Campus Master Plan History

KU's first master plan in 1904 developed by George Kessler and Henry Wright helped the university to evolve from a series of “outdoor rooms,” enclosed by campus buildings with focused entry points from the community below, to the more linear vision of Kessler’s plan.

The Kessler plan projected the main academic building as occupying the site currently occupied by Wescoe Hall. In addition, the plan envisioned a football stadium and gymnasium occupying the bowl in which Memorial Stadium is sited today. An imaginary line running between the main academic building and the recreation facilities below was an axis for what was envisioned to be a grand mall. It would be flanked by parks. On the site where Carruth-O'Leary sits today, Kessler's plan envisioned residence halls.

The Kansas City landscape architectural firm of Hare and Hare produced the second campus development plan in 1928 and a subsequent update in 1932.

This plan, like the Kessler Plan, focused on a main academic building--by now, Frank Strong Hall--as the campus centerpiece. And, like the previous plan, it reinforced a commitment to Marvin Grove, developed around the turn of the century, and Potter Lake, created for the purposes of fire prevention, as areas to preserve. It did not, however, preserve the north-south axis of the Kessler Plan. By now, Jayhawk Boulevard had become the "spine" of the campus.

The vision in Hare and Hare's plan, of a landscaped, pedestrian-oriented campus, failed, however, to foresee the impact of streets, parking, and automobile access.

1930s - 1970s

Planning was handled internally at KU after the work of Hare and Hare. The first campus landscape architect, Alton Thomas, served the campus between 1948 and 1983. Thomas sought balance in the use of deciduous and evergreen plantings on campus, many of which have now been lost due to age, disease and storm damage.

Both Thomas and Keith Lawton, Director of Facilities Planning and Vice Chancellor, influenced the post WWII development, including the construction of Memorial Drive, the location of residence halls and the development of the south slope. Keith Lawton began his involvement in campus planning in the 1950s, pushing forward the goal of meeting the needs unique to a public institution of higher education in times of tremendous social and economic transformation. Lawton maintained sound basic concepts and continuity for the physical planning process and was instrumental in the 1973 campus master planning process.

The 1973 Physical Development Plan

The 1973 planning effort was the result of a funded mandate from the Kansas Board of Regents and the Legislature, which wanted long-range plans for the physical development of each Regents institution. The schools were required to make all future capital expenditures in accord with a carefully drawn, coordinated, statewide plan designed to assure both orderly and timely development. The educational programs of the institutions were required to meet the needs of Kansas, and the physical facilities to meet the needs of the schools' programs.

The firm of Caudill, Rowlett, Scott, of Houston, Texas, produced the workbook that guided the statewide planning effort for the Regents schools. The KU Office of Facilities Planning developed a comprehensive land-use plan for both main and west campuses, evaluated transportation and parking systems, and recommended future improvements. Van Doren-Hazard-Stallings-Schnacke, a Topeka firm, produced the final KU document and helped in the evaluation and mapping of campus utility systems.

The 1973 Plan was concerned with optimizing the academic mission, the improvement of functional efficiency, visual appearance, campus community relationships, and the unification of all of the physical elements of the campus into a clearly defined, humane and usable environment. The major controlling ideas for the Plan included:

  • The reinforcement of the academic core, creating a sense of physical unity, primarily through organizing the buildings, landscape elements, spaces and their associated activities in such a manner that the overall physical needs of the academic mission are served efficiently in the central campus.
  • The placement of service and support functions and the heavily research-oriented and specialized, non-traditional teaching facilities on the periphery of the campus, in order to free the center of the academic core for basic traditional teaching and their interrelated activities.
  • The improvement of the vehicular and pedestrian circulation systems, enhancing the access to the campus, providing the smooth diversion of cross-city traffic around the campus and reducing points of vehicular and pedestrian conflict.

The 1997 Campus Plan

The 1997 Campus Plan was developed internally by KU as a 20-year planning document to provide guidelines for the physical development of the Lawrence campus. The 1997 Plan set the basic groundwork for future development issues for land use, access, image and environment.

There were two guiding principles to this process:

  • Preserve the beauty of Mount Oread.
  • Create an environment which shows respect for learning.

The plan focused on the physical development process and addressed:

  • The means for involving campus constituencies in the formulation of a campus plan.
  • The future quality and character of the physical environment of the campus.
  • A plan for the visual quality of the campus, including landscape enhancement and overall campus beautification.Campus development guidelines regarding future land use and physical development patterns.
  • Needs for facilities from academic, research, student service and institutional support programs.
  • Future buildable sites and adjacent areas of possible growth.
  • Long term concerns regarding the safety and physical design of the campus.
  • Transportation needs with the physical layout and use of the campus.

Historic Surveys

Copies of the 1997 Campus Plan and 1997 Campus Historic Survey are available by request.
1904 Master Plan Campus Map

1904 Master Plan Campus Map

1928 Master Plan Campus Map

1928 Master Plan Campus Map

1973 Master Plan Campus Map

1973 Master Plan Campus Map