Caring, Planning and Creating

Pamela Delphenich and Steven Gift have been involved in planning campuses for decades. Both are now in private practice, but each invested formative years in caring for, planning and creating major campuses.

Pam was at Yale and MIT, Steve at Virginia Tech and the University of South Florida. Their subsequent private practices are as different as the geography and history of Yale and South Florida. Even so, care and regard, even a passion for campuses are clear as each talks about physical places and the community of students and faculty served and enabled.

In separate conversations Delphenich and Gift speak from the experience of hundreds, if not thousands, of discussions with students, faculty members and administrators about the choices that guide the evolution of a campus and its plan.

While immediate concerns may be about parking, building sites and project funding, the campus planner keeps sight of a longer time horizon. The unspoken assumption in each academic mission statement is that the institution continues forever. Caring for, planning and creating the future of campuses is work Pamela and Steven hold dear. It is no wonder so many have found them to be trusted advisors.

The linked videos are on the YouTube channel.

Academic Libraries: Making Place for Goog-azon-bucks

Pew InteriorIf the student is at the center of the higher education business model, the library is where she is sitting. The library is changing around her and her colleagues. Library leaders are transforming academic libraries into 21st century agoras – open meeting and working places – rather than gated cul-de-sacs for storing paper.

This transformation was explored at the Re-think It: Libraries for a New Age Conference at Grand Valley State University. Hundreds of public and academic librarians from across the country met to share ideas on the reinvention of libraries about people not paper, about access not control. Speakers included Elliot Felix, Lee Van Orsdel and Lennie Scott-Webber.   Continue reading

University as Truth Spot – Thomas Gieryn

GierynPersonal experience, regional economic developer and graduate earning power are common justifications for the survival and value of colleges and universities. Thomas Gieryn views more at stake.

Gieryn sees universities as truth spots, those places that lend credibility to claims of truth and legitimacy to beliefs. He sees campuses as places saturated with the people, information, mission and opportunity to pursue truth. [Video]

“The university is a saturated place. Around the corner is inevitably something or someone you will learn from. Pasteur observed that ‘chance favors the prepared mind.’ Chance [also] favors the prepared place and the university is such a place. The people, the data, the machines, everything you need for the ‘chance’ discovery – a place saturated with all the ingredients of truth making.”

Gieryn is emeritus Rudy Professor of Sociology at Indiana University. His work is among the most widely cited on the cultural authority of science and on the significance of place for human behavior and social change. His work covers human experience from religion to science – from Delphi to the laboratory.  This conversation was recorded March 12, 2015, in his office, then as Associate Provost of Indiana University.




Ethics of Campus Planning

Campus PlanningWhen the emperor is naked do you have an ethical responsibility to recommend clothing? The ethical choices of the campus planner are rarely this stark, but the stakes are rising in higher education campus planning.

As a consultant or an employee, the campus planner balances aspirations and limitations, hopes and realities. Not long ago the only question about a department’s long-hoped-for project was when it would be funded.  In that time, when the future was rosy, it was easy to say, “Yes. We will put it in the plan.” Including the fictional project in the master plan carried no risk and was without cost. In this time of fiscal limitations, demographic shifts and technological dislocations, saying “no” may be the only ethical option. Continue reading

Campus Planning at a Breakpoint

Students going upIn the mid-20th century, a Military Industrial Complex developed to maintain the expansion of American military capability. At the same time, a Campus Planning & Building Complex developed to expand American higher education. Both worked well to produce more, and each benefited from an aura of self-fulfilling prophecy. Continue reading

Duke Oakley on the Value of Campus

Duke.interviewEarly in 2015 I sat down with Duke Oakley to discuss the future of campuses.  The result was a video in which Duke talks about the history and resilience, value and importance of campuses.  He is most passionate in describing the role of the campus as a reference point for former students as they grow into positions of responsibility in civic affairs.  He views the campus as a nearly ideal environment, an expression of what is possible.

 “As former students deal with design and environmental issues, they will have in mind a time when they lived in an environment that cared about them, that supported them, that was a joy to be in.  They will know it is not impossible.  It is entirely possible.  They will remember an environment that began to live up to the potential of all of our environments.”

Charles Warner Oakley is a graduate of Dartmouth and the University of Pennsylvania. From 1986 to 2000, he was Campus Architect and Assistant Vice Chancellor for Design and Construction at the University of California – Los Angeles. “Duke” as his friends and colleagues know him, is a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects and an Emeritus member of the Association of University Architects.


Dissolving walls and synchronizing watches

Studio ClassroomMy campus planning course explores the future of campuses and prepares emerging professionals for these practice settings.

For the first half of the semester I experimented with making the room bigger – dissolving the walls that bound the traditional classroom. On March 3, 2015, for example, our session on the future of the campus included more than 40 students and guests in time zones from Western Europe to British Columbia. The synchronous discussion engaged students with the perspectives of academics and professional campus planners. Continue reading

The Course: Planning and Design of the University

Opportunity for Guest Participants – I am teaching Planning and Design of the University:  Future of Campus in a Digital World at Georgia Tech and University of Minnesota.  The course will be open to on-line guest participants.  A schedule for guest participants is here.

Georgia Tech students and in-class presenters will be in an on-campus classroom/studio.  Minnesota students, remote presenters and guest participants will join via web conference.

A limited number of “seats” are available for guest participants, for seven Tuesdays beginning January 20 through March 3, 2015 from 6pm to 8:30 Eastern (5pm to 7:30 Central).  A syllabus for the entire 15 week course is here.

Please let me know of your interest in participating by sending an email before January 15 to  Please put Guest in the subject line.

This guest participant opportunity is made possible by the Center for 21st Century Universities at the Georgia Institute of Technology and the School of Architecture at the University of Minnesota.



Future of the Campus in a Digital World

2 by 1 by 3As the need for synchronous place and time evaporates, the physical campus must provide values that are not available by other means. Campuses need to be transformed as if their survival were at stake.

Future of the Campus in a Digital World. is my assessment of the state of the campus at the close of 2014.  It is in the form of a 10 page pdf.  I hope you will share it with your colleagues and let me know your thoughts.

Campus Closed

Campus ClosedIt is just a matter of time until your campus will be closed. Usually it will be temporary. Sometimes it will be permanent.

Whether by snow and ice, wind, fire, flood, civil disorder or bankruptcy, you may be certain that your campus will be closed. It is just a matter of when and how long the closure will last. Even a brief closing provides a glimpse of higher education without the comfortable assumption of shared space and time – the familiar functionality of a campus. Continue reading