Johns Hopkins Magazine -- November 1999
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Knowing Your Place

One Sunday afternoon this fall, my husband and I Took our two young sons pumpkin picking at a farm just a few miles from my childhood home. I use the term "picking" loosely, because while there were mountains of pumpkins to choose from, there were none to pluck from the vine. Where once there had been expansive fields of corn, and apples, and pumpkins surrounding the farm for miles, there now stood houses. Row upon row of houses.

Perhaps I should have felt fortunate that the farm was still doing business, and that my own kids could sip cold cider on the same spot I did 30 years ago. But instead I mourned the loss of the fields. Choosing Granny Smith apples from a bin just wasn't the same as snapping them off a tree branch.

This sense of loss is one I've had frequently of late, as I've watched the landmarks of my early years disappear. Part of what's so disconcerting is the haphazard--and often, shortsighted-- nature of these obliterations. Malls are built, abandoned, rebuilt, razed, and built again. Natural habitats are plowed down to make room for high-rise apartments, which are later abandoned in favor of garden-style condos. Suburban streets are widened to accommodate more traffic, forcing homeowners to flee toward far-flung suburbs on former farmland.

Against this backdrop, you'll be heartened to know that administrators here at Hopkins are giving careful thought to the future development of the Homewood campus. They have commissioned the Baltimore-based architectural firm of Ayers/Saint/Gross (ASG) to come up with a master plan that will guide Homewood well into the 21st century.

If you've spent even a few minutes at Homewood, you know it's something of an urban jewel--an oasis of Georgian architecture and expansive green spaces in the midst of a major city. And yet. There are problems, too, that will only get worse if they are left unaddressed. Cars and delivery trucks are pervasive, creating hazards for students and faculty as they stroll to class. Parking can be a nightmare. Finding your way around campus is a challenge, thanks in part to an absence of signs and a spaghetti-like network of roads, some of which lead nowhere. Continued development threatens the health of the campus's woodlands and waterways. And the "public face" of the university--its presentation to Charles Street and University Parkway--is underwhelming; visitors have barely a clue they've arrived.

Architects from Ayers/Saint/Gross have already spent months on campus, tramping through Wyman Park, holding town meetings, and interviewing hundreds of those who know the place best: our faculty, students, administrators, and alumni. ASG has articulated the problems outlined above and come up with a concept plan aimed at addressing those problems. We'll bring you the details of the plan in our February issue. In the meantime, ASG planners are eager for your feedback. Visit to find out more about the concept and to offer your own two cents' worth in the "guest book."

Sue De Pasquale, Editor