The Campus as a Work of Art

The Campus as a Work of Art

The Campus as a Work of Art

The Campus as a Work of Art


This volume, for the first time, presents the total physical world of the college campus as a bona fide art form. It analyzes the aesthetic elements involved in the spawning and savaging of college grounds. The ideal campus design, once defined, is held up to over 100 campuses throughout the United States. Both the best and the worst in campus design are critically observed from the standpoint of urban space, architectural quality, landscape, and overall appeal. Variables such as regional differences, historical perspective, expansion, and visual focus also figure in the evaluation.


The first thing to know about the campus as a work of art is this: It rarely is.

Unlike the two-dimensional art of painting, the three-dimensional art of sculpture, and architecture, in which the fourth dimension is function, a campus has a fifth dimension: planning. The well-planned campus belongs among the most idyllic of man-made environments and deserves to be evaluated by the same criteria applied to these other works of art. Yet it remains an uncelebrated art form. The creative impulse that produced the collegiate-built environment has not been recognized by art critics and historians.

Seeing the college campus as a work of art should not require an especially refined cognition. This work sets out to show that campus design has as much claim on our artistic attention as other such unique American creations as the skyscraper and the musical comedy.

The enemy of a well-designed campus in the United States is the lack of aesthetic tradition that pervades even the civilized has of the academy. (Students can always study music appreciation, but how often are they offered a course in visual taste?) This is why our colleges produce educated but uncultured citizens--historians who lack visual appreciation, mathematicians who do not go to museums, biologists who live in unlovely homes. "The richness of Wesleyan's curriculum results from the conviction that things intellectual should be partnered by things emotional and physical, . . ."

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