Kojo and Tom Sherwood chat with D.C. Council Member Elissa Silverman (I-At Large)
Universities are big land-owners in the D.C. region and many of them are building new facilities. Some schools are adding housing while others are putting up new academic buildings. We explore the town-grown tensions and economic pressures that influence design and construction on campus.
- Roger Lewis Architect; Columnist, "Shaping the City," Washington Post; and Professor Emeritus of Architecture, University of Maryland College Park
- Thomas Hier Principal, Biddison Hier
Innovative Architecture At College Campuses
MR. KOJO NNAMDIDrive around some of the universities in our region, and you'll see bulldozers and backhoes at work building a new law school here, another residence hall there. But before the first shovel of dirt is turned, there's often a long and laborious process to figure out what the building will look like. Some of the considerations are artistic. Are we going for a bold statement by a celebrity architect? Or do we want to preserve a uniform campus style? Other decisions more political, of the town gown variety. How will the new structure affect the surrounding community and how can we win over the neighbors?
MR. KOJO NNAMDIIndeed, keeping the various constituencies happy from university donors and alumni to neighbors and city inspectors is often a complex balancing act. Today, a look behind the scenes at the sometimes conflicting interests that shape university architecture. Roger Lewis joins us in studio. He is an architect and he writes the "Shaping The City" column in the Washington Post. Roger's professor emeritus of architecture at the University of Maryland, College Park. Roger, thank you for joining us.
MR. ROGER LEWISThank you for having me, again.
NNAMDIAlso in studio with us is Thomas Hier. He is founder and principal of Biddison Hier, which does resource planning for universities and colleges. Tom Hier, thank you for joining us.
MR. THOMAS HIERThank you for having me.
NNAMDIYou, too, can join this conversation. Give us a call, 800-433-8850. What's your favorite building on a college or university campus? 800-433-8850. You can send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Roger, let's look at a project you were involved with. The new law school at the University of Baltimore. Why did the school want -- well, an eye-popping building and why did it decide to hold an international design competition to pick an architect?
LEWISWell, first of all, they needed a new law school just to improve the facilities, the physical facilities that they had been using. And the president of the university and the faculty also wanted to create -- if you will -- an iconic building that would not only serve to enhance the law school facilities, but that would contribute to the visual quality of that campus and that part of the city of Baltimore. And the competition, they felt, was the best way to attract what they felt would be the best talent. And design competitions, also -- if they're properly managed and properly promoted -- do help fundraising because it's a somewhat public protocol to have a design competition.
LEWISThat was the primary thinking at the University of Baltimore. Let's do a really great building, something that you would not ordinarily see in the city of Baltimore. In fact, it's also -- they went further. They pursued and I think achieved a platinum LEED rating for the building. It's a very environmentally sustainable building.
NNAMDIYou were the professional advisor for the competition.
NNAMDIThe University of Baltimore Law School, it sits on a prominent piece of land downtown near the train station. How does the building's apparently bold design speak to both the school and to the community at large?
LEWISWell, I should say the building, of course, doesn't look anything like any other buildings in the neighborhood or on the campus. So right away, you know, it's an exception. It's a building visually different from anything around it. It's a tall building. It rises about I think 150 feet. It's about 12 stories tall. Taller than anything immediately in the vicinity. So it's an attention-grabber. My own personal opinion is that the interior of the building, the spatial quality of the interior is actually its greatest feature. It essentially has an atrium that's sort of torsions its way up from the very ground level to the very top of the building.
LEWISI think we get into this discussion of architecture and aesthetics, which being on radio is always a little bit challenging to get it across, but I think anyone who sees the building will not forget seeing the building. Whereas, I think those of us who live in Washington, for example, I could drive down many, many avenues in Washington and forget every building that I've looked at. This is not a forgettable -- this is a memorable piece of architecture.
NNAMDIOne small aspect of this that caught my attention, one thinks of law schools, one thinks of a building that has to hold thousands of very heavy volumes of books. That's changing.
