Four ways to reform a commuter campus


The typical suburban commuter campus, with free-standing buildings among leftover open spaces and parking lots. Rendering by DPZ/Sprawl Repair Manual.

The proposed repair reconstructs the fabric in the tradition of the classical American university campus. Rendering by DPZ/Sprawl Repair Manual.


Thousands of college campuses in the suburbs—whether they be full universities or community colleges—are poorly designed with buildings, parking lots, and open space scattered throughout their sites. Many of these campuses were designed in the late 20th Century with low-density, automobile-oriented land-use plans. The good news is that these campuses have plenty of room for redevelopment into  academic villages, as shown in these two images by Galina Tachieva, author of Sprawl Repair Manual and principal of DPZ Partners.

1) The buildings are placed in a freestanding way, with little relationship to one another, scattered around the campus with little or no hierarchy, among leftover open space and parking lots. The new design allows lots of new buildings in a far better organization.

2) The block structure is too large, not human scale. The repair creates smaller blocks by the introduction of new streets, which creates better connectivity and more sites for buildings.

3) The parking is dispersed and exposed. Structured parking is provided in the new plan, along with parking lots now hidden behind buildings. This allows for more density while parking has far less obvious and intrusive to someone traveling through campus.

4) The open space is poorly organized, often just filling gaps between buildings and parking lots. The entire plan is organized around axial relationships, which were barely discernible in the previous plan. This new plan creates open space that is more usable, makes a stronger impression on the visitor, and is comfortable to those who occupy the spaces because they feel enclosed by buildings, like a square, a quad, or a linear park.