SCUP
Planning for Higher Education Journal

Social Change and American Campus Design

Journal Cover
From Volume 22 Number 3 | Spring 1994
By Perry Chapman
Planning Types: Campus Planning

American campus design over the last 40 years has experienced an evolution in which each decade is dominated by themes that reflect the social change of the time. From the postwar period through the late 1950s, unprecedented pressures brought on by massive federal spending were met with unprecedented solutions offered by modernism. During the 1960s, new space needs required tremendous change in scale, resulting in overwhelming "Brutalist" concrete architecture. During this time, entirely new institutions provided numerous new prototypes. During the 1970s, campus unrest, the environmental movement, and demand for community participation caused a crisis in facilities planning. Responses typically involved partnerships to develop land with outside parties as a source of revenue while insuring the quality of the larger immediate environment. With declining student populations in the 1980s, emphasis was not on growth but on improving the campus environment to stay competitive. This need was answered by postmodernism and its resumption of "stagecraft" in campus design. The 1990s can been seen as a continuation of this, yet financial austerity and swiftly changing technology suggested that greater flexibility be built into new facilities. Thoughout these changes, the campus remains a place where "intellectual inquiry, socialization, and day-to-day living" exist in a "finite, integrated setting," which modifies itself to the needs of each successive generation.

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