Mr. Wizard and I found ourselves in the Quad the other day surrounded by the Lecture Centers and human activity and interaction. A football was being thrown around; a basketball was being kicked soccer style; and other groups of students were sitting and chatting or standing and doing the same. There was an additional constancy of movement with individuals continually crossing this broad open expanse coming and going in literally all directions.
Watch Mr. Wizard was a half-hour, Saturday morning television show that, in its original iteration, aired an amazing total of 547 episodes from 1951 – 1965. Mr. Wizard was played by Don Herbert and featured science experiments explained in a manner that made them understandable to the show’s youthful audience. Every week, a neighborhood kid, usually a boy named Jimmy, would visit Mr. Wizard and learn something interesting about the fascinating world of science.
For some never explained reason, Mr. Wizard was always pretty excited by Jimmy’s arrival to his laboratory. In addition, there was never any mention of a Mrs. Wizard and Jimmy’s parents never accompanied their son on his regular visits with Mr. Wizard.
This was indeed a much more innocent and trusting era when all we had to worry about was the atomic bomb and Communism.
But I digress…
My esteemed colleague – we call him Mr. Wizard for no other reason than his amazing grasp of and patience with today’s technology – and I began to wonder aloud about the wisdom of the Master Plan consultants’ proposed plan to “green up” this space. Their idea is to make the Quad look more like those on traditional campuses like the Harvard Yard, the Dartmouth Green, or the Main Quad at UIUC – large areas of grass crisscrossed with paved pathways.
Our campus already has some of those, but they’re not where Mr. Wizard and I saw folks choosing to gather. They were congregating on what planners like to call “hardscape” – in this instance, those concrete squares that pave the Quad and allow folks to travel in “literally all directions” without creating those unsightly “cow paths” through planned-to-be-pretty, but quickly-worn-down grassy areas.
This is a tough, rough-and-tumble urban campus, not one of those typical rural “cow-pasture” Big Ten type campuses. Laying sod down where people (not cattle) want to walk is pretty self-defeating. Surround the Quad and the Lecture Center complex with grassy areas – yes that makes a lot of sense. Seed or sod over large portions of the concrete Quad? The Wizard and I say think again.
And Walter Netsch, the architect of the East Side of campus, might even look down from his heavenly (hopefully) perch and, probably for the first time, agree with me.
Question of the Week: What should the Quad look like in the future?
Until next Friday…