LEWISThat's changing because in the digital age, we now know that students can get to a lot of what they need -- not by pulling a book off a shelf, but by going via the internet to a digital library. This was a very big consideration at University of Baltimore Law School because if you can eliminate having to store books, which are extremely heavy, necessitating structural design, structural floor load capacity that is very costly -- they actually saved a few million dollars by reducing the number of books they actually store in the building.
NNAMDITom Hier, some universities, like the University of Baltimore, hold competitions to pick an architect for a bold new building. Others go straight to a celebrity architect. How does the business school at Case Western Reserve, designed by renowned architect Frank Gehry, illustrate the drawbacks of fame over function?
HIERWell, there are many buildings that are built by well-known architects that unfortunately don't function as well as perhaps they should. I think sometimes what happens is people get star struck. They look at big names, they also -- it's very difficult, I think, to evaluate a building, other than by name or fame or whatever.
HIERAnd so when you're a board member or the head of a university and you're looking to do something really big, you naturally go to these architects. What tends to happen is they focus on the design itself, the architecture, the exterior of the building and a lot of the elements of the interior of the building, the things that actually make a building function and work and make it a space where people want to be, kind of get second-tier consideration.
HIERAnd that can have very significant implications when the building is finally up and running. If you talk to any facilities officer in a university, they tend not to say very nice things about star architects because they have to come in behind them and make the buildings work and make the air conditioning not leak anymore, and make the roofs not leak anymore, things like that.
NNAMDIYou get a star architect though, can there still be some pushback against the designs, the desires of that star architect?
HIERThere can be, but it requires a very sophisticated client. The way I like to think about it is if you're a cook and you actually know what you're doing, you can look at a recipe and you can understand what the end product is going to be, just by looking at the recipe. But if you are not a knowledgeable cook, you just wait for the finished product and then see if it tastes good. It's very similar with architecture. Most people don't know how to read plans and don't really understand relationships when they see them in two dimensions.
HIERAnd so you don't get to the end game -- or you get to the end game before you can really determine whether the building functions or not. And so most people don't feel comfortable weighing in on it, and especially when it's a star architect. It's like, you know, telling your heart surgeon, please don't fix my aorta that way, fix it another way. You don't typically feel comfortable doing that with a star architect.
NNAMDINevertheless, and in spite of, Roger, Frank Gehry designed the new building at MIT, the Stata Center for computer information and intelligence sciences. It had problems, leaks, but the people who work there like it. What's your assessment of that project?
LEWISWell, I'm delighted that you brought that up, since it's my alma mater, MIT. It's an amazing project, given that the client is MIT. Frank Gehry is the architect. Skanska, which is one of the biggest construction companies in the world, built it. And as I think Tom points out, you wonder why, when they were sitting in the room looking at the design, someone didn't say, wait a minute, this building is probably going to leak. (laugh) They built it. There's no way to describe it for your audience, other than to say it's what we at the University of Maryland Architecture School sometimes call train-wreck architecture. (laugh)
LEWISIt's an extraordinary composition of form. It's a gigantic sculpture, but it was destined to have some problems keeping the weather out. On the other hand, the interior of the building, the idea of the intention of MIT was to create a building, a little bit like what they tried to do at University of Baltimore Law School, which was to make an iconic structure in which the students and faculty and people from different disciplines in the case of the MIT Center, would intermix, would cross paths, would rub shoulders with each other, rather than being separated.
LEWISI think the Stata Center has been popular with its users because it does achieve that. There's a lot of light pouring into it -- in addition to water (laugh) . And so, you know, they have appreciated it. It is probably a boon for some lawyers though. The litigation is probably still going on.
LEWISTom might know the answer to that.
HIERAnd I'm about that, but I know there are buildings that Gehry has done where the roof leaks, as well, (laugh) so that's a common theme.
NNAMDI800-433-8850. We're talking about how one balances interests in university architecture and inviting your calls. How do you think, well, neighborhood concerns have affected the look of local college campuses? You can also send us a tweet @kojoshow or email to email@example.com. Here is Jeffrey, in Washington, D.C. Jeffrey, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
JEFFREYHi. Thanks for taking my call. And I wanted to thank Mr. Lewis for his insights over the years into the Washington architectural scene.
