8/19/2010 Magazine Staff

Envisioning the Campus of the Future

The new Campus Master Plan articulates a vision for the F&M campus and community

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A confluence of factors, including success and good fortune, led to the College’s initiating a revision of its 2004 Campus Master Plan in 2007. The success is evident with a simple walk around the current Franklin & Marshall campus.

Your campus tour begins on Harrisburg Avenue, where you spy the Tylus Athletic Field, Brooks Tennis Center and College Row. Stroll through Williamson Parking Lot, and you are greeted by the Barshinger Life Sciences & Philosophy Building and the Carolyn W. and Robert S. Wohlsen Center for the Sustainable Environment. Veer to the right, and you will encounter the Ware, Bonchek and Brooks College House Commons additions and the Weis College House Commons under construction.

Continue to meander up toward Hartman Green, and you will find the Patricia E. Harris Center for Business, Government & Public Policy on your left. Pause for a moment to take a peek southward toward the atrium that fronts Jazzman’s Café in Distler House. Take a left over to College Avenue, and you will run straight into the Philadelphia Alumni Writers House, the Klehr Center for Jewish Life and the Joseph International Center.

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All these buildings and renovations have been completed—well ahead of schedule—since the last Master Plan update in 2004. That’s the successful reason behind the need for revising the plan. The good fortune is that F&M was presented with the opportunity to expand when land across Harrisburg Avenue became available. By acquiring additional acreage from both Armstrong World Industries and Norfolk Southern Rail Corporation and adding it to the existing North Campus, the College had the ability to rationally plan future academic and program growth through the end the of the century.

Wheels in Motion

The College brought back architect and planner Ayers-Saint-Gross, which helped create the 2004 plan, to work with the Campus Planning Steering Committee, co-chaired by Keith Orris, vice president of administrative services and business, government and community relations, and Dean Hammer, the John W. Wetzel Professor of Classics and Professor of Government and newly appointed Don for the fifth College House.

“It was exciting for Ayers-Saint-Gross to see all the changes that had happened to campus,” Orris says. “Seeing the availability of the lands across Harrisburg Avenue was to them a real game changer.”

The most obvious change is that the center of campus moves from Hartman Green to Harrisburg Avenue. Academic activity will be concentrated on the south side of Harrisburg Avenue, and athletic and recreational activity on the north side.

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With input from faculty, staff and students, the new Campus Master Plan is a flexible document intended as a guide for campus growth, establishing principles that serve as a framework for the development of future projects— both buildings and open spaces.

Some of the key planning issues included studying the entry and arrival sequence to the campus, which focused on identifying a site for the College’s “front gate” to possibly include a new Admission Building and a new Alumni Welcome Center. It also looked at finding a new gymnasium location, developing a clear parking and service strategy, investigating opportunities for new housing and providing a broad framework from which the campus can continue to grow by looking at the development of the property across Harrisburg Avenue.

The plan for the physical layout and transformation of the campus is guided by three underlying principles: It should highlight the College’s core mission as excellence in the liberal arts. It should foster the integration of all groups and areas of campus. And it should include considerations of how to maintain and renovate the interior spaces of existing buildings.

A Walk into the Future

The keystone of the first phase of the proposed plan is the creation of a pedestrian north-south College Walk, which will connect the northernmost and southernmost parts of campus, highlighting the centrality of the liberal arts mission to Franklin & Marshall life.

“Through thinking about the physical layout of the campus, we have the opportunity to convey what we want to say about ourselves,” Hammer says. “The College Walk visually connects the different parts of the campus, with the academic buildings as the identifiable spine of the College, and it conveys how the academic mission intersects with, and is enlivened by, different aspects of student and community life.”

The plan calls for this walk to run down the entire one-mile center of campus and to be made of Pennsylvania bluestone bordered by red brick with a flush granite curb. From here, walkers will easily be able to access all the academic buildings and also be near other key parts of campus, such as Old Main, the Shadek-Fackenthal Library and the residential quad, to help foster the merging of academic, student and community life.

To cement that merger, the plan also calls for a new portal to the College along Harrisburg Avenue. “The arrival experience was incredibly important this time around,” Orris says. “We looked at a number of colleges to craft and develop a new arrival sequence. We want you to drive down Harrisburg Avenue and have the campus unfold around you.”

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In addition to adding an Admission Building and an Alumni Welcome Center, part of the arrival includes the fifth College House, which was designed by the architectural firm of Robert A.M. Stern in the Georgian revival style of renowned architect Charles Klauder, who designed many of the College’s early 20th-century buildings. “As part of this master plan update, we committed to returning to Klauder’s interpretation of Georgian architecture for all new buildings constructed on the core campus, which will make a very powerful impression when you arrive on campus,” Orris says.

The College also wants to convey a sense of vibrancy and excitement, already evident with the Tylus Athletic Field, “especially at night when the lights are on,” Orris says. “It is part of the positive message that says ‘exciting things are happening here and I want to be a part of it.’”

The plan also calls for the campus to become pedestrian-only by shifting parking and vehicular traffic to the periphery. Orris calls this piece “transformational.” The plan calls for Williamson Parking Lot to eventually become a green, and the football stadium to be moved across Harrisburg Avenue.

In the second phase, the College would move the athletic programs from Mayser Center into an addition to the Alumni Sports & Fitness Center. Replacing Mayser would be a new Student Center. “I am as excited about a new student center as any aspect of the plan,” Hammer says. “I imagine the Student Center as a vibrant, populated, multi-functional space that energizes the entire campus and gives it a core. It serves as a nice complement to the House commons areas, which have provided more intimate spaces for students to gather.”

While Orris stresses this new Campus Master Plan maps out the possibility of what the campus could look like in the next 25 to 50 years, the last phase of the plan, which extends to 2031, has another exciting proposal: A new academic quadrangle.

“We are creating a space for a new academic quad that would go in where the football field is now,” Orris says. “The majority of the buildings that have been constructed or remodeled in the last several years served to enhance and expand the academic programs. Opening up the area for a new academic quad, however, would allow for brand new space for the College to continue to grow its academic programs for decades to come, a rare opportunity for an urban campus.”

Downloadable PDFs of the complete Campus Master Plan and the Landscape Master Plan & Caroline S. Nunan Arboretum can be found at www.fandm.edu/facilities-planning
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