Pastoral Fantasies, Urban Realities: A Study of Campus Expansions at New York City Universities
Bryn Mawr College. Department of Growth and Structure of Cities
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The college campus is a uniquely American place. Often designed in the style of neoclassical academic and residential buildings surrounding green quads that are meant to emulate a sense of peace and admiration from its students, it was largely considered a “pastoral retreat” for elite young men until the later half of the 20th century. When both city and university space began to expand greatly, universities had to grapple with the reality of being located in urban centers and became “total worlds” to their students by sheltering them in a closed campus environment. This thesis looks at Columbia University and New York University (NYU), both located in New York City, to understand how university expansion projects lead to emulating a secluded campus within an already thriving urban framework. These institutions are contrasted to the City College of New York, part of the city’s main public university system, which has historically served more local populations and preserves a certain degree of openness within its campus. Ultimately, these university expansions show the desire to control land at the expense of usable public city space, and the resulting prestige attached to creating a cohesive campus image. The possibility of forming a college without a campus is explored in the conclusion as a way of imagining higher education in a more community-oriented and inclusive way.