Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Geography; when universities are spread out

My current university is in a definitively urban area, the kind where the blue light phones are definitely needed and parking is a constant struggle, yet it's very spread out.

The relevant academic buildings, including related departments and research centers, the library, and the gym are no closer than half a mile away, many are 1 1/2 miles from here. Even some buildings associated with the same department are half a mile from each other. I don't even know where the library is, because the 1 1/2 mile excursion is more of a commitment than I've thus far been willing to make, and regular attendance at the Wednesday lunchtime seminar requires a bicycle. Other universities in my city, just a few miles away, have closely-spaced buildings, but whoever laid out this campus decided to put buildings far apart from each other, even related buildings.

I truly do not understand how a university could come to this state: it's like someone decided to build the university one building at a time: set the building far back from the street so it didn't look too urban, put grass around it so no one else can use the land, put a parking lot nearby, and repeat for each building, ensuring a maximum density of 1-3 buildings per block.

My university is not the only one. Last year, I interviewed at a campus where land is very expensive, and yet it was necessary to drive from one part of campus to the other, for no apparent reason: the land between the buildings wasn't being used for much. Presumably, land used to be less expensive when the campus was originally laid out, though it still doesn't make sense they wouldn't put the buildings closer together.

As are many universities, the school is trying to improve itself, and yet I venture to say that it couldn't possibly be successful until they acquire a more standard urban campus layout. The poor layout is one reason I couldn't stay here longer than absolutely necessary.

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