Centennial plan aims to make UH ‘more walkable, collaborative and sustainable’
UH’s Board of Regents observed the Centennial Master Plan proposal that focuses on imporving the campus by making it more walkable, collaborative and sustainable.
The Board of Regents members met on Thursday to discuss and approve policies that ensure the University runs in a fiscally responsible manner. UH’s upcoming centennial in 2027 will have this master plan promoted by President Renu Khator.
Responsible for presenting the proposal is College of Architecture Dean Patricia Oliver. In her presentation, Oliver shows potential projects that reflect the University in a new light and promote a long lasting impression for visitors and students.
“We spent a year and a half thinking of what makes a campus memorable,” Oliver said. “And I think we came with five conclusions or five goals.”
The first goal is to build a memorable first impression. To achieve this, Oliver wants to establish specific entries and boundaries defining where the campus begins and ends. With the current boundaries established by oak trees, planting more will fill in the gaps and further define them.
Additionally, Oliver proposes the implementation of markers at the primary entrances for the University of Houston and its College of Medicine.
“We want to make people know when they are coming into the University of Houston,” Oliver said. “The markers allow us to celebrate the transition from a commuter campus, which we’ve been for the majority of our existence, to the pedestrian campus we have now become and celebrates student life and student success.”
For the second and third goals, Oliver describes plans on celebrating the heart of the University and making the campus walkable.
With these goals, Oliver said making the campus more pedestrian-friendly requires removing car traffic and elevating the place to encourage mingling outside through social activities such as eating, contemplating and just creating memorable memories.
This goal is achieved with a centennial plaza for student gatherings and walkways that connect to the campus’ center.
Oliver also proposes the Scholars’ Walk, a pathway where students will observe faculty’s achievement through electronic kiosks as they walk.
“We plan to celebrate the achievements of faculty through these electronic kiosks,” she said. “They celebrate our scientists, our artists that have made significant contributions to the culture.”
With the fourth goal of connecting people, places and disciplines, Oliver introduces the concept of outdoor rooms.
These rooms will be along the walkways and are for multipurpose use. An example is Wilhelma Grove, an outdoor room that will provide space for events and community building.
“The whole idea is that we’re trying to make the whole campus wider with a centerpiece, as well as walkable,” Khator said. “We also want to reduce the entrances of the University to five or six very prominent ones. So that as soon as you enter the University it feels like, ‘okay, I’ve entered the university’.”
The presentation ends with the fifth goal of designing a sustainable and resilient campus.
Oliver said there is importance in the need to preserve the remaining woodlands surrounding the campus. Slowly weathering away by drought and new development, preservation of the woodlands will help increase biodiversity and the population of its native species.
“While it seems ambitious, this entire plan, everything that we proposed, is the equivalent of creating one building. It can be done,” Oliver said. “President Khator wants us to be in the top 50 research universities in the United States by 2027, and we would like to have a campus that celebrates that accomplishment.”