Campus Space

By Bryan • canada, china, Kingston, nanjing, queens, urban planning • 14 Feb 2009

Interestingly enough, I was thinking about public spaces this morning as I walked through the desolate, abandoned landscape that is Queen’s University – Reading Week Edition

One of the things I admire about the Queen’s campus is the way it effortlessly incorporates itself within the surrounding urban space, streets and fabric. The municipal streets slice straight through the campus as if it wasn’t even there.  There are not gates, entrances, arches are grandiose signage that delineates the campus from the rest of the community.  Students, faculty, residents and visitors just walk, drive, ski (in the winter), bike and possibly skip straight through as if there wasn’t even a university occupying the land.

This is contrast to say, some other Canadian universities I’ve visited (admittedly, I’ve only seen a few) and I am sure there are more like Queen’s.  UVic, for example, which well-known for it’s campus landscaping (despite the monstrous architecture) is a suburban campus built inside and around a three kilometre ring road with clear entrances and exits.  Simon Fraser University (Vancouver) is built on a mountain, as is the University of Northern British Columbia (Prince George).  The University of British Columbia (Vancouver) is sandwiched between the Pacific Ocean and a nice, but thick and protecting wall of giant timber.  Even McGill, which is smack in the middle of downtown Montreal has gates and defined entrances and exits.  Concordia is a little more urban quite incorporated into the downtown – I attended a conference there two weeks ago and walked right past the building I needed to be in.  I didn’t even know I was on a campus.

Chinese universities are also quite discrete from their surrounding space.  Many schools have, or are constructing, massive campuses out in the suburbs, creating what some people call ‘University Cities’.  These campuses are very isolated from the rest of the city and are almost all walled and gated, usually with guards. and curfews. The older, inner city campuses are very nice (Nanjing University, Nanjing Normal University etc.).  While they are gated from the surrounding city with defined entrances/exits their space remains permeable to the public, usually 24 hours a day. 

Nanjing Normal University Main Entrance – The Gate is always open

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Nanjing Normal University – Main Entrance Lane

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Nanjing University – Main Entrance Lane

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I don’t have, nor could I find a decent photos Queen’s Union and University intersection.  This is probably Queen’s most obvious sign…just to let you know you are on a campus.

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3 Responses

  1. You are right about the university cities or towns. That’s what makes them so charming!

  2. I quite like campuses that are within the city – not quite sold on the suburban variety, although their landscaping is quite good in some places.

  3. I agree with your thoughts on the Queens campus. My friends were showing me around Kingston a couple of months ago and suddenly we were on the university campus without any warning. I also am a fan of the more urban universities which often give the city a more diverse feel than a more suburban one might. BTW, great blog!

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