JEFFREYThank you. I just toured Dunbar High School recently, which is a LEED platinum new school for the D.C. Public Schools. It's a really beautiful school. And I was interested in both of your guests' comments on the influence of sustainable design, which is commonly known as green building, on the design and construction of educational buildings and how it can lead the way in saving energy and also improving the environment. Thanks.
NNAMDILet's start with you Tom Hier.
HIERWell, I'll let Roger comment on the specifics of the environmental stuff, but I will tell you this, I talked to a lot of students on campus and it is their number one concern. When we asked them about what they want in buildings, it has to be sustainable, it has to be environmentally sound. One of the nicest things that students likely will find as perhaps amusing, there are now water fountains that have places where you can put your water bottle and fill it up because it saves on using the plastic water bottles. And they love that more than anything.
NNAMDIIt's a generational thing.
LEWISExactly. I mean I think that it is absolutely coast-to-coast the phenomenon that we are now teaching architecture students to think about green building. I don't think we have time to go into the specific tactics of what you do when you design a building to make it green -- and, in fact, I should mention that sometimes one of the greenest things you can do is to not demolish an old building, is to keep an existing building and modernize it so it is in fact usable, because of all the already invested energy and money and resources.
LEWISSo I think today practically every architect I know who's in practice has gotten his LEED certification or her LEED certification. I think that, Jeffrey, your comment is well taken. I think almost every building that will be built prospectively is going to be sustainable to some extent.
LEWISNow, whether that gets to the platinum level or some other rating system is a matter sometimes of budget because achieving -- I should point out -- achieving some of the points that it takes to get the LEED ratings can sometimes cost more than doing the conventional thing. So there can be a cost to it. Those costs are coming down. I think within our lifetimes building sustainably will not involve a premium capital investment.
NNAMDITom Hier, you worked with Columbia University in New York on its new Manhattanville Campus in West Harlem. It also includes a law school. How is the university trying to make its buildings there an integral part of the community?
HIERWell, and Manhattanville, as our listeners probably know, the main campus at Columbia has been traditionally a closed-in campus. It was walled off. And when the university decided to expand over to Manhattanville, which is about five blocks north of the main campus, there were lots of issues with the neighborhoods about whether they, you know, even wanted Columbia there. But one of the things that was critically important to the neighbors was that the campus be porous and that it invite in the neighbors.
HIERAnd so Columbia committed to having absolutely no fencing around the campus. It committed to having buildings with first floor spaces that were primarily retail. Wider sidewalks, so that there would be, you know, people could comfortably walk through the campus. And then a lot of services that would be kind of neighborhood serving so that people would feel comfortable being part of the campus there.
NNAMDIGood idea? Roger?
LEWISYes. I think the challenge for many university campuses is this town gown relationship. How to -- not just get along, but how to be an asset for the neighbors. And we, here in Washington, are very sensitive to this. We've got a bunch of universities embedded in or adjacent to existing neighborhoods. We could start with American University, Howard University, George Washington University, Georgetown University.
LEWISThey've all faced, at one time or another, or are facing now issues of how to relate, how to -- in some cases expand, in some cases make changes of use, modernize existing buildings, add new buildings, how to do this in a way that is a benefit to all parties, particularly the neighbors.
NNAMDITom, you've worked with the University of Pennsylvania, in Philadelphia, which has invested heavily in the surrounding neighborhood. What is that school's approach to interacting with nearby residents?
HIERThe University of Pennsylvania made a decision a long time ago that it is -- one of the interesting things about universities is they are 100, 200-year entities. They're going to be around forever. And they can't easily pick up and move. So when you are in a situation like West Philadelphia, where it had been very crime ridden, lots of murders, it's very difficult to recruit students when parents think their kid might not make it through the school. So the university, a long time ago, decided that it had to really stabilize the community. It took a number of steps. It invested, eventually, I think something like $500 million in West Philadelphia.
