New Committee Has Designs on Campus

March 10, 2003

Mark Miester

A parent first brought it to Henry Fry's attention: The sign in front of Gibson Hall isn't exactly what one would call a signature. The cast-concrete sign in Gibson Circle is the university's identifier, an important representation of the institution. Yet the sign itself, designed in the 1950s by a faculty member in the School of Architecture, doesn't necessarily capture the spiritarchitectural or otherwiseof Tulane or the uptown neighborhood in which it is located.

"We took that ball and ran with it," says Fry, chair of the newly formed Campus Design Committee. "We did a study that verified that Tulane certainly needed to make a stronger impression on St. Charles Avenue. What we're trying to do is give Tulane a sense of character that relates to St. Charles Avenue and even has a sense of identity with Audubon Park. The new signs will reflect that quality of architecture, the limestone Romanesque buildings of St. Charles Avenue."

Issues such as signage now fall under the purview of the Campus Design Committee, a new group charged with overseeing what Fry, resident architect and director of campus planning, calls the ordinary needs of the university's physical environment.

"The general charge of the Campus Design Committee," Fry says, "is to make sure the everyday needs of the physical environment are coordinated, uniform and consistent. To make sure the overall state of campus--the image, the impression it makes, the quality of everyday function--is thoughtfully considered and makes sense."

The Campus Design Committee is an outgrowth of the recent restructuring of the committee that oversees campus planning at the highest level. A new group, the Campus Planning Executive Committee, co-chaired by senior vice president for external affairs Yvette Jones and School of Architecture dean Don Gatzke, was established to provide oversight for campus planning.

The executive committee is charged with long-term master planning and establishing goals for the rules by which the university might develop the master plan. The Campus Planning Executive Committee replaces the Campus Planning Steering Committee, which had drawn criticism for its increasing emphasis on architectural design review over its role as a planning resource.

The executive committee also oversees major university construction projects, such as the University Center renovation and the business school expansion, through the establishment of specific project committees. Design projects and issues that don't necessarily merit their own committee fall to the Campus Design Committee.

"The Campus Design Committee is supportive and in a way advisory to the executive committee," says Gatzke, who also sits on the design committee. "It works to make sure that the long-term design standards and master planning policies are implemented, as well as to provide design oversight and guidance on small projects that are below warranting their own specific project committee--landscaping, signage, handicap ramps, miscellaneous construction."

While the former Campus Planning Steering Committee became bogged down in the architectural review process, Fry says the new two-committee structure clearly delineates the focus of work and should result in a smoother, more efficient process for both committees.

"I'm the manager of the design review process," Fry says. "We've got the emphasis on design--aesthetic issues, environmental issues, the physical quality of campus and the coordination of improvements that happen on campus." For more information, visit the Campus Design Committee Web site at

Mark Miester can be reached at

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