Scripps College

I do not know about you all, but I really enjoyed the long
weekend. Yet, the week goes on and our summer seems to come to an unofficial
end. The east tends to end its summers a little sooner than the west, so in the
spirit of pushing the eastern mind to a warmer climate this next article is
about Scripps College located in Claremont, California. The climate and the collegiate
architectural styles are very different than our eastern Gothic Style Universities.

Historical Context

Scripps College is a women’s college a part of the academic
consortium known as the 5Cs. The 5cs as the Claremont Colleges are known
provide students small university attention with big university resources. I experienced
similar benefits while attending SUNY-ESF which is adjacent to Syracuse
University. Students were able to attend classes on both campuses, as well as
go to sporting events at lower costs. This type of arrangement allows the
Universities to specialize in a curriculum, enhancing the academic quality of
all colleges that are members of the association.

Scripps College founding benefactor was Ellen Browning Scripps (October 18, 1836). She was a philanthropist and millionaire in her own
right from her work with Scripps newspapers throughout the United States. Ms. Scripps was to be credited with the creation of the “feature article” at The Detroit News.  Ellen Scripps never married which compelled her to become an active supporter of various causes throughout the state of California. Her generosity increased with the passing of her half-brother George, he also was a very successful newspaper person. George Scripps left his sister so much money that she established more charities and began donating to hospitals and research facilities. One benefactor of her generosity became Scripps College which was officially founded in 1926. This became crucial to the aesthetic character of Scripps College.

Design Style

The early part of the 20th century saw dominance in Collegiate Gothic and Classical Revival architecture on academic landscapes. Scripps College took a left turn by implementing the Spanish Colonial Revival Style. This style became popular in Southern California and Florida after the Panama-California Exposition in 1915. The foundation for the popularity
presented during the exposition was due to the creation of the Panama Canal.
The canal is labeled as one of the 7 Wonders of the Modern World. This type of
undertaking had the eyes of the United States turned south of the border. Workers
and photographs returning from the construction of the canal gave the people of
the United States their first look at Pueblo Revival and Mission Revival style
buildings. People observed clay roof tiles and thick archways that surrounded
enclosed courtyards. This style of architecture was usually constructed with
adobe brick. This material was pretty unattractive, contractors would apply stucco
onto the brick to protect and conceal the earthen material. This style of
architecture also found an ally in the popular novel “Ramona” published in 1884.

Ramona featured Spanish Colonial architecture in California. The book became so popular that tourists flocked to sites that were depicted or inspired by the author. It was the story of a native girl mixed with Scottish blood that held the imaginations of the people captive. One of the key cities mentioned during this story was
Santa Barbra. This city would be the icing on the cake for Southern California and Scripps College.

Santa Barbra enjoyed the tourism inspired by the 19th
century book but a massive earthquake in 1925 left the city in ruins. Unlike the earthquake in San Francisco that resulted in a massive fire claiming many
claiming many lives the Santa Barbra earthquake sustained heavy structural
damages, but few citizens lost their lives. The spirit of reconstruction to
hold of the city and the city beautiful movement lead by activists Bernard
Hoffman and later Pearle Chase called for the singular unified architectural
style in Santa Barbara. The Spanish Colonial Style’s popularity and historical
significance made it the logical choice for the city, and this style diffused
throughout Southern California, and made its way into the hearts and minds of
Scripps College founders.

The Designers

Gordon Kauffman was hired by the Scripps College trustees
due to his extensive work in the Mediterranean Revival Style which contributes
many of its attributes to the Spanish Colonial Revival style that was extremely
popular in the 1920’s. The Spanish Revival worked well with tradition campus
layouts. The quadrangle was similar to the enclosed courtyard observed in
Spanish architecture. Kauffman used this to his advantage, and he applied extensive
courtyards systems to his design scheme. Working with landscape architect
Edward Huntsman-Trout the campus was laid out on two major axes. The east and
west axes featured the auditorium and art buildings that face each other and
the north and south axes featuring the Bowling Green and Toll Hall. These
strong axes established a strong sense of order to Scripps College.
Huntsman-Trout applied plant materials to soften the edges of the rigid
architecture and applying shade against the blazing sun of Southern California.

Notable Architecture

  • The Bowling Green: An open quadrangle that would remain open, where the buildings would be placed alongside the edges in the tradition Oxford Cloistered Campus model. A retaining runs east to west at the Central quadrangle where the grade drops 3-5 feet. This elevation change provides a beautiful view over the lower part of Scripps College. The change in elevation was an intention made by the designers to create greater visual interest to the green. This strategy was also applied to other courtyards so visitors would experience a sense of transition while moving from place to place. Gordon Kauffman reinforces the Bowling Green by utilizing techniques from the European garden style. His architecture surrounds the quad with lower 1 story buildings (typical in Spanish colonial Revival Style) and then increases the heights as you move away from the quad. This cloistered affects serves the purpose of privacy for the residential areas around the campus as well as establishing a strong inward focus towards the courtyards.

