The CIC Historic Campus Architecture Project

By Ekman, Richard H. | Planning for Higher Education, April-June 2011 | Go to article overview

The CIC Historic Campus Architecture Project


Ekman, Richard H., Planning for Higher Education


How the CIC recorded the historical and cultural significance of the architecture of independent liberal arts colleges and universities.

America's private colleges and universities include most of the oldest institutions of higher education in the country, and their evolving physical campuses tell us much about American education. In recent years, the study of campus history, preservation, and adaptive reuse has received increasing attention by many sectors of the educational community. Institutions are working to more completely understand their physical environments and how they relate to educational mission and wider historical trends. The campus is more than just a place: it is an emblem of what the institution values, how it brings its community together, and how it physically manifests its educational philosophy. Documenting and evaluating the new and changing needs of historic buildings on a college campus provides a window into understanding the distinctive educational mission of the institution, the values of its founders, and the ways in which the physical campus embodies - and supports - the educational program.

In recognition of these trends and as part of a short-term, focused initiative of the Getty Foundation, in 2002 the Council of Independent Colleges (CIC) proposed the development of the CIC Historic Campus Architecture Project (CIC HCAP). This project resulted in the first national architecture and landscape database of independent college and university campuses. The first phase of the project was designed to record, interpret, and evaluate an inventory of buildings and structures of significance as identified by the colleges and universities themselves. The second phase took these data and shaped them into a database that has benefited many constituencies: administrators, college and university architects, scholars, alumni, students, and interested laypeople. Today, this database is available online at www.cic.edu/hcap. Multifaceted and fully searchable, the CIC HCAP database presents information about significant buildings, landscapes, and campus plans in American higher education and identifies sources for further research.

Historic buildings and landscapes on the campuses of small colleges and universities across the country offer a rich and vital resource for understanding the history and cultural significance of American architecture, design, and planning over the past two centuries. These buildings offer evidence of the relationship between physical facilities and educational objectives, illustrating issues of form and function as well as educational philosophy. Documentation of a particular structure's design and placement can also reflect broader trends in the history of the American campus.

Project Goals

The CIC HCAP recorded the historical and cultural significance of the architecture on the campuses of independent liberal arts colleges and universities in the United States in a commitment to making a lasting contribution to the documentation of the architectural, landscape architectural, and cultural history of these institutions. Its stated goals were to help various constituencies gain an awareness of and appreciation for campus history and to learn from the architecture and landscape preservation efforts made by institutions.

Project Funding

Between 2002 and 2006, the CIC HCAP was supported by two generous grants that totaled $431 ,000 from the Getty Foundation's Campus Heritage Initiative. The Getty Foundation is the philanthropic arm of the J. Paul Getty Trust. In announcing the grant, Joan Weinstein, interim director of the Getty Foundation, said the foundation was

proud to support CICs ambitious documentation project. Through Getty's Campus Heritage Initiative, we have worked since 2002 to assist colleges in the United States to manage and preserve the integrity of their historic buildings and landscapes. With its wealth of material, the HCAP website has the potential to advance the interest in campus preservation to a wide audience across the country. …

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