Hal Moggridge explores the influences and design ideas that shaped the University of Bath campus landscape.
In early 2021 the Gardens Trust, with Karen Fitzsimon, organised several illustrated zoom lectures about late 20th century English landscapes. I was asked to give a lecture about university landscapes. From the Middle Ages there were only two English universities, Oxford and Cambridge, increased between 1832 and 1939 to eleven, often by giving university status to educational and technical colleges. Then between 1948 and 1969 twenty-two new English universities tripled this number, eight being completely new foundations on campuses with significant landscapes located on the edge of cities. The University of Bath was one of these.
These freshly created universities had two fundamentally differing approaches to their layout and landscape. Some were spread across contemplative parkland settings; I was familiar with two of these, UEA and York. But another group were arranged along a teaching spine, a pedestrian route raised above a vehicular service level. Lancaster, Kent, Essex and Bath were arranged in this way, an approach to landscape layout about which I knew nothing and so needed help to understand their concepts. As the University of Bath is an attractive example of such a spine, I appealed to Dr Marion Harney, Department of Architecture &amp;amp;amp;amp; Civil Engineering, for assistance in getting to know the origins of its campus. She supplied me with her informative article written for Pevsner and, even more helpfully, an introduction to Lizzie Richmond who looks after the University Archives, from which she chose a golden flood of fascinating information from which I selected illustrations for my lecture.
There were extracts from the conceptual report ‘The Proposed University of Bath: A Technological University - Development Plan Report Number 1’, 1965 by Robert Matthew, Johnson Marshall &amp; Partners. As a student I had attended informal evening slide shows at the home of Stirrat Johnson Marshall and so knew him to be an architect with a strong feeling for landscape. The image introducing this text evokes the spirit proposed for the new university, a movement spine connected to intellectual activities on either side, extending on outwards to the irregularities of natural landscape and human interactions. Then there were aerial pictures of the university being constructed at extraordinary speed so that new students could be received almost as soon as the idea of the university had been conceived. Finally, an illustrated paper written in 1995 by Bill Bowen, the University’s Horticultural Officer 1967-1995, who during that period oversaw the creation of its landscape. This included plans of the University overlaid with areas of open landscape and with the names of the many species of trees planted across the campus. Photographs showed students enjoying this landscape, its lake, its green theatre, its playing fields and its many walks.