  • Margaret Fowler
    The Margaret Fowler Garden is an example of the European/medieval
    style cloister garden. The enclosed courtyard features a sculpture known as
    “the Eternal Primitive”. Pathways leading away in the four cardinal directions
    extend from the central pool. Most notably a historic mural created by Alfredo
    Ramos Martinez is located along the south wall of the garden. This mural was
    never completed due to Mr. Martinez’s illness and subsequent death at the age
    of 72.

  • Toll Hall This
    was the first building constructed at Scripps College. The financing came from
    Miss Ellen Scripps. The Hall was named after Mrs. Eleanor Joy Toll. Mrs. Toll
    was a female activist with an unprecedented passion for education, music and
    civic progress. Toll Hall has a series of irregular forms that inspire an
    informal feeling to the exterior. The interior court known as Palm Court was
    originally designed to contain orange trees. They died and were replaced by
    four palm trees in each corner. Only one died, the court became known as Palm
    Court. The court also contains a fountain in the shape of a star. Star fountain
    became more and more iconic to Toll Hall to the point that the fountain usurped
    the primary name and today it is lovingly referred to as “Star Court”.


Timing is everything. If Scripps College was founded in 1900
the College would most likely appear as though it was a transplant of a
Collegiate Gothic Style campus. Cultural and historical events culminated in
the emergence of the Spanish Revival Architectural style at just the right
time, so Scripps College would not look like an alien New England University in
a context of Spanish Revival architecture. I am discovering during my research
that designs are the works of but a moment. These moments are the culmination of
unassociated events. These events are seemingly autonomous of each other and in
time converge to inspire a designer to look beyond their blank canvas and into
forms that will define an area for years to come. This is the fascinating part
about studying college campuses. It is not because I spent seven years of my
life on them. It is more because they are monuments to these moments of
inspiration. Gordon Kauffman and Edward Huntsman-Trout were inspired by their
times, and they created a campus that helps define the aesthetic character of
Southern California.

Next time we will be looking at Duke University. That is
right folks we are headed into Tarheel country.

Best Regards,




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University of Alabama (UA)

Greetings Designers,

GO BAMA! I never thought I would write those words being a
BIG TEN fan. Growing up as a huge fan of college football I always had a
respect for Alabama, but I would never root for the Crimson Tide. Despite my
general dislike of Alabama’s football program I always found the history of
Bear Bryant fascinating. Churning through pictures and articles about the
university I discovered a reason to be a fan of the Crimson Tide. The next
portions of the blog will be dedicated to a school way south of the Mason-Dixon
Line. UA stole my heart via their southern charm and beautiful architecture.

Historical Context

When the United States created the Alabama territory a new
township was to be dedicated to the creation of a “seminary of learning” in
1820. “The University of the State of Alabama” was opened in 1831. The campus
was designed by Neo-classical architect William Nichols, who borrowed heavily
from Thomas Jefferson’s University of Virginia (UVA) design philosophy.
Utilizing the quadrangle organizational system Mr. Nichols placed a rotunda at
the heart of the quad with pathways leading from and around the buildings. The
rest of the buildings were also designed in the neo-classical style. William
Nichols’ expertise in this style was most likely the key reason why he was

Mr. Nichols had a series of successful neo-classical
architectural designs throughout the State of Alabama. This style of
architecture coincided with early university education in the United States. Curriculums
focused on classical education with courses in the social and natural sciences.
This academic programming inspired many designers like William Nichols to create
a university campus that followed the classical aesthetic. A master of
implementing neo-classical design was Thomas Jefferson. Our third president implemented neo-classical design on UVA’s campus where a Rotunda building was placed at its very heart. This was done because of President Jefferson’s love of nature and the
symbolism that a Rotunda held. The Rotunda is derived from the Palladian design
theories of the 16th century. This theory was first outlined in the book
I Quattro libri dell’architecttura”
or the “Four Books of Architecture”.

Palladio was a master of classical form who believed in providing expansive vistas from a central building. Prior to Palladio, estates
were constructed in valleys where the architecture was hidden from view. Palladio wanted to lift the building up out of the valleys and let them shine
like beacons in an expansive landscape. Since the “University on the Hill” concept was prominent at the creation of the University of Alabama the establishment of architecture that represented an interaction between nature and human logic
was paramount. This is at the very heart of the Palladian design theory inherent in Thomas Jefferson’s designs at UVA which William Nichols hoped to replicate on Alabama’s campus.

The Rotunda is the
key identifier when viewing the first Alabama quad designs. The Rotunda was set
in the center of the university to create a focal point. This location place initiated
an interaction between nature and human imagination where a never ending
discussion occurred through views from the Rotunda to Tuscaloosa. Visitors were
able to look out from all sides of the rotunda where their gazes would fall
upon the beautiful neo-classical architecture and the landscapes beyond their
hallowed halls. Centering the Rotunda allowed all the other buildings on the
quad to look towards the heart of its campus to their iconic building. Unfortunately
this design dialogue would end with the burning of several buildings on Alabama’s

During the Civil War Alabama was converted into a military
institution to produce officers to serve in the Confederate Army. This decision
would lead to the destruction and temporary closure of UA. During a Union Military
expedition (not Sherman’s March to the Sea) the University of Alabama was
attacked. Union troops were under orders to incinerate any and all things that
may have military significance to the Confederate Army. Since the university
was no longer an academic institution several of the buildings on UA’s quad
were burnt to the ground. All but seven of the buildings survived. Included in
the destruction were the Lyceum on the north end of Alabama’s quad and the
Rotunda, despite pleas to spare the building and its library of close to 7,000
books. However faculty members and residents of the 7 buildings were able to what
remains today through staunch negotiations with Union troops.

