Planning for Higher Education Journal

About Campus Lawns

Journal Cover
From Volume 20 Number 4 | Summer 1992
By Richard P. Dober

Beginning with the first American colonial colleges, lawns have become a special symbol of the American college. They provide a "green blanket" Upon which tro stroll or study. The history of the lawn probably can be traced to the enclosed graden of the medieval monastry or perhaps to the ancient Roman villas after which they may have served as a model for the monastery. The monastery's enclosed "garth" or yard was divided into quarters and traversed by the monk's in the way undergraduates traverse the quadrangle. When the first English colleges were established at Oxford and Cambridge, they followed the monastic model rather than the model of an urban university such as Bologna or Paris. The English further popularized the idea of the lawn during the Georgian period, when landscape designers like "Capability" Brown were creating the rolling, picturesque, artificial landscapes of the notes, using ideas at Monticello and the University of Virginia. More recently lawns are losing favor. They are sometimes deemed too expensive to maintain, are often easy targets when new space is needed for construction, and in some cases have raised environmental concerns. Schools should therefore consider appointing a chair in landscape design who is aware of the historic and social role of a lawn as well as the horticulture needed to maintain it responsibly. This will insure the lawn remains a valuable aspect of the American college.

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