Place Matters: Campus Planning Experts Talk Community Building (Cooper Robertson)

John Kirk

How can colleges and universities better integrate with their surrounding communities? Why does the design of a physical campus even matter in the digital age, and how do you implement a master plan? These are among the topics of discussion in an upcoming talk by Cooper Robertson, renowned architects and planners of campuses nationwide.

As part of the Society for College and University Planning (SCUP) Mid-Atlantic Regional Conference, the March 13th panel, entitled “Place Matters: Cultivating leaders and building community at Longwood University,” Cooper Robertson partners John Kirk, AIA, and Brian Shea, AIA, will join Longwood president Taylor Reveley and Farmville, Virginia, mayor David Whitus in presenting a case study on the development and implementation of Cooper Robertson’s new master plan for the rapidly expanding institution.

Drawing on their current work for Longwood University as well as experience with long-term planning projects at institutions like Ohio State, the University of North Carolina, Yale University, and Hunter College, Kirk and Shea will describe how campus leaders can guide future planning decisions that better contribute to the surrounding communities, and how design decisions can go beyond the footprint of the buildings themselves to more effectively address the public realm they create.

“The true power of campus planning comes in approaching visions for growth with a keen eye on connectivity to a larger context,” says Cooper Robertson’s Kirk. “As colleges and universities evolve in the digital age, looking beyond the borders of the campus becomes even more important. Human interaction and exchange is essential to democracy, citizenship, and individual growth, and seeing the college or university as part of its greater community helps create environments where these ideals can thrive.”

Who: John Kirk, AIA, and Brian Shea, AIA

What: Panel discussion: “Place Matters: Cultivating leaders and building community at Longwood University”

When: Tuesday, March 13, from 9:45 to 10:45am.

Where: Westin Convention Center, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Description: Despite misguided notions that little would be lost if higher education moved entirely online, community—human interaction and exchange—is essential to democracy, citizenship, growth, and leadership. This session is about master planning that looks beyond the borders of the campus and sees the university as an economic engine for the revitalization of the community that envelops it. We will illustrate the power of planning with an eye on connectivity within a larger context as well as how a campus setting informs, and is informed by, that context.

About the Longwood University Master Plan: With student population at Longwood University expected to increase by 30% over the next seven years, Cooper Robertson’s master plan, called “Place Matters,” emphasizes a vibrant, walkable campus that creates venues for new programs, envisions Farmville becoming one of America’s great college towns and helps meet the needs of the surrounding community. Cooper Robertson has been engaged by the University to be the steward of the master plan’s implementation and to serve as advisors on matters of aesthetics, architecture and design.The implementation will kick off with ambitious renovations of its two major residential buildings, Curry Hall and Frazer Hall, to better reinforce the historic character of the campus and improve the connection to downtown. Cooper Robertson will serve as design architect for a new plaza, entry areas, and streetscapes to be constructed as part of the open space network knitting the two major residence halls to the rest of campus and to town. The residential building upgrades are just the beginning of a series of bold moves proposed in Cooper Robertson’s master plan. Adding new campus activities and furthering the campus-town connection, the school’s baseball and softball stadiums will be relocated to downtown Farmville, with all field sports to be consolidated at the south campus. Building on the university’s existing character, a new, garden-like pedestrian connection to the Moton Museum will be installed along with a Performing Arts Center and a multi-purpose hall.

About Cooper RobertsonRecognized internationally for its successes in making thriving places, the award-winning design firm Cooper Robertson integrates architecture and urban design at many scales, from buildings to parks to city districts. Founded in 1979 by Alexander Cooper, FAIA, the firm is now led by a core group of diverse and accomplished professionals. Acclaimed works by the firm include large-scale urban redevelopments, major cultural and educational buildings, waterfront sustainability and resiliency plans, and exceptional residences and resorts. Visit