Universities with ambition

Universities with ambition

Universities competing in a global environment require a world class setting. They need to be outward looking, and well integrated into the local community. They need high quality public realm which provides exciting and creative spaces to maximise chance encounters and exchange.

LDA Design toured five successful universities in the US which are doing some hard thinking about new development

Each of the five American universities that we visited, in New York, Philadelphia and Chicago, was determined to stand out through quality of place.   We drew five lessons from the tour

  1. Creating a place of genuine value   A growing number of students are choosing to study in a city centre, which often means alongside disadvantaged communities. American universities are avoiding a ‘town and gown’ divide by investing heavily in good urban design. By connecting the campus into its surroundings, and strengthening local identity, they are serving local residents and workers, students and staff alike.
  2. Help to turn the neighbourhood around   In the US, universities are actively using their financial muscle in economic regeneration.  They are partnering with commercial tenants to kickstart vitality in the neighbourhood and  subsidising rents to encourage a night-
  3. Start with people, not the buildings    Campuses are judged on the quality of their public realm.  Forward-looking universities are starting their masterplanning by thinking about how people will use the place, rather than where the buildings will go.
  4. Extract full value from public realm   Public realm is wasted as a backdrop: it needs to actively serve the university programme, with multi-functional spaces to support collaborative learning.  With the rise of online learning, there is growing demand for hub buildings. Good public realm blurs the boundaries between inside and outside,  to make the campus feel welcoming and inclusive.
  5. Provide decisive governance  The five US universities we visited are aligning their academic vision with a spatial solution that supports their goals. This is not as easy as it sounds. It means taking hard decisions, and sticking with them.

Succeeding in a competitive market

LDA Design has delivered many masterplans for the higher education sector. We have worked for University College London East; Birmingham Eastside’s Learning Technology and Leisure Quarter; the University of Exeter; Oxford’s Old Road Campus research campus in a parkland setting and the New Museums site in Cambridge.

If you would like to hear more, please contact: Robert.Aspland@lda-design.co.uk, Bernie.Foulkes@lda-design.co.uk or Selina.Mason@lda-design.co.uk


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