Looking back at my tiny window as steward of a campus, I feel we succeeded in avoiding the obvious pitfalls of changing everything without comprehension of the history, the resources, the culture and the values of a university and the community. There are many layers to a community’s history. Understanding that history means recognizing how the past shapes the present.
In this case, societal changes – from Florence Nightingale’s hospital Pavilion Plan and the need to treat 19th Century disease – to the promise of electrification of the city and streetcar transportation – to redlining of districts and subsequent freeway construction causing displacement of people of color – to placement of major public facilities like the State Fair -all have contributed to that historical fabric. Even the long range development plan from over 30 years ago by SOM and Richard Bender identified the need for a walkable campus – still driving many community issues.
The institution outlives any single human – so balancing history with current demands while evolving the institution is truly the role of the university architect.