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Brenda's Journey
Utopia

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Summer 1997
Utopia
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Unlike NYU or Penn -- urban campuses that you can drive through as though they were a continuation of the city street grid -- UCLA generally allows only service vehicles to enter the area bounded by Circle Drive, except for a short distance along Westwood Plaza, north and south. The result is that this circuitous route becomes a "frontier" between town and gown. And therein lies a perplexing problem: Nobody wants to give up the traffic-free zone within, which provides a pedestrian haven of rare tranquillity, but everyone agrees that the boundary should feel welcoming and remain porous to the many thousands who visit the campus each day.

Then there are the twin demons of UCLA campus life -- signage and parking. There are currently dozens of different styles of signs dotting the landscape; some are adequate and attractive, some are neither. Clearly, a unified, logical system of legible signs needs to be adopted. Perhaps meeting the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act will hasten this process.

Some easing of the parking crunch is already evident. There are 22,000 spaces on campus, and construction crews are extending Lot 4 beneath the athletic field to add another 700. Parking capacity is likely to grow to 25,000 by the end of the decade.

There is also better access: An electronic-card system now provides an on-line inventory of available slots across campus, and computer-generated maps will be available by the end of the year -- although it is still easy to get lost as you try to find the way from the lots to other campus locations. "Why not borrow an idea from the Paris Metro?" suggests architect Barton Myers. "Signs in each lot would point you to an illuminated map by the exit, where you could press a button for the building you were seeking and be guided to it by a line of lights."

Once you've got your bearings, things look very bright indeed. The campus's master planners see as their greatest challenge making the university more productive and pleasurable by striking a balance between individual and communal needs, new buildings and open spaces. As landscape architect Mark Fisher explains, "We go back and forth, precinct by precinct, negotiating with the academic senate and the administration, showing them how the campus can be improved."

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