Academic journal article Planning for Higher Education

Surveying Perceptions of Chapel Architecture in Relation to Campus Identity: Calvin College as a Case Study: The Visual Identity of a College Is Ultimately the Result of Both a Professional's Design Principles and Users' Own Experiences and Associations

Academic journal article Planning for Higher Education

Surveying Perceptions of Chapel Architecture in Relation to Campus Identity: Calvin College as a Case Study: The Visual Identity of a College Is Ultimately the Result of Both a Professional's Design Principles and Users' Own Experiences and Associations

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

AS WITH ALL EDUCATIONAL INSTITUTIONS, the visual identity of a Christian college is shaped partly, perhaps largely, by its campus. Ideally, the campus design both supports activities on campus and gives visual expression to the institution's mission and values (Neuman 2003). Richard Dober's conceptions of "placemaking" and "placemarking" are useful here (Dober 2003). Placemaking relates to the overall structure of campus design while placemarking is linked to unique physical features, such as landmarks, style, materials, and landscape. Both placemakers and placemarkers can reinforce the intertwined academic and religious goals of a faith-based college (Dober 2003, 2011).

How people experience any campus is a result of not only design principles but also sociocultural activities. (1) Public events such as football games and graduation ceremonies as well as the daily routines of college life help shape people's perceptions. And thus the visual identity of a college is ultimately the result of both a professional's design principles and users' own experiences and associations (Dober 1996). While the two may be related, they are by no means the same.

A logical symbolic center for many Christian campuses, a chapel facilitates religious activity and carries emotional attachments bound up with the community's sense of place (Day 2002; Hayden 1995; Schneekloth and Shibley 1995, 2000). (2) While it is relatively easy, therefore, to see the importance of a chapel in terms of placemaking, the project described in this article explores a community's perception of such a building as an important placemarker. Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan, serves as the case study, offering an example of how a college community might regard the importance of a chapel building over and against strong design principles. The campus of Calvin College is the result of a professional architect's clearly articulated principles, made visible through placemakers and placemarkers and expressed in a campus plan, landscape and architectural styles, and building materials. However, the chapel building was not conceived as a primary expression of the college's visual identity and thus was only incidentally associated with the architect's overarching vision for the campus.

This case study asks, "Does the community of Calvin College perceive the chapel as a powerful campus placemarker contributing to the current visual identity of the institution?" Importantly, this project examines only one example, and the study makes no attempt to generalize how professional design principles affect a community's perception of a chapel as a symbol of the campus. Instead, this study intends merely to provide an example of how a Christian college community's perception of a particular building--in this case, the chapelcan differ from that of the professional architect who determined the campus design principles.

CAMPUS DESIGN AND VISUAL IDENTITY OF CALVIN COLLEGE

BACKGROUND OF THE KNOLLCREST CAMPUS DESIGN

Calvin College was founded as a college of the Christian Reformed Church for ministerial training in 1876 and became a four-year college offering education and pre-professional programs in 1906. Due to increased enrollments in the mid 1950s, the college moved from its original 10-acre Franklin campus to the current 166-acre Knollcrest campus in 1957 (Rosendale 2006). The second campus had been a private farm, described by the Grand Rapids Press in 1956 as one of the most beautiful residential properties in Michigan, with varied topography and trees, an English "manor" house, a guest cottage, a barn, a riding ring, quarters for workers, and an artificial pond (figure 1). When the property was purchased, the previous owner signed the contract under the condition that the name "Knollcrest" would be maintained and the land would not be subdivided (Rosendale 2006).

CAMPUS DESIGN PRINCIPLES FOR THE KNOLLCREST CAMPUS

The commission for the new campus plan and architecture was awarded to Bill Fyfe, a student of Frank Lloyd Wright. …

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