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Practice : Fall 2008
feaTURe ] URban CaMPUs Planning By Sarah D. Kelly, Executive Director, Boston Preservation Alliance How can Boston’s colleges and universities plan for growth and change while capita lizing on their historic resourc es? This was the question a sked at a one- day Symposium on Ca mpus Heritage Planning hosted by the B oston Architectural College in October. The event, which wa s convened by the B oston Preser vation Allianc e a nd principally spon sored by Mayor Thomas M. Menino and the B oston Rede velopment Authority, drew over one hundred a nd sixty academic administrators, a rchitects, government official s, a nd other profession als to 951 Boylston Street for a n e xchange of information and ideas. Boston’s col leges and universi- ties bring hundreds of thousands of students, facult y, a nd researchers to the city each year. The unique a nd historic chara cter of Boston a nd the distinctivene ss of its many college campuses are a large part of why students find Boston a desirable place to live and study. But in order to remain competitive, academic institutions must also evolve. They must respond to changing student demands, from innovation s in curricula or state-of-the-a rt new facilities. For many colleges and universities in Boston, this competition has inspired strategic initiatives to improve upon and expand their existing campuses. “We are here today to have a ca ndid discussion about the future.” These opening words by Mayor Menino set the tone for the day. B oston, the Mayor affirmed, is privileged to ha ve forty-nine ac ademic institutions that bring talent and creativity to the city from around the world. Of equal va lue is the city’s rich historic built environment, which c annot languish but must be reinvested in, promoted, a nd continually improved upon. “ That’s why people come to Boston,” he concluded. “That’s why people send their kids to school in Boston.” Speakers from Columbia University, the University of Penn sylva nia, New York Univer- sity, Brown University, the Rhode Isl and School of Design (RISD), the Savannah College of Art and Design, and Emerson College shed light throughout the day on the many issues colleges and universi- ties face as they improve and enhance their existing campuses. These presentations, combined with comments from leading Boston area architects and planners, addressed critical challenges and opportunities f aced by urban institutions of higher learning in Boston and throughout the country as they plan for growth and change. The 951 Boylston Street location ser ved a s a ca se-in-point for one of the major themes of the day: the adaptive reuse of historic buildings on campuses to meet twenty-first c entury needs. Current planning for the rede velopment of the 19th century Richardsonian Romanesque Revival building gave attendees a first-hand look at the potential for preser vation projects to give new life to extraordinary historic structure s. “We’re using this space this year as a kind of model, a testing ground, a way of bringing people together to talk about preser vation principles and about what a de sign school ought to be like for the 21st Century,” commented BAC President Ted Landsmark. Examples from other institu- tions als o illuminated be st practice in restoration and adaptive reuse —from R ISD’s Fleet Library, which involved the tran sformation of a 1917 bank to a 130,000 volume library with up-to-date te chnologi- ca l capacity to Emerson’s Para- mount Center project, which will involve the renovation of two historic theatre buildings on Lower Washington Street in Boston to new performance space a nd a dormitory. A s these proje cts demonstrated, when institutions view historic buildings not a s liabilities, but a s possibilities for dyna mic inter vention, it can yield spect acular results. A s David Dixon, Principal at Goody Clancy, summarized, “It is about Campus heritage Planning : The Urban Challenge A one-day Symposium convened by the Boston Preser vation Alliance and hosted by the BAC fostered a dialogue on how colleges and universities can draw from the past to plan for the future. opposite page: Boston Architectural College, 951 Boylston Street PRaCTiCe 36