Three major landscape types -- meadows, forests and forest edge, and ravines -- combine to create the powerful physical presence of the UC Santa Cruz campus. Each type has its own distinct characteristics and each requires a different development approach in order to protect its essential character and to maintain and enhance the campus’s ecological diversity.
"If the University maintains this meadow space as an open area, by the year 1990 it may well be one of the most rare, gratifying and valuable assets of the campus."
1963 Long Range Development Plan
When entering the campus from the south, the undeveloped meadows form a dramatic foreground to the larger campus landscape beyond. Sensitivity to the visual character of the lower campus meadows, preservation of the integrity of the meadow boundary, and maintaining the continuity and visual “sweep” of the meadow have all contributed to the dramatic entry to our campus.
During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries nearly all the redwood, oak, and fir on the site were cut and used to fuel the kilns that the Cowell Lime and Cement Company used to transform limestone quarried nearby into cement. As a result, the existing forest is entirely second-growth and still in transition, shaped by extreme human intervention over 100 years ago. Wise management presents opportunities to restore a badly scarred landscape, improving and enhancing its environmental integrity.
Covering well over one-half of the campus, the forest’s towering redwoods dominate the scale of the buildings, paths, and roads they surround, providing a unifying force compatible with a wide variety of building types and styles. Within the deeply shadowed forest individuals find areas of privacy and isolation, rare on university campuses, that punctuate the collegial and social open spaces of the campus's building clusters.
The meeting point of the forest and the meadow - the forest edge also known as the "ecotone" - contains species native to both forest and meadow, making it an area of particular beauty and ecological diversity.
The Moore Creek and Jordan Gulch ravines and their several fingers run north-south through the forest of the campus core, cutting deeply into the terraced topography. As the ravines join together and emerge from the forest into the meadows, their routes are marked by the dense and visually powerful stands of bay, buckeye and oak they contain. As much as 70 feet deep and 250 feet wide, they provide topographic definition between the colleges and sub-areas of the academic core. Their steep sides provide a challenge to development of east-west cross-campus travel routes.
"Further, it is important to think clearly and with imagination before accepting the standards and clichés of modern monumental, or normal campus, building types. An architecture here must grow out of the problems, restrictions and potentialities of the site. Usual relationships of building groups in a formal pattern may violate the topography beyond repair. Grading and reforming of the land there will be, but kept to a minimum. Tree-clearing will be inevitable, not because the architecture forces it, but because the ultimate landscape demands it ... To a greater extent than any of us have faced heretofore, the buildings are less important in the visual composition than the trees."
Thomas Church, 1962, Notes on the Site
The central campus begins where the meadows and the forest meet, and it extends north into the forested lands. At the center is the academic and service “core” of institutionally scaled buildings -- libraries, lecture halls, laboratories and other research facilities, art studios and performance venues, bookstore and student activity buildings -- surrounded on three sides by smaller scale clusters of residential colleges and housing. The campus’s Physical Design Framework encourages concentrated development in both the core and the colleges in order to leave as much land as possible in its natural state, avoid sprawl, and support pedestrian movement.
The tradition of developing residential colleges in distinct clusters has proved to be an effective approach to building in the campus's extraordinary natural environment. This development pattern is based on compact building footprints that create a hierarchy of public exterior spaces to support and encourage gathering and interaction. The goal in clustering the colleges, in the words of Clark Kerr (then President of the University of California), was to create a campus that would "seem smaller even as it grows larger".
For more information on the campus design philosophy refer to the UC Santa Cruz Physical Design Framework.
The pedestrian path system is organized in an overall "warped grid" pattern connecting the colleges to each other and to the core, while responding sensitively to trees and contours. Paths that are safe and easy to traverse, with new bridges where necessary, will increase pedestrian circulation and create opportunities for informal encounter and engagement. While the full vision of the path network has not yet been implemented, it is intended to connect all major classrooms, the libraries and other academic and support facilities within 10 to 15 minutes from nearly everywhere on campus. Additional interpretive information on paths and trails will lead to deeper understanding and enjoyment of all campus landscape types.
To facilitate a healthy pedestrian network, most parking is located peripheral to the campus core. The roadway system, which is structured as a "ladder" stepping up the contours of the land and connecting the east and west colleges, is intended to emphasize transit, pedestrian, and bicycle use. Since campus circulation is not readily understood by the newcomer, the circulation system is intended to be organized simply and marked clearly.