The University reopened in 1871, and many of the materials from
the destroyed quad buildings were acquisitioned for new construction on the
outside of the quad. The memory of those lost buildings must have been too
painful and placing buildings upon the quad was out of the question at that
time. It would have been desecrating the graveyard of the Lyceum and their
precious Rotunda. The quad did not have a new building almost 10 years after
the reopening of the University. The new buildings were built in the Collegiate
Gothic style, until their shift in design style after Chicago’s Columbian
Exposition in 1893. During the exposition the Beaux Arts style made a big
splash among American designers. The early 20th century saw
explosion of construction at Alabama, where Beaux Arts and Classical Revival Buildings
were constructed on the quad. This moved the center of campus back to its
original home.

Notable Architecture

  • President’s Mansion: The President’s Mansion is one of the oldest and most recognizable building in Crimson Tide country. The mansion was designed by William Nichols but before the funds could be acquired to construct the building Mr. Nichols left the state due to other projects. The mansion required the trustees to trust a man by the name of Michael Barry to interpret the design elements of existing building surrounding the quad and locate the mansion in an appropriate
    location. The trustees approved the mansion to be built upon the grounds where
    the medical school was intended. The site was completed in 1841. This was one
    of the few buildings that survived the fires of 1865.
  • Denny Chimes: The Denny Chimes were originally intended to be a WWI memorial to the Alabama students that gave their live in “The Great War”. If the funds were available I am sure the Beaux Arts style would have been the choice for Denny Chimes. Yet money was scarce and the chimes were not completed until 1929 in the Art Deco style.

  • Old University of Alabama Observatory: It is now known as the Fredrick R. Maxwell hall. This is one of the 7 Greek revival buildings that survived the fires of 1865. Pieces of the telescope were plundered but the observatory was utilized for its original intention from 1871 when the university reopened through the 1890’s
    when a new observatory was built on campus. The building is still in use today.
  • Clark Hall: This is one of the first Gothic Revival buildings to be constructed on the quad after the burning of the campus. It is located where the Lyceum stood before its destruction. Clark hall serves as one of the premier examples of Gothic
    Revival architecture on Bama’s campus. The building was on the verge of
    collapse until engineer Fred Maxwell designed a metal frame that stabilized the
    building insuring its longevity upon Alabama’s landscape.
  • Manly Hall: Another Gothic Revival building that was named after the University’s second president. Manly hall houses the president’s office and the hall of religious studies.

    Woods Hall is on the Left Manly is on the Right

  • Garland Hall: A Gothic Revival Building that housed the first Alabama Museum of Natural history. This building was completed in 1888. The museum moved and the building became the Sarah Moody Museum of art after Ms. Moody donated a Picaso print to the newly created gallery.


“The south shall rise again”, I know this quote has military
undertones, but the University of Alabama represents a cultural resurrection of
the south after the “War of Northern Aggression”. Finding a silver lining
behind the loss of all the neo-classical architecture during 1865 allowed
Alabama to come into its own. The diversity of architectural styles on campus disassociated the university from the aesthetics ties it had with the University of Virginia.
UA trustees aesthetically owned their campus and now UA stands as one of the
premier landscapes in the Deep South.

Tuesday we are moving out west to Scripps College, another
unknown University to this blogger. Who knows what we might find?

Best Regards,



Landscape Design: A Cultural and Architectural History” By: Elizabeth Barlow  Rogers.

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Kenyon College

Greetings designers,

This next school is a campus and that I knew absolutely nothing
about when I discovered it online. It was to my delight that exploring this
college through pictures, stories, and video that Kenyon College is truly a gem
of an academic institution. It is one of the most prestigious liberal arts
colleges in the United States. Located in Gambier, Ohio, the college houses
roughly 1,800 undergraduates. This is significantly smaller compared to the
University of Minnesota. Kenyon College’s student population is roughly 3% of the
University of Minnesota’s total student population.

At first glance at the endowment numbers, I was struck by the
fact that this college has some of the most beautiful examples of Gothic
Architecture poking up through the rustic foliage. How is this possible? Kenyon
College’s endowment is roughly 152 million dollars not much when placed in
contrast with the University of Minnesota’s (U of M) 2.2 billion dollars. Using
the math skills that grammar school bequeathed me; I divided the endowment of
each school to the number of its student populations. U of M students would
receive around 43k when the endowment is divided equally. Kenyon College
students would receive around 83k. This almost doubles U of M resulting in the
glamorous landscape features and architecture represented on the gorgeous
college campus. An investigation of artistry that is Kenyon College is the topic of today blog.

