging, like a well-written story. The authors present a chronology of university campus planning and architecture spanning the globe from 1088 to 2010 and identify international case studies in the United States, United Kingdom, Europe, Asia, Far East, Australia, and South Africa.

A final section is based on designing the 21st-century campus. "Lessons learned" from the case studies offer guidance on values, mission, social and organizational change, and master planning, including landscapes, buildings, and circulation.

Finally, components of "good practice" are discussed.

Chapter 1 "University Planning and Architecture 1088-2010: A Chronology." The chronology is a historical exploration of various influential movements and traditions, starting with the monastic inward-looking quadrangles of Europe and individuals such as Christopher Wren and his work at Oxford and Cambridge. Wren's widely imitated quadrangles are enclosed on four sides by arrangements of buildings; his work made a significant contribution to the vocabulary of collegiate architecture.

Rejecting the enclosed quadrangle design, early colonial colleges in the United States were designed with clusters of buildings in open space. Thomas Jefferson's axial arrangement of the "Academical Village" in Virginia influenced the design of other institutions in the United States. Later, 19th-century architectural movements such as Picturesque, Nature, and Beaux Arts influenced design across the country, from Columbia University in New York to the University of California, Berkeley.

In Europe, the Gothic Revival movement gained popularity and was imitated in the United States. Gothic Revival was followed by Collegiate Gothic, which we can see today in both Europe and the United States at Yale University, Bryn Mawr College, and elsewhere.

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