The Johns Hopkins Gazette: May 24, 1999
May 24, 1999
VOL. 28, NO. 36


Master Plan for Homewood to Take Shape Over Summer

Faculty, staff, students will be included in the year-long consultative process

By Dennis O'Shea

Johns Hopkins Gazette Online Edition

When students and faculty return to Homewood in September, a lot will have changed.

But not so you'd notice it.

Oh, sure, construction of the students arts center along Charles Street will be well under way. And a few other projects that'll alter the landscape to one degree or another may be nearing completion.

But the real change won't be visible yet. It'll slowly be taking shape in a small, crowded conference room in the Greenhouse, a room crammed with photos, maps, models, flip charts and tacked-up quotes and sketches. And, undoubtedly, the crumbly remains of too many early morning meetings over glazed doughnuts and strong coffee.

This is, if you will, the war room for an offensive against architectural anarchy. It is ground zero for an explosive change in approach to campus construction at Hopkins. It is the headquarters for the creation of a new Homewood Campus Plan.

In 1904, when much of the university was still at Howard and Eutaw streets in downtown Baltimore, architects Parker and Thomas won a five-firm competition to plot out the development of the recently acquired Homewood campus. With revisions a few years later, the Parker/Thomas plan--a circular driveway leading from Charles Street to a square quadrangle, and a second, longer, quad to the south--has guided development at Homewood ever since.

"To a large degree the development of the campus has been true to the original plan," said James T. McGill, senior vice president for administration.

But nearly 100 years later, with that two-quad campus core long complete, the university is building or planning new buildings on the western, northern and eastern perimeters of Homewood and has spilled across Charles Street into Charles Village.

That can lead to some unintended, and potentially ugly, outcomes. Witness the fact that the student arts center will create a lovely gateway from Charles Street onto campus and right to the Eisenhower Library loading dock.

To remedy that and prevent future design disasters, President William R. Brody, Provost Steven Knapp, the Homewood deans and McGill agreed that a new master plan, guiding development for perhaps as long as the next 100 years, is essential.

"With several new buildings being planned at Homewood and increasing problems in parking and [in] mixing cars with people in the midst of the campus, we need to address systematically how future growth on the campus can best be accommodated," McGill said. "Another major component of the planning will be our relationships with the communities surrounding the campus."

For all its complexity, the long, highly consultative process of drafting a new plan for the campus has a simple aim.

"We try to find what's good, bottle it; find what's bad, and use the good to fix the bad," said Adam Gross, lead partner on the project from Ayers/Saint/Gross, the Baltimore-based architects hired to lead the planning process.

By the end of summer, Gross and his colleagues will have interviewed dozens of faculty and staff from the Homewood divisions, crunched megabytes of data on classroom utilization and charted pedestrian and traffic flow patterns. They will have huddled with fellow architects responsible for building the arts center and the planned biomedical engineering building, talked with neighborhood leaders and city officials about Charles Village and the Charles Street corridor, and conferred with the deans about the future needs of their schools.

The result of all that will be a set of guiding principles and a concept plan, a sort of a back-of-an-envelope first draft hashed out with a steering committee that includes President Brody, two trustees and several vice presidents and deans.

Then the work really begins.

"We like to say the concept plan is the sketch before the painting, [conveying the] 'big idea,'" Gross said.

The next step is a set of "precinct studies," detailed looks at each sector of Homewood, that will take place this fall and winter. After those, the planners work to create design guidelines, covering everything from the "look" of future buildings and the "feel" of open space to the creation of uniform, useful signage.

Finally, the results are compiled into a comprehensive plan. The target date is daunting: one year from now.

Constant communication and feedback--from the steering committee, a university working group and individual faculty, students and staff--is essential to the process, Gross said.

"This is not a linear process," said Luanne Greene, an ASG senior associate. "You'll discuss something, but then months later you'll come back to it and revisit it."

Besides individual interviews, ASG plans 13 formal workshops with various constituencies. A Web site will be up soon to make working documents available, and comments will be invited. There will be stories appearing regularly in The Gazette.

And, as for that war room in the Greenhouse: It's neither top secret nor off limits. Anyone will be able to drop by and see what's up.

ASG's Campus Planning Philosophy

Ayers/Saint/Gross, a Baltimore firm since 1915, has a long history with Johns Hopkins. Its architects have designed 14 projects for the university, most recently the Anne M. Pinkard Building that houses the School of Nursing.

The firm now takes on only college and university projects (see below) and specializes in campus planning.

The firm's planning philosophy, said principal Adam Gross, is that * the physical plan should support the university's academic mission;

the whole should be greater than the sum of the pieces;

the plan should be comprehensive, so that nothing is considered in isolation from what surrounds it;

nothing--from a building down to a recycling bin--is too insignificant to be well-designed;

the plan must be flexible enough that implementation can occur over time;

no one involved in the planning process--the administration, the faculty, students or staff, or the architects--should let creative thinking be limited by the apparent constraints.

Other ASG Projects

ASG is currently in the "precinct studies" stage of planning at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill (see and has worked recently at the University of Georgia ( and at Emory University (

A Chronicle of Higher Education story about ASG's work at these campuses, the University of Virginia and elsewhere is online at

The firm's own Web site is at