Historical and
Geographical Context

Kenyon College is known as a “Hidden Ivy” school based on the style of the grounds and quality of education. The college was Founded in 1824 and it holds some of the most brilliant examples of Collegiate Gothic
Architecture in the United States.  The decision to build the university came from its founder Philander Chase, the first Episcopalian Bishop of Ohio. His intention was to provide more educated clergy to the frontier as the United States was expanding west. He walked upon Gambier Hill and stated “Well this will do”. This quote though part myth may beaccurate in regards to the decision on where to locate the college.  The idea of the “University or College on the Hill” is deeply rooted with early campus planning. Academic seclusion and viewing down upon the un-educated masses was an impression that early academics wanted to portray. Since this style went with the old seminarian tradition of seclusion, it fit right in with Bishop Chase’s vision.

The college founding benefactor was James Gambier, Lord ofthe Admiralty who was a part of the Treaty of Ghent negotiations in 1813. The treaty ended the war of 1812 between the British and the United States. This relationship with an English Officer to Kenyon College might be due to Bishop Chase’s associations with the Episcopalian Church which “was” the Church of
England. The Episcopalian’s had to break away from the Church of England because pastors had to swear allegiance to the Monarch. The college needed money to be founded and the Bishop went to England and solicited prominent
members of English society to levy funds for the seminary’s creation and Lord
Gambier answered his pleas.

Architectural Styles

The English Gothic Revival style in the 18th might
be the result of College’s religious ties, but primarily due to the rise of
Gothic Revival Architecture in America. Gothic architecture was prominent in
English Church design since the layout in plan shaped a Latin cross. Kenyon’s
religious affiliations provided a welcoming home for Gothic Revival architecture.
This style was reinforced during the Collegiate Gothic period where Ivy League
universities like Princeton and the University of Pennsylvania were
constructing new Gothic Revival buildings in the 1890’s but Kenyon College has
the earliest American example in “Old Kenyon”.

Gothic architecture is easily identifiable. This style has
flying buttresses, ribbed vaults and pointed arch work. You can also identify a
Gothic building because they will often have high spires shooting up from the
main portion of the building. If you need to reference an iconic “Gothic”
building, think about the Cathedral from the Hunch Back of Notre-Dame, more
properly known as the Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Chartres. This example of Gothic architecture is considered the High Gothic style, but you can see some of the key characteristics when identifying these buildings. A few of the images will show examples of these characteristics that attribute to Kenyon’s Gothic character.

Kenyon College established a quadrangle or “Quad” as the
organizational layout method of their buildings. This style is universally
adopted throughout the United States. This method of design was taken from the
Oxford University design organization. This method of design layout conveys
control. The orderly appearance brought by the quad style is
reinforced by an alleé of trees which visually connects one building to another.
The alleé is an element taken from French garden design where geometric order is
established through plant material. This landscape style is in direct
communication with the architectural and organizational elements on Kenyon
College campus. Order and logic goes hand and hand with academia and religion.

The design languages used on Kenyon College’s communicate a
very European feeling. Looking at a Birdseye view, if you did not know that
Kenyon College was located in Ohio, you would think that it would be a nestled
upon a New England or English countryside. Much to Ohio’s credit the college is
their own, and the community of Gambier benefits from having it nearby.

Notable Architecture

Old Kenyon: Completed in 1829 the Charles Bulfinch the famed architect of the U.S. Capitol building is said to have contributed to the design of the first permanent building on Kenyon College’s campus. It is said to be the first example of Collegiate Gothic architecture in the United States. Old Kenyone has a long and somewhat sad history. It burned twice, where many lives were lost. Old Kenyon is said to be haunted by a ghost called “Stewie”. A DKE pledge who died on the “Trestle” a bridge located on campus.  Despite the sadder notes of the buildings history, Old Kenyon is one of the more popular buildings on campus.

Rosse Hall: This
is the college’s first chapel completed in 1843 and designed by Charles
Prezriminsky. It is in the Classical Revival Style with a triangular pediment
and columns reminiscent of a Greek temple.

Bexley Hall: Originally the home of Kenyon’s seminary this building was
designed in the Collegiate Gothic style by the distinguished English architect
Henry Roberts.

Ascension Hall: Built in 1859 and designed by William Tinsley. It was designed in
the Victorian Gothic style and the building served as the primary academic
building on campus until new ones were added later.

Same building as the first image in this post

Middle Path: Middle path is the central artery that runs the entire length of
Kenyon College. Middle Path has an allee of trees lining it providing a cozy
since of enclosure to the pedestrian pathway. This artery establishes a central
“agora” where students can meet put up booths for advertising clubs or causes.  Agora is a Greek term for market place or  gathering area. This Greek term is properly designated to Middle Path, since the path is punctuated by Rosse a Greek Revival Building.


