Margaret Carney and Leslie Schill: Campus, Context, and Community: Navigating Change while Maintaining a Long Term Vision

Aerial view of the Cornell campus

Margaret M. Carney (B.Arch. '81) joined Cornell in February of 2018 as university architect, providing leadership of the planning and design of Cornell's campuses and capital projects. Carney provides oversight of the Campus Planning Office and Office of the University Architect and works closely with university leadership, academic units, and external agencies to establish the overall direction of Cornell's campus planning, architectural design, and landscape architecture.

After graduating from Cornell, Carney spent 20 years in professional practice for various architectural firms, including the Architects Collaborative, SOM, Sasaki, and Ben Thompson Associates, focused on campus master plans and building designs for numerous campuses, including a one-million-square-foot Fine and Performing Arts Facility for the University of Baghdad in Iraq, and the Physical Sciences Building for Cornell.

More recently, prior to joining Cornell, Carney spent 15 years working as associate vice president and university architect and planner on three urban campuses: Catholic University in Washington, DC, Temple University in Philadelphia, and Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. She was the first AVP university architect and planner for all three universities, where she led the development and implementation of transformational campus master plans, and the design of many campus buildings.

Leslie Schill (M.R.P. '02) is Cornell's university planner, leading the Campus Planning Office (CPO) in the Facilities and Campus Services division since 2014. Stewardship of the University's Campus Master Plan, facility and site planning, and community (town-gown) collaborative planning are key roles of the university planner and the CPO, which includes landscape architecture and geographic information systems (GIS).

Schill is an alum of city and regional planning here at Cornell with a background in municipal planning. She worked for the Tompkins County Planning Department on energy and GHG planning, Cleaner Greener Southern Tier Regional Plan, as well as trail and road corridor planning projects. Prior to that, Schill led the District of Columbia government's Department of Parks and Recreation planning and design unit, which developed recreation center facilities, planned city park restorations, and coordinated with Federal government open space agencies.

Abstract:

Campuses are uniquely shaped by their history, institutional purpose and vision, physical and environmental context, and the dynamics of adjacent communities. For colleges and universities, the institutional vision and academic strategic goals have traditionally been the most important drivers behind the physical context of the campus and its continuous evolution. The composition of buildings and spaces that comprise a campus are carefully planned, built, and maintained over the life of the institution, changing as needed to keep up with the growth and evolution of the institution itself and to ensure that the physical environment represents institutional values and aspirations. Integration with surrounding communities is critical to these environments, given the interdependence between institutions within communities, and the need to coordinate infrastructure, zoning laws, and transportation systems. Architects, planners, and designers responsible for the physical development of an established campus throughout the course of its lifetime must understand how this complex environment works, and how it should work in order to allow the university community to function, succeed, and grow. They need to engage with university and community leadership and many others within the community to orchestrate an informed long term vision for the physical environment while guiding ongoing development such that the vision can be realized.

Over the last several decades, university communities have become increasingly complex, largely due to the growth and dependence on corporate and industry partnerships in research which require even larger facilities for start-up and step-up entities that grow out of these partnerships. As a result, the interface between campuses and the surrounding communities has changed — dramatically in many cases where the value of the university's role as an economic driver for their community has been recognized and nurtured, attracting top talent to a region and retaining those who came for an education. Campuses, whether urban or rural, are evolving with stronger ties to their community, and stronger reliance on shared infrastructure as a result. In this presentation we will discuss some examples of campus communities that have been dramatically impacted by their commitment to work closely with their communities, influencing each other from an economic, cultural, and physical standpoint.