HIERThey started charter schools, they bought up houses and resold them to faculty. They provided subsidies to faculty to be able to afford these houses. They created a business improvement district. They have a special police force. They've really done a lot to stabilize the neighborhood. But part of it is not just because of the security reasons, part of it is it's part of the mission of the university to be part of the community and to let the community share in the wealth of knowledge and information that the university has. So they have education programs that they take out into the community and things like that.
NNAMDIWe got a tweet from Andrew, who says, "I prefer my tuition dollars to go to my education, rather than eye-popping building design." Comments? Roger?
LEWISWell, he's not alone. I mean I think there have been a lot of people who've questioned whether that's a good investment. And although the question is founded on the premise that good architecture necessarily costs a lot more money, which isn't always the case. It can be the case, but it isn't necessarily that creating good architecture costs any more than creating mediocre architecture. In fact, I would argue that it doesn't. And I think that's one of the unfortunate biases that a lot of people do have, including people on boards of trustees who are wondering why do we even need the new building at all.
LEWISBut I think that, I understand that question, but the fact is it is not necessarily that a zero-some game, where if we're spending money on a new facility or a new building, it means money has been taken away from some academic or educational mission.
NNAMDIIn addition to which, Tom Hier, it seems to me that when parents and students are looking at comparable institutions of higher education, in terms of their academic record, one of the differences that is made in the decision that they make often has to do with the appearance of the campus itself.
HIERThat is certainly true. I think all other factors being equal, I mean, obviously, if you've got two institutions that are roughly comparable academically, when you walk onto the campus things that students notice -- they notice the buildings, they notice the green spaces, they notice how friendly people are. They notice places where students can hang out comfortably and have a good time. So I think that all of those things make a difference in the recruitment process.
NNAMDIWe're talking about balancing interests in university architecture with Roger Lewis, architect and columnist with the "Shaping The City" column for the Washington Post. He's professor emeritus of architecture at the University of Maryland, College Park. Thomas Hier is a founder and principal of the firm Biddison Hier. It does resource planning for universities and colleges. If you'd like to join the conversation give us a call, 800-433-8850. Should new university construction in your view match the campus' existing architectural style or try something new? 800-433-8850.
NNAMDIUniversities are often the largest land holders in their communities. How do local planning and zoning rules affect the way schools design for their growth, Tom?
HIERSome schools are actually exempt from zoning regulations, depending on the nature. Some state institutions, in California for example, the universities have their own zoning. Here in Washington, D.C. -- and I am not by any means a zoning expert, but my understanding is that the universities abide by regular zoning laws here.
HIERA lot of our universities are in residential neighborhoods. And therefore have to have special exceptions to do the kinds of things that they want. And one of the things that's interesting to me in Washington is that the process here is very adversarial. As I understand it, as a university, the burden of proof is sort of on you to determine that you're not having an adverse impact on the neighborhood.
HIERThere are many places in the country where they actually like having their universities there and want them to do more and work together and collaboratively to do something good. Here it's a matter of saying well, if we do this we're not really going to have more students in the neighborhood or we're not going to affect the neighborhood in a negative way. That, to me, seems to be a very kind of round about way of doing that kind of thing.
NNAMDIIt's Washington. Adversarial is how we roll.
HIEROf course, absolutely. (laughter)
HIERWell, I can't add much to Tom. I mean I've been involved in a couple of these adversarial proceedings as a consultant to American University, as a matter of fact, some years back. I think the problem mostly has to do with the fact that many of the neighbors of campuses, people who live next to campuses certainly in D.C., are worried about the impact that students might have parking their cars in their neighborhood, having parties, making noise. You know, I think, using the zoning language, I think a lot of people see universities as nuisances, as potential nuisances.
HIERAnd it is an unfortunate perception. There has been one other thing in D.C. to mention. Certainly in the case of George Washington University, unlike some of the others where there's a discreet campus, there's a boundary, there's a real edge, George Washington University is very much interwoven into the fabric of the city.
LEWISThat's a guarantee of conflict because there's actually people -- private property owners who have nothing to do with the university who are mixed in with university properties. They've tried to deal with this, but invariably, there's been conflict.