Kenyon College communicates through architecture and landscape
architecture that this is a place of order and education. It is very much in
the European tradition aesthetically. The character of this campus is so
profound that it transcends its geography into a realm of high design. It has
shaken my perception of associating architecture and organization with a
specific region. Kenyon College has inspired me to visit Gambier, because it truly
is one of the most beautiful “places” in the United States.

Tomorrow we will be heading below the “Mason-Dixon” line to the
great school of Alabama. Until you read again designers.

Best Regards,



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University of Minnesota (U of M)

Greetings Designers,

Today is University of Minnesota, Twin Cities campus day. I
visited Minnesota 4 years ago and the distinct differences between Minneapolis
and St. Paul made a major impact on me. This was before I was interested in
design and architecture, but the Victorian architecture in St. Paul, and the
grounds at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis moved me in very profound, but
very different ways. This article takes a look at the University of Minnesota and the relationships between the cities created a foundation that makes U
of M one of the most beautiful Campuses in the United States.

Historical and
Geographical Context

The University of Minnesota was founded in 1851. The
University has campuses in both Minneapolis and St. Paul and many other
locations. Receives multiple grants but one in particular is related more to
the history of the campus and the development of the Twin Cities metro area. U
of M is a land-grant university and they are academic institutions that received
federally controlled to develop academic programs that taught practical
agriculture, science and engineering after the passing of the Morrill Acts in
1862 and 1890. This act was in response to the industrial revolution. The
Morrill Acts made possible the expansion of academic institutions in the 19th

The 19th century saw unprecedented growth in Minneapolis and
St. Paul because of their proximity to water.  Water powered mills sprang up all over
Minneapolis and this enabled the refinement of flour and lumber possible.  The lumber industry became especially popular
in these cities because of the abundance of white pine trees. This type of wood
was a major commodity during the industrial revolution. White pines are light
pieces of lumber and float very easily, making the river an integral part of
the logging process. This process generated development throughout Minneapolis
and St. Paul and this economic prosperity endeared these cities and the campus
to the river.

After the Civil War and the financial crisis that occurred
during this period the cities and the University grew together, but culturally became
very different. Religion and water are the two most important things that
influenced the design and layout of St. Paul and Minneapolis. St. Paul has an
older more east coast aesthetic, and Minneapolis has a younger, more modern
feeling. It created a cultural and aesthetic dichotomy between these two cities
and a friendly, well sometimes friendly rivalry took place. The intensity
resulted in parallel construction. St. Paul built a Cathedral, Minneapolis
built a Basilica, and the architectural differences this rivalry became so
intense that architects would not be employed by the other city. This caused
each city to develop in two very distinct and interesting ways, and this unique
character spills over into the University of Minnesota.

East and West Bank

The University of Minnesota, Minneapolis’s campus is split
by the Mississippi River. The east bank has some of the oldest buildings on U
of M’s campus. The east bank primarily houses the science and athletic
departments. The art departments call the west bank of the Mississippi
home.  The Knoll Area is the oldest part
of campus and this area is located on the east bank of the Mississippi. The
east bank also includes Northrop Mall, The Health Area, Athletic Area, and the
Gateway areas. The West Bank does not have areas, they have departments. The
west bank outside of the art departments the west bank has the Carlson School
of Management, and the Law School.  The
geography alone explains what department a student is a part of. I can just
picture a conversation between three students who go to school at U of M:

Student 1 : “So where are your classes?”

Student 2: “Pretty much all on the west bank?”

Student 1: “Artist huh?”

Student 2: “Yep.”

Student 2: “How about you (to a third student)?”

Student 3: “Oh! I go to the St. Paul campus.”

Student 2: “designer huh?”

Student 3: “Yep!”

That last part of the exchange was a quick aside about St.
Paul’s campus. The design school is located on St. Paul’s campus, aptly
located, because St. Paul has superb examples of Victorian architecture.

The physical boundaries created a convenient way for the
university to organize the development and locations of their department
buildings. Grouping departments creates a convenient and safe traveling
environment for the students. Yet, it has subtle hints of the area’s history,
by placing opposing ideologies and focuses in different identifiable groupings,
much like Minneapolis and St. Paul.

Notable Architect

The University of Minnesota, Minneapolis has excellent
architectural examples due to the industrialization of the area. Minneapolis
was a modern city and early in the college it attracted a famous architect by
the name of Cass Gilbert who designed the United States Supreme Court Building.
He was a student of the Beaux Arts style where flat roof tops, arches, arched
and pediment doors sculptures, a rusticated first floor, and place hierarchy
were paramount. Mr. Gilbert presented designs that were quite elaborate and
unrealistic to implement in full, but the designs influenced the development
and architectural style of the Northrop Mall Area located in the heart of U of
M’s campus.

Notable Architecture

  • The University of Minnesota’s Armory: Built in 1896 by designer Charles Aldrich who designed the building to look like
    a Norman Castle with a high rounded tower, with a corbelled parapet.

