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