NNAMDIGot to take a short break. When we come back, if you have called, stay on the line. We will get to your calls. If you'd like to call, our number is 800-433-8850. Can a campus structure be a landmark both for the campus and for the community? What do you think? 800-433-8850. You can send us a tweet @kojoshow or email to firstname.lastname@example.org. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIWelcome back. We're talking with Thomas Hier. He is founder and principal of Biddison Hier. Biddison Hier does resource planning for universities and college. We're talking about how we balance interests and university architecture with Roger Lewis. He is an architect and the Shaping The City columnist with The Washington Post. He's also professor Emeritus of architecture at the University of Maryland, College Park. I'd like to go directly to the phones to Elias in Alexandria, VA. Elias, your turn.
ELIASHi there. I'm a huge fan of the show and I just want to thank you for this. This is question more for Tom. I'm wondering what sort of, you know, proportion or breakdown do you see in campuses that are investing more towards the, you know, the large libraries, the resource centers, the music halls and then the residential spaces.
ELIASI'm a graduate of Bard College and we've recently put up a huge (word?) area building but we have a huge problem with lack of residential space for on-campus housing. Now, my question is, do you notice a trend that is, you know, moving away from an emphasis on star architect designed student spaces and more of an emphasis now on these giant buildings that, you know, draw people from off of campus, but maybe don't necessarily help student out?
HIERI think that the residential side is very interesting because residential architecture or residential buildings are one of the few building types on campuses that actually have a revenue stream, which means that they can be funded by something other than just gifts and state funding and things. So there's a lot of interest in privatization of housing and there's a lot of interest in these, what they call, public private partnerships to build housing.
HIERAnd campuses are now looking at leasing their land for 50, 75 years to private equity firms to build housing. So I think you're going to see more of a trend toward building what would be closer to market rate housing, you know, apartment-style housing or suite-style housing, lots of amenities on campus. That preserves money to build other kinds of projects and I think that most campuses that are looking at the issue of -- the big balancing, to me, is between academic buildings and support buildings.
HIERThe faculty, of course, always want academic buildings, more research space, more lab space, but for competitive purposes, there is also a real interest in building more spaces that provide community for students, good student centers, more kind of social spaces where students can hang out. So they're looking at all the different options, but they're getting there in different ways now.
NNAMDIIndeed. Roger, in urban areas, mixed uses increasingly popular with ground floor retail and restaurants and then upper floors with offices or apartments. How are urban universities designing their new buildings to blend into that cityscape?
LEWISWell, you described it very well. I mean, they are building exactly what you're talking about, more mixed-use facilities. And I think it seems to me perfectly feasible to, on-campus or next to a campus, have a building in which people are living, people are working, people are shopping. And Tom, I think, would agree. I think that's the trend. I think that's where we're headed.
HIERIf you think about universities, certainly, their mission is research and teaching, but really universities are all about collaboration and an exchange of ideas. And where do people exchange ideas? They exchange ideas in places where they can be together. They don’t do it sitting in their private offices. Everybody I talked to, faculty, students alike, the most important spaces to them are the coffee houses, the coffee rooms in faculty office buildings, places where people can hang out.
HIEREven if they don't necessarily want to talk to each other, they want to be around each other, working together. And so there's a real interest in building these community spaces and the kind of mixed use retail that Roger's talking about provides that sort of opportunity.
NNAMDIHere's Cindy in Mt. Claire, VA. Cindy, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
CINDYThank you so much. I have a couple of questions. One of my children went to Wellesley College outside of Boston and I don't know if your panelists are familiar with that. It has a science center that is a gorgeous example of taking a very old building and basically expanding the new LEED certified science building all around the gorgeous old brick walls and patios and such.
CINDYAnd then, they also put in the Lang Center, which is an incredible student union sort of a center. It looks almost like a bird taking flight on the side of the banks of the lake. And it has eating and activity areas and moveable walls and all kinds of things that make it very flexible and (word?) to student use.
CINDYAnd then, my second, another child, is a UVA with very famous architecture and yet here's this great big famous university and there is no student union on the entire campus. And (word?) have people, you know, concerned about kids getting into Greek life and going off campus and drinking and all this sort of thing and yet, the university has no place that is a student center for kids and teachers to all come an congregate.