  • Pillsbury Hall: LeRoy Buffington and Harvey Ellis designed the Science building which
    would later become Pillsbury Hall. The Hall was built-in the Richardsonian
    Romanesque style. Look at the stone work, Professor George Curry of the SUNY
    College of Environmental Science and Forestry described Richardsonian
    architecture once as “muscular looking”. This building was built during the
    Midwestern period of Mr. Ellis design life. During his time in the Midwest he
    and Mr. Buffington designed Minneapolis’s City Hall, F.B Hart House, and S.C.
    Gale house all of which are located in Minneapolis. He designed only one
    building in St. Paul and it was a dormitory for the State Experimental Farm
    School, on U of M’s St. Paul campus. The rivalry between the two cities would
    have probably barred this from happening if Mr. Ellis was not doing this for
    the University.

  • Frederick R. Weisman Art Museum: Constructed
    in 1993 it is the premiere example of a modern art building on campus. It was
    designed by Frank Gehry and Associates and the building glints and glimmers
    amongst the Romanesque style buildings.

  • Washington Avenue Bridge: The Bridge was designed by Sverdrup and Parcel engineers
    that created the only double-decker bridge in the Twin City areas. The upper level
    houses pedestrians and the vehicles speed by on the lower level. This design
    provides pedestrian safety from vehicular traffic over the mighty Mississippi
    to each bank of U of M’s campus. Unfortunately Minnesota has terrible winters
    and the bridge did not have cover from the elements. Later a poorly designed
    cover was placed on the bridge for the pedestrians.

  • McNamara Alumni Center and Gateway Plaza: What can I say? The building looks like a big rock. This would be a bad thing if this was not what the designer Antoine Predock and KKE architects were going for. The building looks like it is an ancient torture chamber, or something that the river spit out during a big flood. Yet it is adds to the intrigue of the campus, and if nothing else the
    building can spark an interesting conversation.


There are so many buildings that contribute to the beauty
and interest of this campus and within the context of each other, it creates a
very striking appearance. Beauty is a controversial term therefore to
understand why I chose the University of Minnesota I must define what I believe
beauty is. Ultimately my definition of beauty is something that inspires
curiosity. Curiosity is an extremely important attribute for a person, and in
particular a designer when analyzing or reviewing designs. I believe this is
why we are always intrigued by anything historic. Scar marks in brick buildings
that were built when wagon wheels would rip through narrow alleys, or creating
elaborate facades for buildings along canals. It is the story of a place that
makes it beautiful and the University of Minnesota has a beautiful story. The
Beaux Arts and Richardsonian buildings appear to be carved out by the
Mississippi River. The University’s layout and how it utilizes the physical
boundaries begs you to delve into the why and how of the campus design.  If all else fails, and none of the
architecture or designs interest you when visiting. Watch the river. Flowing
water and the deep down connection we all have with it is enough to make any
campus beautiful.

Tomorrow I will be taking a look at Kenyon College.  Please share these articles and please like
them on Facebook. I look forward to any questions or comments.

Best Regards,



AIA’s Guide to the Twin Cities

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50 of the Most Beautiful College Campuses

Greetings designers,

In the spirit of school starting I have decided to blog about 50 of the most beautiful college campuses in the United States. The order is arbitrary, but the purpose is to provide a historic and design background on some of the most heavily planned and sacred landscapes in the United States. During the course of my writeup, if there are any comments or recommendations about the landscapes I will be reporting on, please do not hesitate to contact me. Tomorrow I will be posting about the University of Minnesota.

Best Regards,


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A real connection?

I have been thinking about my last article and whether the digital world is enough, and it launched me into thinking about video games. I talked about making a real connection by experiencing all that a landscape has to offer. Yet, I find that I am at odds with myself when I consider video games and the environments that programmers create. Many artists and designers would argue that video games are not an art form or real places because they so nor stimulate all the sense. For video games I guess they are lacking in the sense of touch, and smell arenas. Innovations are happening everyday, so this may not last very long. Plus You do not need all of the senses to appreciate fine art or a place. First, You can not touch or smell a painting in an art gallery. You smell the gallery just like when you play a video game and you smell your stale pizza and Mountain Dew that sit inches away from your keyboard, or controllers.  Secondly, “Flower” for PS3, you play that game and tell me that it is not art.   Finally, video game designers have to consider form and function while designing a built environment. They also have to consider how people will experience and interact  with their environments. Though the materials required to construct digital landscapes require a computer and a dream. Yet, the concept of human interaction with a digital environment provokes interesting thoughts about how people experience places. Video game engines may provide a new frontier on experimentation with design solutions

Video games can be beneficial to architects and landscape architects during the design process. You may argue that Google SketchUp and other design softwares allow you to zoom in and create animations. Not every landscape, or person experiencing your design will want to follow the exact path the designer laid out. Video games can offer open world experimentation. The video game “The Elder Scrolls IV Oblivion, made by Bethesda” is an excellent example of an open world gaming engine that allows the user explore the world around them without a linear progression. Most designs will fall into this category where the way a person enters a site will determine the locations of design elements. 

