Saturday, 10 November 2012

Postwar University Campus Expansion: Part 1 - Channelling Venetian Plazas

The boom in campus expansion from 1960 to 1970 was the largest ever undertaken in Britain, with students increasing from 100,000 to 200,000 by the end of the 1970s and the number of universities almost doubling, with 46 reached in total by the end of the decade. (Birks 1972: 9) This was a monumental task for in-house university architects, bursars and estate administrators alike. Thus the undertaking of Chamberlin, Powell and Bon as Master Planners at the University of Leeds, rather than architects per se, enabled an outside influence to oversee the plan and provide time and skill in an attempt to both work within the existing campus space, and provide solutions to the potential problems attached to the expansion of that space.

The initial 1960s report produced by Chamberlin, Powell and Bon (CPB) was considered by them to be "a record of enquiry and research", rather than "a final pattern of development which must be accepted or rejected in toto". (CPB 1960: 7) It set out their original aspirations for the new university and contained images of Venetian plazas in order to suggest what an inspirational "civilized environment" for a university should look like. (CPB 1960: 40) This original plan also included a proposal for a circular reading room influenced by the style of the ruins of Nymphaeum in Tivoli, Italy and an additional great hall redolent of the Galleria in Milan, neither of which became manifest or even made it to the next plan which came out in 1963. The conclusion of the 1960s plan states the underlying raison d'ĂȘtre of the plan itself: "what is the problem? how can it be solved? how much and what type of building will be needed? how much land will be needed for this building? how long will it take? how much will it cost?" (CPB 1960: 97)

The final paragraph of the plan stresses the town and gown aspect of the university and how it should be more connected to the town, and finishes by saying "For it is no exaggeration to say that the confidence of a civilisation in itself may be judged by the value of its investment of energy and wealth in the widening of educational opportunities for the coming generations." (ibid.) It would be another two years before the next plan appeared, although work had begun on stage one of the actual campus development in that interim period.

Campus History:
Postwar University Campus Expansion: Part 2 - Campus as Urban Laboratory
The University of Leeds: A Very Short History

Birks, Tony. 1972. Building the New Universities (Newton Abbot: David and Charles).
Chamberlin, Powell and Bon. 1960. University of Leeds Development Plan (Leeds: The University of Leeds).

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