What Will We Remember, What Will We Treasure?

Together, let us continue the stewardship of our campuses.






Publication: Planning for Higher Education
Author: Wharton, L Carole
Date published: April 1, 2011

What do you remember about your college campus? For me, it's the duck pond, a graceful pool outside the dining hall where we fed the ducks each evening after dinner - the duck pond surrounded by green slopes with classic Georgian buildings atop each slope. Red brick, white columns, intimate scale - a walking campus. Rolling hills and stately old buildings with their creaky floors and their history. Made for gatherings, quiet talks, or bombastic arguments. It was a place that I recall with fondness.

When the Society for College and University Planning (SCUP) began discussions about a campus heritage project with the Getty Foundation, those images sprang to mind. What do we treasure about our campus experience? As planners, how do we keep that sense of place - the heritage - alive for future generations and still respond intelligently to new learning styles, new curricular and student-life demands, new technologies, and new construction techniques? What does "historic" mean? What should we keep - restore, renovate, or adapt? What should we reduce to rubble? What do past generations of students and faculty treasure, and what will future generations remember as a result of our efforts?

SCUP approached the task of researching campus heritage by first conducting interviews with member campus and corporate planners. We asked questions: "What do you need to know to undertake campus heritage planning, to preserve, adapt, and maintain those special places?" and "How do you want to receive that information?" Respondents expressed their concerns in a number of areas:

* Documentation. There is an absence of documentation and a lack of definitions, criteria, methodologies, and/or templates for organizing information and evaluating facilities.

* Care and maintenance. Respondents wondered how to engage and educate facilities management staff to maintain, operate, repair, and renovate heritage properties; they also suggested the development of a transferable ranking system to guide maintenance, restoration, adaptation, or removal.

* Processes. Models are needed for dealing with the complexities and constraints of decision-making processes affecting campus facilities (including campus-community and state politics) and for getting heritage properties on the funding priority list. Respondents stressed the importance of the intelligent management of change (not freezing things in one time and one place) and wondered how to weigh whether to seek historic designation (myths vs. truths).

* Mid-20th century properties and a framework for the future. Campus policies and practices originally developed for pre-20th century properties define heritage properties too narrowly. These policies are not framed to capture the heritage properties of the future, particularly those buildings from the 1950s-60s that are significant but not old enough to be categorized as historic. Additionally, few guidelines exist for caring for the newer materials in these buildings, and state historic preservation officers are not well informed about these properties' significance.

* Integration of heritage preservation planning with master planning/campus philosophy and mission/ identity. Sometimes expansionist goals drive corporate planners, who may lack the knowledge and/or sensitivity to integrate heritage preservation planning into the overall master plan. Respondent suggestions included an investigation of how to designate a new building as a heritage property and the creation of stronger links with the Association of University Architects' task force on integrating heritage preservation planning with master planning.

* Landscapes. Respondents believe we should pay more attention to landscapes, whether intentionally designed or contextual; have needs documentation and evaluation guidance comparable to that available for buildings; incorporate landscapes into the master plan; compile lessons learned from older workable open spaces that are applicable today; and examine the impact of parking on landscapes.

* Sustainability. There is a need to define and understand the links between heritage preservation planning and sustainability. Respondents suggested partnering with the United States Green Building Council to improve the status of renovated buildings in the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEEDŽ) green building rating system.

* Incentives/campus values and strategies for success. Respondents wondered about the use of historic tax credits; implications of emerging regional accreditation criteria that require a campus master plan; importance of a campus's historic character in student recruitment; ways to give decision makers the best possible information in order to make the best decisions regarding heritage properties; management of town-gown tensions; and strategies for leveraging zoning issues and alumni connections.

* Disaster planning. Respondent concerns focused on contingency planning for disasters and the exploration of models in use.

The Getty Foundation responded generously, granting SCUP some $300,000 to address these concerns.

For its part, SCUP has created an interactive website to present the reports and share lessons learned from the 86 campuses that received Getty Foundation grants for campus heritage planning, as well as other relevant information. Campuses have also shared their experiences at our last two annual meetings and at a number of regional meetings. On November 3-4, 2011, SCUP will host a Campus Heritage Symposium in Washington, DC, to continue the conversation with campus and corporate planners and organizations in the capital area who share our concerns.

This special issue of Planning for Higher Education is another effort to share what we have learned from campus and corporate planners engaged in heritage planning. Topics and writers have been chosen with care to address the concerns expressed at the beginning of the process and to reflect changing circumstances since that time. We hope you will find these offerings meaningful and helpful.

We also hope you will join the Campus Heritage Network atwww.campusheritage.org/to continue the discussion and will attend the symposium in the fall. We owe a great deal to the Getty Foundation for laying a strong foundation of information, for making these discoveries possible, and for fostering interchange and collaboration among us. Together, let us continue the stewardship of our campuses so that future generations may treasure these special places.

Author affiliation:

L. Carole Wharton, a former president of SCUP, is project manager for SCUP's Getty Foundation-funded Campus Heritage Initiative. She is a former official responsible for planning at the Smithsonian Institution and Drexel University and for capital planning at the University of Maryland. She consults on strategic and financial planning and governance issues for colleges and universities, museums, and other nonprofit organizations.

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