Visit any college campus, even one known for aesthetic beauty, and you will find several features that make them appear less attractive. These features have little to nothing to do with architecture, but they may leave you with doubt as to how much care is taken to help the community, and tourists, feel safe. When it comes to a college campus, much like life at a workplace or in a community, perception is reality.
Here are five features that lead perceptions towards the negative.
Buildings with many front doors, but few that open and close. Ever visit a concert hall or sports venue, or a convention center such as the Javits Center in New York City, and find that you’re walking by a long row of doors, only to notice that only a handful open? I’ve seen this on college campuses, too. It not only makes me wonder who the building was designed for; it also shows that the building is difficult to secure.
Chains around green space and walkways. Urban planners call chained green spaces “passive parks.” The spaces are meant to make the campus appear more beautiful, more green. But the chains send another message on a college campus: keep off the grass. I’m sure that you have no doubt received admissions marketing brochures where students are taking a class, or studying outdoors on the grass. It makes the campus appear more inviting to prospective students. Chains show that the school is more concerned about the grass.
Ventilation shafts that sprout from the ground. Dining halls, physical plants and laboratories, among other buildings, need ventilation systems to release steam or gases into the air, much like your car has an exhaust system to release gases from a tailpipe. Most of the time you see vents on the tops of buildings. But sometimes they pop up from the ground, blowing hot air in your path. Obviously, no one wants you to go near these things, so they something equally ugly to be masked of from view, even if the fumes still blow in your direction.
Parking decks. They’re a necessary evil on many campuses. But most colleges pay little attention to how they’re designed. The College of New Jersey might be one exception. The deck most used by the public, the one closest to the athletic facilities, has a red brick facade to match the campus buildings. The most important concerns when you park in a deck can be described in three words: lights, camera, action. You want to know that there’s ample lighting, the security cameras are visible and always working and be able to find the easiest possible marked paths to enter, park and leave. The same holds true for surface parking lots.
Construction netting. I like when schools use wraps to wrap up their construction sites in a mural that will show what the finished product will look like when its completed. Rutgers-New Brunswick, among other schools, has done this for major construction projects. The wrap gives cause for optimism, and helps to warn passers-by to stay off the site. But I have also visited colleges that took a far less creative approach using fences or plastic netting. Construction sites where buildings are incomplete are far from attractive and far from safe for anyone who is not wearing protective gear.
No doubt that you will visit many campuses where there’s more beauty than ugliness around. But too much ugliness may compromise comforts for not only the students, but also the faculty and staff who work there every day. People prefer to walk around a college campus with a smile, hoping not to dodge too many unattractive nuisances along the way.
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