NNAMDIWhat do you say, Tom?
HIERWell, I'm a little bit familiar with the Lang Center at Wellesley. It is a pretty impressive building. I would say that, you know, different schools have different priorities and Wellesley is private and UVA is public or at least quasi-public and getting into queue to build something like a student center can take a very long time at a public institution.
HIERI would doubt that UVA doesn't understand that there's a need for more student space, but I suspect that resources have something to do with that. On the other hand, Wellesley, being a competitive institution, is sort of in the arms race with all the other institutions of its kind and so if others build great student centers, then they're going to probably build one as well.
LEWISWell, I have to comment. I'm an expert on Wellesley because my wife went to Wellesley. I've spent many, many, many hours on the campus of Wellesley, both when I was a student and since then. So Cindy, I very much appreciate what you're saying. What we need to recognize is the difference between UVA and Wellesley. Wellesley is sitting out essentially in this sort of bucolic environment disconnected from, really, the urban environment of Boston.
LEWISWhereas University of Virginia is in Charlottesville. Charlottesville is the student union, in a way, in effect for the University of Virginia. I think it's very important to recognize that some college campuses -- we've always taught our students at Maryland that sometimes campuses are like towns in themselves. They actually operate more like a town or a city than they do an academic village.
LEWISSo I think every one of these places has its own unique needs. I think Wellesley College -- Wellesley happens to be a college which is one of the most beautiful campuses on the planet and I don't think there's any question that a lot of the women who go to Wellesley go there because they find that very appealing and also the fact that it's still one of the few remaining all-women's colleges. University of Virginia's a very different animal.
NNAMDIIf you had to compare the amount of time you spent at MIT with the amount of time you spent at Wellesley, how would that come out?
LEWISWell, I always remember going to one my wife's reunions. I finally got to sleep in a Wellesley dormitory. That was highlight.
NNAMDIWe're going to have to continue this conversation off-air. Here's Nancy in Bethesda, Maryland. Nancy, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
NANCYYes. I'd like to just go back to what Tom Hier was saying about Penn, University of Pennsylvania, located in West Philadelphia, and I think we need to look at -- I recently returned to school at Penn and at the age of 60 graduated with my social work degree there.
NANCYThank you very much. And so I was embedded in the community and that's what Penn did. And I think we need to understand that Penn shifted its development under the presidency of Judith Reardon (sic) who is now at -- and I never pronounce her last name right, but she is now at the Rockefeller foundation and she has written book about what Penn did. And a lot of Penn's (word?) was in response to the way the African American community had been replaced by some of the buildings and there was some fear, reflection and consideration.
NANCYAnd when the university offered -- they offered staff and faculty subsidies to buy housing so it was not just upper crust faculty -- or I mean, you know, highly educated faculty, it was, you know, it was people across the spectrum who work at Penn and Penn is the largest private employer in Philadelphia. And it was also -- they've also done a lot to stabilize the area so that people -- African American families who have lived there for generations can stay there. It's a huge philosophy and I don't want it to be looked at as just something to cater to students, but it's really taking to heart the community.
NNAMDII think you underscore the very point that Tom was trying to make at the beginning.
HIERAbsolutely. And Penn is certainly -- Penn is perhaps, in my view, one of the best institutions in terms of working with the community. They have a real commitment to the community itself. I worked -- when Judith Rodin was there, I was working with here on some of these issues and I know that she was very committed to the idea of righting some of the wrongs that had happened in West Philadelphia over the years and they certainly subsidized affordable housing and they do all sorts of things. It's really, to me, one of the great models of university/city collaboration.
NNAMDIIndeed. We got an email from Mike who says, "universities are trying to live down past real estate development atrocities. Many urban campuses, G.W. in D.C., NYU in New York City, have gutted their neighborhoods in the pursuit of (word?) so the new emphasis on sustainability is a sort of green-washing." Roger, the biggest town gown friction seems to involve resident's complaints about the behavior of students either living in or passing through their neighborhoods.
