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.

CC BY-NC 4.0 This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

4 thoughts on “Caring, Planning and Creating

  1. “the campus planner keeps sight of a longer time horizon. The unspoken assumption in each academic mission statement is that the institution continues forever”

    So why isn’t the focus on designing a building which will last the longest with the least need for intense financial support or rework? So many times it seems like institutions are striving to build a piece of unique art – which only incidentally has to function as a building.

    • Ian, I appreciate your observation that function is the reason and environmentally necessary justification for building, but I don’t believe that the cheapest bullet proof box is the only appropriate alternative. I see no harm in the occasional construction of unique buildings as long as they contribute to the whole campus. In the context of the University of Minnesota, Ghery’s Weisman Art Museum would be the example. It does contribute to the campus as a whole as it marks a bend in the Mississippi River at the point that the east and west campuses of the U are connected – a unique function and a unique location.

      Campus planners and university architects (in this case Pamela and Steven are my exemplars) have a professional responsibility to find the balance between pure function and shall we say pure fancy. Steven’s example of turning a portion of an abandoned air force base into an oasis celebrating the life of one of the heroes of our time, seems to be to go well beyond the functional objective of proving walkways to connect building in the creation of place that is central to the identity of the campus. Pamela’s work at Yale and MIT provide additional examples, in particular as she participated in the remaking of MIT, foretold in “Imagining MIT” by Bill Mitchell.

      I am as critical of those who opt for the bulletproof box as I am of those who tolerate pure fancy. The conversations with Pamela and Steven reinforces my believe that value and truth lie not in the extremes but in a fragile balance discerned through analysis and creativity. The care and judgment of the campus planner and university architect make all the difference. Absent these pure function and pure fancy have no bounds.

  2. Mike,

    Nice to see this discussion the same day I read this in The Chronicle. While not exactly parallel to Pam’s comments, I think it reinforces the need for learning spaces, and spaces that respond to differently learning modalities as Pam described.

    As a side note, I’m developing a new course where I hope to apply some of the techniques I observed used in your GT class last year. Keep in touch, the built environment needs great thinkers such as yourself and your interviewees.


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