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Brenda's Journey
Utopia

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Summer 1997
Utopia
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In its early years, the campus was shaped by Beaux Arts principles of symmetry, clarity and axial planning. Those qualities were abandoned, along with the Beaux Arts love of ornament, during the explosive growth of UCLA in the post-war decades. A reaction set in against traditional ideas of order and coherence, and too often buildings were designed according to the whims of individual architects, with little regard for the common good. There was a sense of urgency about expanding facilities and housing to accommodate rapid growth in the number of students, and there was ample state funding to finance construction.

Now the pendulum has swung back, and tradition is again in favor. Staff architect Bill Gregory likens the present approach to the stitching together of a piece of ripped fabric. "We're trying to restore the original, cohesive plan, which had been obliterated," he says. "But we want to keep the richness and diversity -- too much order can be dull."

The task of the campus's architects is easier than it was 30 years ago, mainly because the student population today is stable; in another respect it is harder, because state funding now provides less than 25 percent of the university's operating budget. The goal has shifted from quantity to quality -- to upgrading or replacing labs, libraries, study and recreational facilities. "Building goes on constantly," says Oakley. "An institution has to be dynamic. Our role is to support the university's mission of education, research and service to the community, and to sustain a wonderful physical environment that will attract the best students and faculty."

Architecture is a major factor in creating such an environment, and the overall standard has improved sharply since Oakley's appointment in 1987. Architects are now selected not only for their talent, but also for their ability to achieve a sense of harmony and consistency, and thus strengthen those elements that make UCLA a special place. That implies respect for -- though not slavish devotion to -- the brick, terra-cotta and concrete used in Royce and Powell, Haines and Kinsey, as well as the paving around them, a palette of red and cream that can be as inspiring as Bruin blue and gold when used creatively. Buildings as different as the Chiller/Cogeneration Plant, the MacDonald Medical Research Laboratories and the Law Library extension demonstrate how inventively this vocabulary of materials can be employed.

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