January/February 06
Issue 13


this issue...

Half Empty or Half Full

Spaces in Between

Creating Car-free Zones

What's New



Half Empty or Half Full

Is the glass half empty or half full? Do you see the empty space defined by the glass and liquid? Or do you ignore it? What about campus space? How do you perceive it?

The outdoor space on campus defined by surrounding buildings and landscape is an essential element in campus design. This space can provide a quiet or active experience it can be serene or noisy, it can also be historic, cultural, carefully designed, or ignored and seemingly left over.

This issue of Perspectives is about outdoor campus space — open space and parking space.

Arthur Lidsky

If you have reactions or ideas to share, please let us know what you think by e-mailing: editor@dlmplanners.com

S p a c e s in Between

People in western cultures, it seems, have difficulty in holding two divergent ideas at once. That is possibly why concepts of yin and yang seem abstruse to most Americans. Skillful use of positive and negative ground, though, is one aspect of artistic composition that separates masters from apprentices.

Buildings are objects, things — the positive ground. Space is the negative ground or the non-object, and contains the notion of place. Social interaction — teaching and learning — occurs not in objects themselves, in accord with the basic laws of physics, but within spaces inside of or created by objects. The negative ground, as the slang expression goes, is where it's at.

We learn in classrooms (space). We meet our friends on the quadrangle (space). We gather for commencement in theaters, at amphitheaters, or on lawns. The writings of Larry Ford [Spaces Between Buildings, The John Hopkins University Press, 2000] recall earlier generations' work on the general topic, urban planners and social psychologists such as Gorden Cullen, Jane Jacobs, Kevin Lynch, Bernard Rudofsky, et al. Creation of spaces is a social and socializing act. Creation of campus spaces — i.e., collegial places — may garner inspiration from the full array of theorists.

As campuses are developed, the focus of attention is usually on the objects in space — buildings — rather than on the spaces being formed by those objects. The singular thing, the positive ground, is easier to fathom than the ether surrounding it, the spaces or negative ground formed by collections of buildings.

The site plan for Grove City College illustrates a range of spaces and possibilities formed by the surrounding objects (buildings). A small courtyard adjacent to the main quadrangle has purposeful potential.

Things are easier to photograph and describe in glossy magazine articles than is the absence of things. And whereas credit can be readily attributed to an architect for the design of a building, few people have the patience or endurance to await the formation of an open space.

It may take a generation, or several, as buildings are funded and then realized in three dimensions to surround a space. In theory and practice, campus open spaces are the work of many hands and minds over time. The most memorable spaces, though, represent a common experience and shared consciousness.

Participatory campus planning is a means of creating a shared perception. A well-wrought plan focuses on the creation of useful campus open spaces through careful placement of future construction sites, as well as advantageous use of the campus's natural topography and those structures already in place.

The spaces in between existing and new buildings become the venue for future events, ceremonies, and day-to-day comings and goings. What is useful is not what is there, but what can occur there.

Social spaces at the ground level of the Ketler residence (at the right in the photo) open onto the sheltered courtyard. Benches or cafe tables and chairs would complete both imagery and functionality.

A grand focal green is not the only spatial aspect of a plan worthy of mention. Small spaces in between buildings can offer a compelling welcome for pedestrians who thus enter into a larger green and into the greater campus.

Every green space is a potential act of generosity. Open spaces can be endowed and named, as a living tribute to a donor or to memorialize a special person or epoch in an institution's evolution and continued maturation. Even little ideas and leftover edges can become places. They are possibilities, these things that start as no-thing.

Charles Craig


Creating Car-free Zones

A planning principle now accepted almost universally has been in force at our office for over four decades: keep the car in its place.

The car has a place, and its place is critically important. A community college cannot thrive without providing adequate, convenient, safe and plentiful parking. On residential campuses, purists would argue that most students have no real need for a car.

Often, however, institutions are reluctant to deny their students this “right,”“privilege” or convenience if it might cause the prospective student to re-consider attending the school.

Urban campuses have an even greater need and incentive to control the impact of the car.

Let's grant the necessity of the car, but keep it in its place, focusing on management — making parking and circulation efficient, convenient and safe. The operational rationale is evident, but the real purpose is to ensure that the core campus can be a special environment, free of the distractions, noise, fumes, clutter and hazards of moving and parked vehicles.

A campus must be designed for the comfort, stimulation, delight, and safety of people. In our increasingly virtualized world, educational institutions have an obligation to create environments that encourage and celebrate people and their face-to-face interactions.

Focus effort on:

  • Excellent Signage
  • Demand Management — ride share, park and transit, scheduling,
  • Rationalizing Parking — adequate parking, perimeter lots, parking decks, short-term parking close-to-core
  • Policy Enforcement — consistent permitting, lot controls, ticketing, penalties.

George Mathey


What’s New

Middle Tennessee
State University
The Daily News Journal reported on January 26 that Middle Tennessee State University is in the process of developing a new science building to meet the needs of an increasing student population

DLC+A is working with an MTSU committee of university administration, faculty and staff to develop detailed use and design plans for the proposed science building.

College Planning & Mangement Article
College Planning & Management published "Master Planning Campuses for Today's Students" by Arthur J. Lidsky in its January issue. The article discusses how the decision-making process for developing today's campus master plan has ramifications that will carry an institution well into the future and how today's campus planning must be comprehensive and integrative, weaving together academic, student life, financial and physical planning.

For a copy of the article, email editor@doberlidskycraig.com or call 617-489-1162.


Marist College
DLC+A has just completed a programming study and conceptual redesign of facilities serving the Chemistry department at Marist College. The study, directed by George Mathey, proposes renovations intended to: address obsolescence, accommodate increasing enrollments, and better support the faculty's focus on an experiential teaching/learning style that engages students in significant research projects.

Learning Spaces and Technology Workshop
Arthur J. Lidsky will be presenting at the Learning Spaces and Technology Workshop, sponsored by the Council of Independent Colleges and the National Institute for Technology and Liberal Education (NITLE). The workshop is designed to help colleges and universities plan for effective technology-enhanced learning spaces. February 17th - 19th at Rhodes College, Memphis, TN.



Related Topics &
Previous Newsletters

Additional Services


© Copyright 2006
Creating Campus Solutions

464 Common St., Suite 336
Belmont, MA 02478
T 617 489 1162