The memorable experiences of one’s education often take place in the most comfortable and socially engaging places on a campus. Campus planning has sometimes been neglectful of allowing for and creating such places, instead focusing more narrowly on single-use facilities and isolated design statements.
Harvard University has been quietly challenging this pattern and opening up to our Placemaking approach. PPS worked with the university’s North Campus – which previously felt disconnected from the school’s well-known Harvard Yard – to develop recommendations in 2005 regarding seasonal uses and short-term experiments to activate the campus and make it feel more connected to the Yard. In 2006, Harvard announced plans for a new Allston Campus, which will be built over the next 50 years. With PPS’s help, this plan is being framed, in part, around key campus destinations and connections to the surrounding community.
This semester, Harvard brought Placemaking to its main campus, establishing a Steering Committee on Common Space to make campus life even better. The Committee, dedicated to making sure the campus’ physical environment better supports the intellectual and social vitality of the University, has already installed colorful movable chairs and tables in Harvard Yard and the Radcliffe Quad. A variety of foods will be offered nearby, and student performances will further activate the spaces. For such a revered space, which never had any seating simply because there never was any historically, this is a big move and we applaud Harvard’s willingness to have a little fun with their most sacred space.
We are excited to see Placemaking being embraced on many college campuses. A former PPS intern has been leading campus Placemaking efforts on the campus of Colorado College. PPS has also been applying Placemaking to campuses in the development of new student unions, gathering areas and master plans on for institutions including, University of Madison Wisconsin, Stanford University, Duke University, George Mason University and University of Michigan Flint. Please share with us any examples that you may be involved with.
With Harvard taking these bold but simple steps, we are hopeful that campuses around the world will be inspired to find innovative ways to make their campuses more inviting and more memorable, and better contribute to the public realms of the communities they serve.