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TP Msg. #1670 University Trends: Contemporary Campus Design (review)

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Today, universities comprise some of the biggest and most complex environments in the world. This scale necessitates that a university’s physical assets be part of a clear development strategy



The posting below is a review by Claire L. Turcotte of the book, University Trends: Contemporary Campus Design, by Jonathan Coulson, Paul Roberts, and Isabelle Taylor. The review appeared in Planning for Higher Education. Volume 46, Number 3, April-June 2018. Society for College and University Planning Copyright © 2018 Society for College and University Planning. All Rights Reserved. Reprinted with permission.



Rick Reis

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University Trends: Contemporary Campus Design (review)



The Turnberry team has done it again! In this second edition of University Trends: Contemporary Campus Design, authors Jonathan Coulson, Paul Roberts, and Isabelle Taylor continue to provide readers with current and useful information about worldwide university and college master planning and architecture.

Turnberry is a London-based management consulting and strategy development company. It has developed extensive expertise and experience in higher education institutions, sports facilities, and urban planning.

Turnberry’s first book, University Planning and Architecture: The Search for Perfection, was published in 2011. This was followed by the first edition of University Trends: Contemporary Campus Design in 2015, which includes case studies illustrating buildings and planning during the years 2011–2013. Both books were reviewed in the Society for College and University Planning’s journal Planning for Higher Education (Turcotte 2011, 2015).

Published in 2018, the second edition presents cases from 2014 to 2016 and is the subject of this review. This edition takes a current view of the changing multiple facets of campus design and builds on the first edition using the same useful format with updated information, relevant revised text, and many new cases and images. All three books are thoroughly researched, well organized, and global in perspective.

Let’s start with the cover. It appears to be a photograph of the new School of Government building at the University of Oxford and a mirror image of a nearby traditional campus building, which itself is reflected in the glazed walls of the new contemporary government building—a remarkable contrast of new and old.

As in the first edition, the book is divided into two parts: Part One is organized into 11 single building and master planning typologies; Part Two contains multiple case studies illustrating these types. The boundaries of these 11 types are fluid as some campus cases could fall into more than one category.

Part One

Part One typologies are described as follows:

•    Adaptive reuse. Adaptive reuse projects throughout Savannah, Georgia, at the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) illustrate this trend. SCAD has continued this repurposing pattern in its expansions in France and Hong Kong, reusing a historic building in Provence and a 1960s courthouse in Hong Kong. Yet another example is seen in the United Kingdom at Norwich University of the Arts. This university remodeled an 1879 Sunday School building for its architecture and media departments (2015).

•    Starchitecture. These statement buildings with their “Bilbao” or “wow” effect are exemplified by the Dr. Chau Chak Wing building (2015, Frank Gehry) at the University of Technology, Sydney. Another recent example of this trend is the Investcorp Building (2015, Zaha Hadid Architects) at the University of Oxford. This building responds to its context while losing none of Hadid’s usual éclat.

•    Hub buildings. A hub-type mixed-use place often combines a student union with a library, meeting rooms, and student services. This trend can be seen in the United Kingdom at the commuter campus of Coventry University. This hub space (2011, Hawkins/Brown) has transformed the campus by providing a 24-hour destination for studying, socializing, and student services.

•    Interdisciplinary research buildings. These buildings cross traditional department lines to foster research and collaboration. Examples include the Clark Center at Stanford University (2003), the Discovery Centre at the University of Dundee (2014), the Jerome L. Greene Science Center at Columbia University (2016), and the Altman Clinical and Translational Research Institute at the University of California, San Diego (2016). Private donors, private foundations, industry, and public bodies are often partners.

•    Joint-venture buildings. These collaborative and creative joint partnership ventures may take various forms on campus as two universities, a city and a university, or an industry and a university combine interests. The product varies and can be seen in London, across Europe, and in the United States in many innovative forms including science centers, libraries, and industry collaborations. An example is the Center for Applied Innovation (2016), which was designed to facilitate research efforts between the University of South Carolina and IBM.

•    Innovation. This is a new trend category in this edition. Universities are promoting these buildings as campus centerpieces and hubs of entrepreneurship and innovation. One example is Clemson University’s Watt Family Innovation Center (2015, Perkins+Will); in another, a Colombian construction materials producer funded a technology and innovation center at the Universidad EAFIT campus in Medellín. Similar schemes can be seen in Glasgow and in a large university in Chile.

•    New universities beyond the West. Higher education was long dominated by the West. Now, the boom in new universities is driven by emerging nations. This can be seen at the National University of Singapore, as well as universities and specialist science and technology institutions in India, Vietnam, Ecuador, and, particularly, China.

•    Urbanity. This trend is explored by examining how institutions are using their physical setting to better integrate with urban life. In the United States, the University of Pennsylvania is a well-known model of a civic anchor in Philadelphia. The university cleaned up the blighted area surrounding the campus through a series of interventions. Institutions in Canada, particularly the University of British Columbia, are developing a series of residential neighborhoods; Simon Fraser University has done similar development. Another observation is that urban campuses can provide economic benefits to their host cities.