The difference between design and science is that their can be no experiments. Designers can issue surveys and develop statistical reports on elements present in existing built landscapes, but design concepts a.k.a hypothesis can never truly be tested. Simulation allows scientists to test a hypothesis. Architects and landscape architects can utilize video game engines, so people can utilize an avatar to explore designs before they are constructed. Designers could learn a lot about their designs when placing people in hypothetical situations within the context of their design. The possibilities are endless, and it will ultimately result in implementing designs that people actually enjoy.

Landscape design is about the creation of an experience. When places are being designed and built their purpose is to be functional and/or recreational. Designers develop ways of making the daily commute more pleasurable by implementing street trees, or routing a road that pass by magnificent vistas. Parks are designed to pull people in and allow for a sense of retreat from the hustle and bustle of their daily lives. Video game landscapes provide a similar recreational experience when people are looking to get away for a while. Why not utilize this tool during the design process and put video gamers to work on providing information  valuable design information, so that a “real” connection can be made to a place.

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Is the digital world enough?

Lately I have been thinking, is the digital world enough? I know the initial reaction is, “OF COURSE…not? The information age has provided apps, photos, and tv where reality is programmed by someone’s whim. Our online profiles have been integrated into our personas that people have caused “real” harm to themselves or their relationships. People have been filing themselves into the legendary 33% rule designations. 33% think that their  Facebook page, twitter feeds, and google images are more important than calling their parents, going on a date, and playing with their children. The opposite end of the spectrum believes that computers will be the end of the and we should all go back to telegraphs and smoke signals. At times I fall in line with either camp depending how my week is going, but most of the time, I fall within the 33% that would order their pizza online, so they can have dinner before the highschool football game up the road. Both schools of thought have validity, but the middle 33 look at digital devices as a tool to better their “real” life.

As a landscape designer I utilize computers for 70-90% of my design work, but the goal of the design solution is to be 100% real. This difficulty about trying to put more of my time into hand renderings is that I get challenged to develop a design for a place that I  have never been to, nor even heard about. Therefore my first reaction is Google it. I take out my laptop and check out images, websites, and in some cases or a book on Amazon to learn more about the context in which I am designing. Once I start in the digital world it is difficult and more time-consuming to exit out of digital mode. The positive about being digital is that I am able to obtain information that may not have been available by physically visiting a place. Yet I still feel something missing when I churn out designs without visiting a site.

My dad always says that he’s been everywhere, because “he’s watched it on the discovery channel”. This may all be well and good and in many ways this can be enough for designers to come up with magnificent concepts that are perfect for the place. Yet, for us non-geniuses, an appreciation for a place does not take hold until every sense that we possess is stimulated. A good example is when I first visited “Millennium Park” in Chicago. During my graduate school years I was always told about the park by my instructors. They said it was an excellent park. They would go on and on about “Crown Fountain” and how amazing the reflection cloud was. When I saw pictures of these places, I would roll my eyes and say, “eh doesn’t seem like much.” I appreciated the fact that it probably took a lot of work to get something like that built-in the heart of Chicago, but come on I grew up a short drive from Central Park. How could Millennium Park be as good as Central Park?

Well in 2009 I finally had my chance to go to Millennium Park. I took the train from Syracuse to Chicago for the ASLA convention (never do by the way). My classmates and I took a tour of the park with a few of our professors and let me tell you, my eyes were opened. with in a few minutes of being around Crown Fountain I took my shoes off and started playing in the water like I was 7 years old. The same happened when I walked underneath Cloud Gate. I was awestruck. It was a mix of scale and environment that affected me so much. Hearing the city in the background, mixed in with laughter, and food was quite profound. I guess the point is you never get the full experience of a place until you mix digital research (I lump books and internet browsing in this category, because something digital produced the book) and a site visit.

The reason Gettysburg means so much to me is because I know the history of the place, so when I visited the sites, the place was much more sacred to me. When I would approach a site in which I read the extensive histories, my senses would be heightened, because I had a prior connection to the place. A place that I have never been to before. It is about connection, and connections can not take place unless there are at least two things ready to be joined. I believe it is at the heart of why Facebook and Twitter are popular. Unfortunately the availability of information prevents real connections from taking place. Below is a list of landscapes that I have never visited but I have knowledge through research:

  • Ellis Island, New York City: Been to New York dozens of times, and never been.
  • Niagara Falls: For the love of God I have lived a few hours away and never made to one of the most impressive natural wonders this side of the Mississippi.
  • Valley Forge, PA: I was there before I could drool properly. Need to revisit.
  • Fort Ticonderoga, NY: See above
  • Minute Man National Park Concord Massachusetts: I finished reading 1776 by David McCullough, awesome book would love to see where the American Revolution began.
  • Falling Water Bear Run, PA

Knowledge and experience are two very different things, but they are not autonomous of each other. I believe that my development as a designer requires a mixture of the two.

