Georgetown University: 1977

Courtesy of Hoyafootball.com.

GM came across an interesting website last week that documents the various home fields of Georgetown University’s football team since 1889. The site has photos of each field and the one above particularly caught GM’s attention. It’s of the baseball field that the football team used in 1977-78 while Kehoe Field was being constructed.

What catches GM’s attention is not the field so much as how much has changed to this corner in such a relatively short amount of time (that is to say, relative to the school’s age). This part of the campus was almost barren at this point. Nowadays the hospital–which takes up most of this section of the campus–has just about doubled in size, Henle Village was built, the Leavey Center was built, the business school was built, and the new Regents Hall science center has nearly been built.

But this section of the campus has always struck GM as not terribly well planned. The buildings don’t seem to relate to one and other in the slightest bit and roads dominate the ground level experience. Now seeing this old photo, it starts to make sense to GM. Unlike a school like Harvard, which has a campus planned around quads and squares, GU seems to have built its campus (at least the new parts) on the backbone of a suburban office park.

This isn’t meant to be some new criticism relating in any way to the current campus plan debate. GM’s not saying a more traditional master plan would or should allow for more dorms on campus, etc.. Regardless of your position on that matter, you’d be hard pressed to say what is there “works” terribly well as a unified campus. Yes, some of the newer buildings on their own are perfectly attractive, but with the exception of the eastern older parts, on the whole the campus is a bit of a mess design wise.

GM doesn’t know nearly enough about the school’s history to know when things went wrong, but it does seem as if it wasn’t inextricably bad at the point of this photo if the school were willing and able to take some dramatic steps. Now, obviously it’s too late, and the only option is to just shoehorn in new buildings and try to make them at least work on their own terms.

One more interesting thing about this photo, it was taken before the French Embassy and Hillendale were built.

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4 Comments

Filed under History

4 responses to “Georgetown University: 1977

  1. Dizzy

    You are quite right, Topher – this part of campus is NOT well planned and it WAS built out according to an office park-like model. Much of the blame lies with the hospital, which was built in line with that philosophy, as hospitals almost always are. The hospital is responsible for the hideous surface parking lot that greets those entering campus from Reservoir, and the Leavey Center’s barrier-like nature, sealing off the Medical Campus from Main Campus, was at least partially intentional.

    Fortunately, that major design failure is finally being addressed. The Hariri Building connects with Leavey, greatly improving connectivity by allowing people to cut through that building down to Yates Field House, the Southwest Quad, or Harbin and Village C. Regents Hall will be a huge improvement on top of that, with an extensive connection to Leavey and the gentle sloping hill between Hariri and Regents adding some much-needed green space to this part of campus.

    In terms of pedestrian-friendliness, it would’ve been even better if we could have kept to the original plans of making the road between Regents and ICC/Harbin into a pedestrian-only path (with allowance for service vehicles). That would’ve required the creation of a new connection between the north and south ends of campus, though (the Loop Road), and we all know what happened there…

  2. Topher

    Connecting buildings through skyways, etc., is fine, but it doesn’t really improve the campus feeling (and again, it’s something large office parks do, not well designed campuses). I think having a beautiful campus experience requires having that experience be outdoors. As long as the ground level experience is one of dodging cars, it will be an unpleasant campus.

    Why would a new north-south connection be necessary if you turned that road into a pedestrian path? What traffic really needs to go through there?

  3. Having been an undergrad in the late 90’s/early 2000’s, one thing that is important to note is that up until the creation of the Southwest Quad, GU’s main campus was really just a 1-axis layout, with 80% of all buildings being located along the walk from Lauinger Library up through Darnall and St. Mary’s. At that point, everything west of Village C was a gulf of fields (and even moreso, parking lots) until you got to Yates Fieldhouse or McDonough Gym.

    While the current layout may not be perfect (and I’m not arguing that it is), it’s a huge improvement over what might have happened under the 1990 campus plan, which would have created a series of “podia” — 5 story buildings with parking on the bottom and various layers of office/residential/athletic/classroom space, all connected by skywalks–down from Leavey center to where the SWQ now stands.

    I do think the Hariri/Regents hall outdoor space will improve the campus, not for any indoor cutthrough (though Hariri does provide a nice third space), but for the sloped quad and staircase that will provide access from the Leavey Center down into the middle of campus, and will increase north-south pedestrian traffic through the middle of campus. The only skywalk planned is pretty far into the future as Reiss science building is renovated, and will only really be used by science students.

    Now if only they could raise the money to finish the Multi-Sport Field…

  4. Dizzy

    Topher,

    I agree that skyways aren’t great in terms of campus feel, and once all the new landscaping is complete, the quicker connection between Leavey and points south will indeed be outside, using those steps/slope between Hariri and Regents. In the current intermediate state, however, the ability to connect from Leavey to the Southwest Quad through Hariri does save several minutes and is a welcome addition.

    I’m totally in agreement about the ground level experience/dodging cars issue. As for what traffic needs to go through there: GUTS buses. Remember, the Pitchfork Brigade is committed to making all buses go out the Canal Road entrance to get them off of Prospect, 34th, Reservoir, and Q. Only way to do that is to have a way for the buses to get up to the hospital, turn around, and come back.

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