Key Development Concerns
More than 40 years ago University Hall was the heart of campus. Its architecture is still an iconic source of institutional pride. However, in terms of recent campus development, University Hall has become a periphery building and lost its status as the clear heart of campus.
2.13 Key Planning Concerns
Over the years, critical consideration of our campus development has highlighted several areas of attention which have prompted the revisitation or reassessment of someaspects of the Core Campus Expansion Plan. Nearly all respondents in the selection stage of the current planning process expressed a similar consensus of planning criticism that we hope to pay strict attention to as we advance the plan.
Concerns expressed by Campus Planning include:
- Subsequent campus development in practice has caused a departure or dilution of many valuable tenets of the original 1969 campus plan vision.Principally, there is a growing sense of loss or connection to our prairie landscape and integration with the river ecology, which in the past has been a primary determinant of form and sense of place. This edge of campus remains to be a principal vantage point to the city across the valley.
- This sense of loss is amplified by trends of suburbanization that permeate the campus fabric and thus facilitate less desirable attributes oflow density development, reliance on commuting ideologies and widespread disconnection of campus precincts. This is done at the expense of altering our dramatic setting and weakening our sense of community and integration.
- Our prairie and coulee geography is a valuable asset which sets our campus apart and makes the University campus physically unique. An improved focus on the landscape in terms of its preservation and subsequent building and development would allow unique place making opportunities to continue to flourish and further enhance our principal unique contextual campus amenity and brand or image.
- The intersection of the developing (sub) urban west side and the natural landscape has not sufficiently been addressed or acknowledged from a planning standpoint along the boundary of University Drive and into campus. Our property lies at the crux of this intersection and exchange.
- While efforts are currently underway to begina number of phased improvements, the campus is dominated by hard surface parking areas, sometimes improperly located, without measures which mitigate their visual impacts, address climatic or environmental constraints, properly manage surface run-off or enhance the pedestrian experience to make our institution a more livable, safe and walkable campus.
- Parking demand management strategies could better correlate with the facilitation and encouragement of various alternative modes of transportation could be investigated further.
- There is a cross campus lack of connectivity in terms of outdoor spaces which should have a purposeful integration of accessible pedestrian networks. These may include natural paths and bicycle routes across campus precincts.
- Limitations of accessibility for disabled or persons with mobility issues could be examined further in connection with a forward thinking and committed sustainability plan for parking, transit, bicycle and vehicular networks.
- Primary and secondary campus entrances along University Drive lack presence, annunciation, identity and iconic value. Campus entrance signage at these gateways is outdated and not integrated into a cohesive entrance scheme.
- Way finding systems are only adequately supported in outdoor spaces which are largely undeveloped and do not promote engagement.
- The visual appearance and siting of buildingsand public outdoor spaces could be further enhanced by a consistent integration with our topographical landscape.
- On the exterior, some recent buildings appear foreign and disparate from one to another contributing to a less cohesive character which departs from earlier legacy sensibilities.
- Careful consideration of the top of bank development line should be reconsidered in the overall planning effort for potential appropriate sites which make long term sense to reconsider in core areas.
- Compared to competing institutions, only in recent years has the university campus benefitted from catalytic projects to attract students and spotlight the University at consistent intervals. As with the resulting effect of the inaugural hallin 1971, strategic iconic buildings could significantly enhance our campus as a destination university, build development momentum and transform campus in a rigorous way.
- Design guidelines in the 2001 report are limited and somewhat generic. They require greater detail to influence and assist architects and designers in the design and planning of future buildings and landscapes in a cohesive manner and in accordance with a governing vision of `Spirit of Place` and campus life.
- Previous implementation of the master plan has lacked a mechanism with enough force to maintain the master plan. While some flexibility should be permitted, a recommendation to institute both Master Plan and/or Design ReviewCommittees (separate from project steering committees) could be implemented to advocate for the master plan and give force to subsequent design guidelines for projects.
- Senior Administration `buy-in` is crucial for any successful master plan effort.
- A new master plan could reveal a development plan in phases of intervals spanning twenty-five years.
- Development densities are generally low and sprawling in expanding areas producing disconnectivity from the core academic campus, poor walkability and less efficient use of valuable land resources.
- Several core campus buildings were not designed as ‘durable buildings’ with a 50 to 100 year design life. The benefits of a higher performance “envelope first“ design methodology are widely proven to add better value using performance metrics and life-cycle cost analysis in the context of long term sustainability. The added value of passive architectural components that comprise the building enclosure and ‘skin’ should not be undermined in the review of established design guidelines.
- While energy use is a significant component of environmental sustainability, our institution`s view of sustainability should relate to the triple bottom line that respects environmental, social and economic balance in sustainability endeavors.
- Initiatives aimed at forward thinking goals of net-zero energy buildings and true carbon neutrality are now entering the parlance of policy and mandatory requirements across jurisdictions in North America. Many institutions, companies and organizations have widely referenced and accepted the more stringent energy consumption goals entailed within new energy codes or the 2030 Challenge which require new buildings and major renovations to meet a fossil fuel, GHG-emission and energy performance standard of 60% of the regional average for that building type, with staged reductions to 70% by 2015, 80% by 2020, 90% by 2025 and total carbon neutrality by the year 2030.Our institution needs to discuss this in light of our goals.
- Greater emphasis could be placed on the capacity of architecture and environmental designto influence sustainable building design with increased potency. This mind set has the potential to greatly reduce energy demands and the complexity of ‘active’ mechanical heating and ventilation and air conditioning systems which typically have high consumption and component replacement costs.
D. Spencer Court, Architect - Associate Director, Campus Planning + Architecture