What are the Uber or Airbnb equivalents of the university? These are the questions Tom Fisher thinks campus planners should be asking.
We are at the trailing edge of six decades of campus facilities expansion. The resulting mix of assets can be a rich foundation on which to rebuild and right-size sustainable institutions, or part of an unsustainable burden that helps to sink the rest.
In a recent interview, Fisher argued for rethinking many of the assumptions of the physical campus.
The campuses we have inherited are way too big. I know that seems odd, because when you are on a campus everyone is crying for more space, but we have a lot of highly specialized space that goes under-utilized…the faculty office being one of the more notable ones. Increasingly faculty are carrying their office in their laptop and cell phone. So this idea of having a room set aside for yourself is really antiquated. Classrooms are changing. They will still be used, but the whole campus is a teaching environment. The whole city and region is a learning environment.
The Challenge for SCUP and Campus Planners
This is a time of existential challenge for many colleges and a challenge of conscience and creativity for the professional and institutional members of the Society for College and University Planning. They have been successful for 50 years in growing the physical presence of American higher education. The challenge of institutional realignment, adapting and right-sizing in response to demographic, fiscal and technological change will prove to be more difficult.
Tom Fisher is a Professor in the School of Architecture and Director of the Metropolitan Design Center at the University of Minnesota. He has written extensively about architectural design, practice, and ethics. His current research involves looking at the implications of the “Third Industrial Revolution” on architecture and cities in the 21st century. His newest book, Some Possible Futures, Design Thinking our Way to a More Resilient World (Minnesota) will be available May 2016.
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