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Students, School Benefit from Visiting Professor’s Urban Design Research

Greg Tenn (’12 M.L.A.), Kirsten O'Brien (’12 B.L.A.), and graduate student Karen Paiva Henrique (seated) in Gastil's seminar.

Ray Gastil, visiting professor and Chair in Design Innovation for the Stuckeman School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture, has focused recent research on urban design and the evolving relationship between cities and university campuses worldwide.

In the spring of 2012, he taught an interdisciplinary Stuckeman School seminar titled "Dynamic Campus/Dynamic City" and co-taught a related studio that included field trips to the area of New York City adjacent to Columbia University. Gastil is currently creating a spring 2013 curriculum that will build on his research.

In the May 23, 2012, edition of The Architect's Newspaper (volume 10, issue 9), Gastil reviewed The City as Campus: Urbanism and Higher Education in Chicago, written by Sharon Haar. An associate professor of architecture at the University of Illinois at Chicago, Haar recently visited the Stuckeman School as part of its spring 2012 lecture series.

The following is an excerpt of Gastil’s review:

It is the right time to read architect and historian Sharon Haar’s book on the rich, fraught relationship of universities and the cities they live in. We are in one of the great eras of university expansion. Whether it is the new Yale in Singapore, New York University in its own backyard, or the burgeoning institutions in China, the university is as close to the heart of our current cultural and economic aspirations as it has ever been and the buildings are there to prove it. As financial analysts put it about the economy, a correction is possible—the ranks of dissatisfied, underemployed university graduates are legion across continents. Yet short of a new, harsher recession, the build program will go on, the better for select universities to stand out in a crowded field.

And that crowded field is urban, because whether they still have a big green lawn or not, the majority of new and expanding campuses are in cities, and to Haar, it is time to demonstrate that the “urban campus” is a rich opportunity, not the poor relation of the bucolic tradition of colleges in the country. She sees value in this—believing that the university and the city have the capacity to be profoundly and productively connected, but that while the physical form matters, it has to be understood as a larger history of place. Today’s debates on the future of campuses in American cities—take New York University (NYU) in Greenwich Village, for example, where community opposition has been bitter—are informed by history, yet they often lack a framework for understanding the full complexity of what cities and universities have to offer each other. How much does it matter if a campus is “porous” or not? How can we align the priorities of the university—research, teaching, and service, in that order—with the values of a city? These questions have a history, and we’d do well not to repeat it.

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