NNAMDINeighbors want student housing as deep inside the campus as possible, but universities seem to prefer to have an academic core and put dorms around the edges of campus. How is that tension being addressed in this region?
LEWISWell, gingerly, it's being addressed. I mean, I think that points out what is an inherent conflict. I mean, there is a logic to designing a campus, making a campus plan in which the housing is not at the center, is peripheral, is next to other housing. I think that what was talked about earlier, mentioned by Tom, I think the kind of housing that's built actually is consequential.
LEWISIf you, you know, when I went to MIT, we lived in dormitories. You know, you were in a single or a double. They were guaranteed to make noise. I mean, it was just -- it was not conducive to living in a more civilized manner that I think, for example, suite occupancy or apartment-style living accomplishes. I was just involved recently in a new dormitory being -- that was built at Gallaudet. And there was great concern, obviously, in this case for hearing impaired students, but they also could make noise. I mean, they're not any quieter...
NNAMDII lived in a house with hearing impaired students. I know this.
LEWISYeah, and there was a great deal of attention paid -- it goes back to what Tom said earlier, to the communal space, you know, to making spaces which -- where there students weren't tempted to go off and make noise somewhere else, party somewhere else. I mean, I think design can contribute to resolving this issue of juxtaposing housing in which students live with housing occupied by community citizens.
NNAMDITom, the neighborhoods would really like universities, I guess, to house more students on campus, but students want to be, especially after freshman year, closer to neighborhoods.
HIERI always say, you know, universities are great places to have if you just could get rid of those pesky students. I mean, that's sort of the view, I think, of some of the neighbors. The truth is, there's a progression. There's a developmental progression of students. First year students absolutely should be on campus and they should be in traditional residents halls.
HIERWhen you get to be a sophomore, they're looking more for suite-style housing and if you provide that on campus, that's terrific because you want to build a sense of community on campus. I mean, one of the things that my clients tell me is if you only have first and second year students on campus, you lose the sense of tradition. Older students pass traditions to younger students.
HIERSo I think there's some real good reasons to have more students on campus. Having said that, some students, by the time they get to be juniors or seniors, they really do want to kind of have that right of passage, move into the community, live on their own. But I think the biggest issue in my view is alcohol because what students -- students leave campus because they can't drink on campus.
HIERAnd the fact that our drinking age is 21 instead of 18 or 22, means that you've got this sort of in-between thing going on on campus. Some students can drink, others can't. The ones who can't, pre-drink and then they go off-campus already drunk from four or five drinks and then they create problems. So I think every institution that I know of is working very hard to manage this problem, but it's a very difficult problem to solve under our current laws.
NNAMDIWe're almost out of time, but I wanted David in Washington to have his 30 seconds. David, that's about all you have. Go ahead, please.
DAVIDOkay. Well, I'll be -- hi, I'll be very brief. First I want to say that I'm a former university chancellor and I also headed (word?) design for 20 years and I've worked with Frank Gehry and quite a number of other architects. I want to underscore and endorse the comment about good design and money. Good design is about talent, not money. Having said that, I would also say that there's a real obligation here on the part of the non-profit community for design because the...
NNAMDIYou have 10 seconds.
DAVIDOkay. The (word?) community has to report -- be responsible to the bottom line.
NNAMDIAnd I'm afraid that's all the time we have. Tom Hier is founder and principal of Biddison Hier, which does resource planning for universities and colleges. Tom, thank you for joining us.
HIERThank you for having me.
NNAMDIRoger Lewis is an architect and the Shaping the City columnist for The Washington Post. He's professor Emeritus of architecture at the University of Maryland, College Park. Roger, thank you.
LEWISAnd thank you.
NNAMDIThank you all for listening. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
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Kojo and guests explore what you can learn about D.C. by riding its bus system.
T.C. Boyle's latest novel explores the darker side of the American ideal of freedom, from a woman who follows the extreme libertarian "sovereign citizen" movement to a disturbed young man who models himself on the pioneer John Colter.
It's your turn to discuss these topics or whatever is on your mind.