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Brenda's Journey
Utopia

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Summer 1997
Utopia
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Strung along these paths, like beads on a thread, are grassy courts, patios and fountains -- places to gather with friends or step aside for a quiet moment. Some of the spaces were inexpensive transformations, from shrubbery -- which may be nice to look at, but cannot be sat upon -- to lawn. There is also an active program to replace trees, some of which date back to the early years of the campus and are nearing the end of their lives. Sixty years is a ripe old age for eucalyptus -- 100 of which were planted in the 1930s along Westwood Plaza by the local DAR chapter as an homage to American presidents. Nearly half have succumbed to age or heavy rains, and the rest -- shaggy, towering and full of character -- may soon join them. Huge ficus trees have been transplanted to anchor the entry to Westwood Plaza, and seedlings will replace other casualties. The total number of trees on campus has grown to 15,000.

Where landscaping is more or less uncontroversial -- no one is likely to argue against planting a tree or a patch of grass -- other issues spark lively debate. Barton Myers, a member of the faculty who has spent much of his career as an architect planning university campuses in Canada and the U.S., is a passionate advocate of densification and mixed use. These qualities are evident in his design for Sunset Village, a student housing complex with a commons and classrooms. Myers sought to combine the traditional concept of the university as a tight-knit complex of student and public rooms -- a model derived from medieval monasteries -- and that of a more informal grouping that opens onto a loosely structured campus. At any rate, the village provides a popular alternative to the earlier generation of high-rise dorms.

Myers would like to go even further and construct housing over academic buildings in the heart of the campus, as he did at the University of Alberta, and as he proposed for a site owned by UCLA at the western edge of Westwood Village. "We should get away from the segregation of work and living," he argues. "UCLA should be at the cutting edge of urban design, a model that cities can learn from."

Others see practical objections to creating such a mix. Fisher points out that most academic buildings have to be built to a higher standard than residential space, and that a combination of the two would drive up the cost of housing. He notes, too, that most faculty are reluctant to hold classes away from the center. Currently there are 6,300 rooms on campus; 3,000 more may be added by the end of the decade to house freshmen, sophomores and single graduates. New facilities will likely be concentrated on the west side of campus to hold down the cost of infrastructure and services.

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