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"Success and Failure in Campus Design in the Post-World War II Era: An Historical View and Focus on California"
February 10, 2000

Questions & Answers

Donlyn Lyndon (Moderator), David Neuman, Charles W. "Duke" Oakley, Stefanos Polyzoides


PROFESSOR LYNDON: I want to pick up several little sentences, the last I think, which are really pertinent to the discussion here and later on, the last that we can't think that we're apart, we can't imagine a separated and isolated from what's going on around. Any planning has to really be understood as part of a larger pattern at this point. I also loved Duke's 'it's not rocket science, it's care for the campus.' He said a lot more complicated and important things, but that's a very profound thing, actually, and it needs people to care, to care at all different kinds of levels, from the little ones that he talked about to the big ones. And then Stefanos' urging that we must really think about not only sort of the educational purpose, but the place in which educational purpose happens, and how it is that that actually becomes an embellishment and a way of thinking about and remembering.

Campuses are so important to people for, I think, one very powerful reason, people who are alumni, is because important things happened to them in those places, and the place helps them to remember that educational event. And you want to make places that people are going to be happy and eager and willing and easily be able to remember, and integrate those ideas into their lives.

OAKLEY: On that Donlyn, it is also, I think all of our, it is my hope that people who go to college and they remember at least once in their life, they lived in a place that was supported and coherent. And so then they go out and they're on the design review board of someplace or whatever, and they can remember a place that actually worked. It's vastly important, it's beyond just the regular stuff.

AUDIENCE: Not only does the campus have to work, the buildings on the campus have to work as well. I mean, we've heard a lot about how you put the buildings down. A lot of what's equally important is the way in which you go about designing the buildings. In my view, one of the biggest mistakes that is made in designing academic buildings is in thinking that you absolutely know how you're going to use them. Because by the time you finish the building even, you already have changed your mind...you've got to be flexible. You mustn't think that you know how they're going to be used.

OAKLEY: Thank you. One of the things I pointed out, just in my tour around campus, I pointed out that Haynes Hall on our campus, was originally the chemistry building and it's now the anthropology building, and someday it will be something else. And one of the people, Stefanos, I think, said, you know, the myth of form follows function. A tight fit, very closely designed building will have a relatively short useful life span, or you'll spend a lot of money changing it. It's absolutely true. I mean, you see it; we see it in our buildings where the dean who had sponsored it, is his last hurrah, and then he goes to Harvard, and then the next guy in says, 'What idiot planned this lab?' You know? 'Well, your predecessor was the idiot.' And so a loose fit is really important.

AUDIENCE: And the rule of thumb is that you mustn't let the faculty that are going to use the building get too closely involved in the planning. That's going to be very difficult.

LYNDON: You have to get them involved in a way that lets them understand sequence.

AUDIENCE: [Comment preceding question inaudible.] What changes on many of the campuses are being felt with regard to how we educate, and the way that should affect campus planning--that's computers, that's what kids do to learn and interact with each other, to recreate, what have you [changes]?

NEUMAN: I think it reemphasis residential life. I think the campus becomes much more 24-hour in that regard. So the social support network needs to be broader that it might have been in the past, things can't close at 5 or 6 o'clock. The dining hall has to function sometimes 24 hours a day. People want to meet at 3 a.m. and not just on-line. Learning centers are going to be spread across the campus, this whole jargon or parlance change, you know, from teaching to learning. I tend to think they're both. But the idea that people can have this experiential encounter with Stockholm at 2 a.m. and be living in a cyberspace environment that has lots of visual qualities to it as well as being able to explore Hamlet in a way that they can be creatively interpreting that rather than just reading the book. I think that big science is going to need the flexibility that I just heard about, I think the notion that we can see from, to some degree, from the more sophisticated private enterprises that are designed to last for more than 10 years is that they're looking at buildings more in the show and core context, so that they can be refitted episodically, as opposed to waiting for the big renovation when the fire marshal shuts you down.

OAKLEY: Also, one other guess on that is that you'll see some of the campuses we've been talking about today becoming the center but not the circumference of the learning experience. It's already happened to a large degree. I think it will make the home base different, but more intensely important to the educational process, rather than sort of having no center. I think, that's my best guess. Anybody can have a guess, but we can see it already somewhat.

NEUMAN: Iconographically, I think if you read Bill Gates' book on that sort of thing, he mentions this. But, I mean, the fact that even though there will be this extended learning process which we're all in the middle of, and the notion of the identity of that house of learning, or that home of learning, is going to be important for the propagation of universities' interests in extended learning, be it in other countries, or just in a region.

POLYZOIDES: I think, additionally, campuses have offered for students over the generations the possibility of a budding public life. And most of the media that we are serviced and tormented by these days have a tendency to push most of our private buttons more and more and more and more intensively, and more and more and more and more often. And I think in many ways, the revival of American urbanism in the last 10 years and improvement in campus life and definition has a lot to do with the response to the enormous pressure that people feel over being too much, too alone, too often in front of their computers. And it seems to me that, if anything, campuses will become ever more places where people are encouraged to meet and to be with each other, both indoors and outdoors. So the degree to this we can encourage this...

LYNDON: And, therefore, entwined also with a larger range of different kinds of activities, and even proximity.

AUDIENCE: We've been talking about kind of the elite of the elite of college campuses, and particularly, in California, the huge growth in population demands. Do you have any comment about how, where the need is there but maybe not the same level of institutional will or resources, how some of these things might play-out throughout the public and private educational system, at the state college level, community college level, places without the resources of Stanford or Berkeley or UCLA?

LYNDON: I would start by saying that one of the things that's actually a good thing is the beginning of a conference like this. That is, that getting more ideas out about the complexity of the idea of the educational environment, and the way it's changing, and not just talking about, you know, the great ideas that have set it in motion, but the way in which it's changing, and that you do need to develop a kind of really complicated sense of how you make educational places and what they intertwine with.

POLYZOIDES: I will answer very directly. In our practice, we have done recent work at Cal State Northridge, as well as Azusa Pacific University, which is a far cry from Stanford in both cases. These ideas have absolutely nothing to do with money. These ideas have something to do with money, but they don't have everything to do with money. We're talking about changing attitudes and redirecting attention and resources in an entirely different way. I think the best example I can cite is the example of transformation of Barcelona and their mayor Matagarin, who basically said, he looked around in 1978, or whatever it was and said, 'I can change the city around at $8 a square foot,' as opposed to, you know, a zillion dollars a square foot. And he basically pulled the resources together and changed just simply the public realm of that city, nothing else--squares and streets. And totally changed the place.

NEUMAN: Just the quick examples that come to my mind are Cal State Monterey Bay and Cal State Channel Islands, and the notion of reuse of existing public facilities. I think there are a lot of those that are around. You know, the Presidio gets a lot of ink around here. I think reusing those or adapting at least portions of them.

OAKLEY: But what Stefanos said about it's not all about money. But it is a little bit about... someone has to say that the quality of the environment has value, and that is on the margin a choice in where resources go.

POLYZOIDES: This actually reminds me, my favorite place in the world is UCSD, where you can see the standards for housing going from reinforced concrete, to block, to Type V, and very soon, probably, tents, I guess, or whatever, and which brings up this wonderful quote from a friend of mine who is Vice President of Occidental College, who says, 'My goodness, our worst problem here is our buildings from the 40's, 50's, 60's and 70's are falling apart altogether at the same time.'

LYNDON: Well, I think that's something for us to close on.


 

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