•    Large-scale campus expansions. Campus expansions are illustrated by several projects, including the Manhattanville Project at Columbia University. This 17-acre addition will increase the size of the campus by a third. In 2016, FPT University in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, broke ground on an expanded new campus. In Hong Kong, Chu Hai College relocated to a new site. Hangzhou Normal University is currently building its ninth campus in Zhejiang, China.

•    Revitalizing master plans. This involves updating, revitalizing, and developing strategic plans to accommodate new and anticipated change and growth. For example, Cornell University developed master plans for the new Cornell Tech campus in New York. In the United Kingdom, the University of Oxford is developing master plans for its South Parks Science Center.

•    Online learning. Technology fuels the “Online Learning” section and the discussion of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). Online learning is likely to affect building types and the student experience. However, the authors state that in their view, these technologies “will not diminish the importance of the physical campus within the university experience” (p. 61).

The final pages of Part One comprise the “Looking to the Future” section. The authors see a future containing motifs of place, interaction, access, and efficiency. They note, “campus planning must now consider a repertoire of new spatial needs, from interdisciplinary science to social learning …. It is a difficult balancing act, which is, in turn, making the design of a university estate a much more complicated process” (p. 65).

Part Two

Part Two contains examples or cases of individual buildings or master planning projects based on the trends identified in Part One. Countless building and master planning ventures are in process, and a variety of examples are featured in the book. All are drawn from the period 2014–2016. The following presents a sampling from each category:

Adaptive reuse projects include the imaginative reuse of a 1925 steam plant that was transformed in 2014 into a new social center for students at Amherst College in Massachusetts. Another example is Tornhuset World Maritime University in Sweden. In 2015, this university acquired a new home with a dramatic modern façade housed in a 1910 building.

Starchitecture is seen on both the striking book cover and in this section in the images and discussion of the University of Oxford Blavatnik School of Government (Herzog & de Meuron, 2015). With its complex geometry, the exterior resembles a series of stacked drums. Another stunning building is the Innovation, Science and Technology Building at Florida Polytechnic University (Santiago Calatrava, 2014).

Hub buildings are exemplified by the Student Learning Centre at Ryerson University in downtown Toronto (Snøhetta, 2015). Another Canadian example is The Nest at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver designed by B+H Architects/DIALOG. Both of these buildings combine multiple functions to better serve students.

Interdisciplinary research buildings include an engineering building at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh designed by OFFICE 52 (2016). The building connects three components: a nanotechnology room, a laboratory block, and a public atrium.

Joint-venture buildings include a collaborative life sciences building in Portland, Oregon, that is a joint enterprise of three local institutions: Oregon Health and Science University, Portland State University, and Oregon State University. Designed by CO Architects/SERA Architects (2014), it is clearly a collaborative effort. Another joint venture is the Emory University and Georgia Institute of Technology Library Service Center. Located in Atlanta, it was designed by KSS (2016).

Innovation is illustrated by the Pennovation Center at the University of Pennsylvania. Located across the river from the main campus, this building designed by Hollwich Kushner (2016) is the university’s dedicated innovation hub. In the United Kingdom, the Ingenuity Centre at the University of Nottingham is a technology entrepreneurship center. Designed by Bond Bryan (2016), it supports the development of high-tech businesses.

New universities beyond the West presents the master plan of Singapore University of Technology and Design (Phase 1, 2015) by UN Studio. Another example of a master plan comes from the Universidad de Ingeniería y Technología in Lima, Peru. Grafton Architects (2015) designed this specialist engineering institution.

Urbanity is seen in the downtown Phoenix campus of Arizona State University, eight miles from the main campus in Tempe. Planners Ayers Saint Gross did the work. In Perth, Australia, Curtin University developed an ambitious 20-year plan to transform its campus from a suburban island by connecting to central Perth some four miles away.

Large-scale campus expansions include the Manchester Engineering Campus Development project at the University of Manchester. Master planner Mecanoo developed a 10-year plan to transform the campus that will consolidate the institution on a single site with an urban layout that engages the city.

Revitalizing master plans includes Erasmus University in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. Ad hoc planning did not meet the needs of the university, but through a new master planning initiative, the administration hopes to improve the campus. Another example of master planning comes from the Regeneración Technológico de Monterrey, a major industrial and entrepreneurial powerhouse in Mexico.


The authors invite readers to enjoy the images, research, observations, and findings contained in their new book. They note,

Today, universities comprise some of the biggest and most complex environments in the world. This scale necessitates that a university’s physical assets be part of a clear development strategy. Campus design is not an isolated action to be undertaken once the institutional strategic aims have been determined.… The task is not an easy one, it will necessitate increasingly sophisticated planning approaches; but when properly realized it will safeguard the rich tradition of campus design and ensure that higher education’s legacy of place is perpetuated throughout the twenty-first century and beyond. (p. 65)

This new edition is a valuable contribution to the discipline of campus planning and design.


Turcotte, C. L. 2011. Review of University Planning and Architecture: The Search for Perfection. Planning for Higher Education 39 (3): 234–36.

———. 2015. Review of University Trends: Contemporary Campus Design. Planning for Higher Education 43 (3): 80–84.


Author Biography

Claire L. Turcotte is the former managing editor of Planning for Higher Education, the journal of the Society for College and University Planning (SCUP). She was also project administrator for the SCUP-Getty Foundation Campus Heritage Initiative. She has a Ph.D. in urban and regional planning from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.