The sub-plot of an early episode of SHOWTIME’S ‘Billions’ has Damien Lewis’ character on a quest to rename a significant civic building; his tactics may have more to do with personal revenge than praiseworthy philanthropy, but it sparks an interesting chain of questions.
Generous benefactors have been essential to the growth of virtually all colleges and universities with gifts that have funded countless facilities large and small, honoring educators, alumni, students, moments in time, institutional traditions, and donors themselves. With public and private funds becoming tighter, such gifts will continue to be indispensable, but how do the institutions manage their proliferation and how do the resulting spaces or elements evolve over time?
Once you start thinking about it, the topic of building and managing these legacy structures or spaces raises a multitude of issues:
Connections to significant donors, alumni, and events recognized through the naming of places on a campus are critical to the history and context of that institution; these create a richness of spaces and a tangible, institutional memoir. When these places are altered or removed, each institution must reconcile that change in its own particular way.
Floura Teeter tackled a number of these issues on a recent project for a mid-sized university in Pennsylvania. A tree-lined walk honors twelve Presidents of the University, but the desire for a more accessible campus required that changes be made to the connection from the public sidewalk to the campus walk, via this special walk. Design studies explored a variety of questions: How much could the alignment change and still retain the trees? Could the trees be relocated to retain the original alignment? Which element was more important – the alignment or the trees themselves? Is it acceptable to remove the trees altogether to provide the necessary accessibility? What happens to an adjacent donor space that will be impacted by the new alignment? How might the original donors of that space be acknowledged, or do they need to be?
After much study, a concept plan was developed that largely retains the existing alignment, but recommends relocating several trees in order to accomplish the necessary grading that will allow everyone to experience the historic allee. Phased construction of the walk will also provide the possibility for a significant new campus gateway and the opportunity to make improvements to an adjacent roadway. Associated realignment of connecting walks may impact another existing donor space, and how that legacy may be altered awaits final resolution. So the original project has spawned several others that will have a meaningful impact on multiple aspects of the campus.
A highly collaborative design process allowed the campus Facilities team and Floura Teeter Landscape Architects to explore these questions and to resolve the complicated relationship between one important legacy space and the necessary evolution of the physical campus.