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    University Design: Part I

    By jlgordon
    Apr 12, '16 3:51 PM EST

    Click for full size image

    Our new series explores the history and future of university design. The first three installments detail key moments in university design history. The fourth and final installment discusses current trends in the field.

    Athens – c. 380 BCE

    “I am going, I said, from the Academy straight to the Lyceum.” -- Plato, from Lysis

    Athens was the home to the first formal institutions of higher learning in the Western world. Plato’s Academy opened its doors in the mid-380s BCE. Aristotle studied at the Academy for twenty years before opening his own school – the Lyceum – in 334 BCE.

    Athenian education aimed to shape both the mind and the body. Students held foot races on dromoi, wrestled in the palestra, attended lectures, and studied the maps and statuary that lined the stoa. Evidence indicates there were not dedicated classrooms at either the Academy or the Lyceum; instead, most of the learning happened in informal discussions and open-air lectures.

    Kingdom of Magadha – c. 600

    “The richly adorned towers, and the fairy -like turrets, like pointed hill- tops, are congregated together. The observatories seem to be lost in the vapors of the morning, and the upper rooms tower above the clouds. From the windows one may see how the winds and the clouds and above the soaring eaves the conjunctions of the sun and moon may be observed.” –Xuanxang

    High praise from Xuanxang, the Chinese traveler who visited the architecturally masterful Nalanda School and Monastery in year 637. Nalanda, situated in what is now the Indian state Bihar, was a residential college that attracted scholars from as far as Tibet, China, Korea, Persia, Indonesia, and Turkey.

    An estimated 10,000 students lived and studied at the school. Although the primary subjects at the school were Mahayana and Hinayana Buddhism, students also studied logic, grammar, linguistics, astronomy, medicine, law, and urban planning. The campus featured meditation halls, classrooms, and a nine story library that housed both sacred sutras and academic texts.

    Oxford – 1229

    Therefore learn as if to live forever; live as if to die tomorrow.” -- attributed to St. Edmund Rich

    St. Edmund Hall, estimated to have been founded in 1236, is one of the colleges that compose Oxford University. Unlike the University of Paris, Oxford University owned buildings that were specifically designed to house and educate students.

    Along with the Old Dining Hall, the Old Library, and the college bar and buttery, St. Edmund Hall forms a quadrangle.  Quads have since been a mainstay of university architecture, providing a space for students to relax and interact with one another.







    Photo credits:

    Nalanda: CC BY 2.0,

    St. Edmund HallBy simononly -, CC BY 2.0,

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Exploring current design trends and their history.

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  • jlgordon

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