Winston Churchill said, “We shape our buildings; thereafter they shape us.” Indeed, buildings are a reflection of the people who build them and the time in which they are built. Likewise, colleges and universities are some of the most designed, layered, and symbolic built landscapes in society. This website is an investigation into the built landscape of one American college – The College of Wooster. This website details my ‘archaeological’ and historical investigation into four of the most iconic and historic buildings on campus. They are: Kauke Hall, the main humanities building, Frick Hall, the original library and now a science library, McGaw Chapel and its predecessor, Memorial Chapel, and Severance Gymnasium, now home of the art department and known as Ebert Art Center.
What can the study of the buildings, architecture, and the campus plan of American colleges tell us? The American campus, although influenced heavily by its European counterparts, is a distinct American invention. From arguably the first true American campus, the University of Virginia’s “Academical Village” to today, this American campus tradition was born out of the distinct ideals of democracy, nature, and wilderness.1 Campus buildings often have set purposes tied in with symbolic meanings, as they are a reflection of the ideas, the culture, and the institution that built them. Campus buildings are a representation of the institution itself – How it sees itself, how it wants to been seen, and what it hopes to instill through art, architecture, and imagery. The ultimate question of buildings in a college setting is this – does curriculum drive architecture? Or, does architecture drive curriculum?
This project therefore is an investigation into the construction and meanings behind the built landscape of The College of Wooster. How has the program in Independent Study (a required senior thesis project) driven campus architecture? How does campus memory affect college buildings and their design? Take a look at the four buildings and my interpretation of them – do you agree or disagree? What did I get wrong? What did I get right? Let me know – there are many different ways to comment on this website.
photograph courtesy of COWSC
- Turner, Campus, 3-8. ↩