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a new format

greeting folks,

i know that my web endeavors have had a rocky start, but reading, writing, and designing has taught me that failure is an option. pick yourself back up and try again. being unemployed grants me quite a bit of free time. i can a. sit on the couch with a bag a potato chips, b. improve upon my craft, or c. find a job. i am trying to fill my days out with something a mix of both b. and c (maybe a little of a.).

my parents’ outdoor dining area takes up a chunk of time. building the patio has taught me quite a few lessons about the rubber meeting the road. the second thing is improving my craft. there are so many exercises that can be done to expand my skill base. one exercise that i found mentioned checking out the “7 days of interesting photos” on flickr. the wise blogger whose blog i can not find anymore said to pick a number between 1 and 10 and reload the 7 days of interesting photos based on the number you chose. i found it to be an interesting way of jump starting my mind to think like a designer again. it would seem that it would help when you hit a  creative block. finding an image to reproduce, or use as an inspiration can really help you over come those design barriers. 

the website has been a new world of criticism and education. thankfully i was smart enough to send the link to my friends before sending it off to possible employers. there were errors galore. the feedback i received did wonders for my site as well as my development as a designer.

the biggest hurdle now is finding a job. i receive advice in many shapes and forms. i tend to follow every rainbow that friends and family put before me, but some are more difficult follow. i do not want to go into a diatribe of watching the market crumble before my eyes, but it does not make getting employed easier. 

what do you think? i am always looking for ways to better market myself. leave a comment providing me with some of your sage wisdom. are there any interesting softwares that I should learn (and are there free versions)? what do you like about my site? should i add or take away anything. the worse thing for a designer is to sit and think without feedback. keep it coming, it gives me a reason to wake up in the morning that and sleeping in too late gives me a headache.

i look forward to your thoughts. 

best regards,


link to my site

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Something Out of a Video Game: The Clockwork City and the Realm of Possibility

Sifting through my seemingly endless amounts of Twitter feeds  I cam across a link from the Architecture Report that piqued my interest (  The Clockwork City utilizes circular planes that rotate portions of the city that moves locations that at one moment the furthest point from the daily commuter to the closest point. They say after a 10 minute waiting period for the portion of the city you need to rotate will create a maximum walking time of 8 minutes to your desired destination. The video from the link reminded me of the cities designed in the Final Fantasy games that I played in my youth. I am not sure if this was created by a designer who was a gamer, but the first thing I found when Googling “Clockwork City” was a wiki page for the Elder Scrolls: Tribunal video gameCoincidence or not the idea, although impractical in many cases, dances with the imagination.

A few criticisms from (a few links down from the Elder Scrolls Google Link is that the energy and transportation of goods and services would make the creation of such a city impractical. Necessity is the father/mother of invention and these problems can be addressed through technological innovations. One criticism was restocking supermarkets and delivering heavy materials to constructions sites. It would be difficult in the pedestrian Clockwork City to effectively bring these materials to their customers. Most of the time these materials require trucks to transport them to their end destination, to be off loaded by heavy machinery. The History Channel provides a solution yet again when the recently ran a show that explored advancements in neurosciences. Neuroscientists are developing technologies that can create movement in a paraplegic through the use of a computer. This is just the first step in the creation of an exoskeletons that can make a paraplegic walk, or enable super human strength. The exoskeleton mentioned on the History Channel fixes the delivery problem.  Another criticism was fire departments and emergency personnel getting help to people who need it. First, ambulances mainly respond to car accidents, and without cars in the city their demand is reduced. Nonetheless emergency personnel would get to people in need, safer and faster than our current methods. Plus the placement of medical and fire services addresses that criticism.  Though my solutions sound like something out of science fiction, the essence of imagination is the broadening of the mind to frontiers that push humanity to better ways of living.

Think of the ever-changing landscape and skyline of a Clockwork City. The very concept inspires realistic innovations with our current technology. I can not help but think of a green house with a rotating floor enabling a regulation of sun exposure for plants. Picture a park where people sit while the landscape rotates around them providing new views every 10 minutes. This can be done at a smaller scale in one of our current cities. The advertising writes itself, can you say “Clockwork Park?” I know it is difficult for us to push our imaginations to these frontiers when the space program is marginalized, and practicality is the solution to economic strife. I would like to challenge industry leaders to remember that imagination is the most valuable commodity when trying climb out of a recession.

Best Regards,

Chris Henry

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The More I read…

John Adams, had it absolutely correct when he said, “The longer I live, the more I read,  the more patiently I consider, and the more anxiously I inquire, the less I seem to know. My education at the State University of New York’s College of Environmental Science and Forestry was my first step into finding how little I know of landscape architecture. I cut, scribbled, glued, rendered, and clicked my way into becoming a designer. I graduated on May 15, 2011 with high marks. However, My truest education on my profession, and life will take place beyond those hallowed halls.

This blog is a pursuit in cataloguing my formation as a designer, and overall contributor to this society. It has long been in my heart to serve the common good, not out of personal gain, but rather a sense of duty. Though duty does not fill my pockets with riches at the moment; it is my desire to dig as deeply as I can into the worlds of landscape architecture and planning. Some posts may seem to veer off into reaches unknown, however those who are familiar with the profession know that the depth and breath of Landscape Architecture is limitless. The final goal is to write, draw, and communicate my way through these days that are mine to find out, how little of life I actually know. It is my hope you come along on the adventure and find out how accurate President Adams was.

Best Regards,


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