Over fall break, I went to visit a friend from high school who goes to school at Gonzaga University. There are a lot of differences between her small liberal arts school and my larger pre-professional one, but something that really stood out to me was how different the campus architecture was.
Gonzaga is beautiful, as is Penn, but they are beautiful in very different ways. So, as she was in class, I sat in the state of the art student center overlooking their main sports field and did some research.
What I found, put simply, is that the architecture of a campus does have an effect on the culture of student life. The study, linked below, goes into a lot more detail than that, but for now, I will to suffice to say that there is an effect.
One example that I saw in real life is that Gonzaga has a huge intramural sports culture. As I mentioned, the student center overlooks the sports field. It has wall to floor windows on the entire east side of the building and the field is mere feet away. You can be a spectator just like you would be outside, but from the warmth of a brand new building. Even if you aren’t a purposeful spectator, as you sit doing your homework and sipping on Starbucks, sports are being played right next to you.
This purposeful design choice means that sports are in the student eye all the time. You are much more likely to join an intramural or club team if they are always playing right by where you do your homework than if they are tucked away, as ours are at Penn park.
Obviously college campuses are renowned for their beauty, but what I found so interesting about this little research project I embarked on was how design really can effect the way people act day to day. The central location of Penn’s frat houses leads to a much larger party culture at Penn than Gonzaga. Penn students stay up late on Saturday nights. Gonzaga students can’t do that because they have their intramural rugby game at 8 am on Sunday.
This is the power of design.
(A drawing of the proposed field and student center. Very similar to what it actually looks like)