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- Date Answered: 10/12/2011
- If you have ever been on the Bardeen (Engineering) Quad, you may have noticed that the paths cutting across it are rather indirect. Why does the Engineering Quad have these swoopy, inefficient paths, while the Main Quad has direct, straight-line connections between its buildings?
- Dear Quad-Curious,
Ah, the great outdoors! QB often envies the students who get to spend idle afternoons on the quad. The closest QB gets to scenery is a view of the Undergraduate Library Courtyard--unless a kind librarian rolls up a computer and turns on the Quad Cam.
The question of the paths is a difficult one, particularly when it comes to the Main Quad. QB looked into what information was available in the University Archives and found a book that offered a nice overview of the history of campus grounds: The History of the Growth and Development of the Campus of the University of Illinois. Looking back into campus history, QB notes that before the plan for the quad, the area was meant to be used as experimental horticulture grounds. Although that didn’t happen, in 1871 a plan for the area included curved (not straight) paths surrounded by gardens. The University, however, decided against it because of, among other things, the possibility that "rowdy boys" would be "incited to mischief by the opportunity presented." QB usually sees students at their most studious and is amused to hear about the danger they may have posed to plant life in bygone years.
It wasn’t until 1905 that a plan of the University of Illinois finally showed something like today’s quad. That plan shows a pattern of sidewalks very like the X-shaped paths you see today--but curiously with small curves to the paths! How, when, and why those curves got straightened to today’s sidewalks, though, remains a mystery to QB. For a path to more information, QB suggests talking to a friendly archivist about sifting through the papers of the campus plan designers from that era.
Because Bardeen quad is relatively new, QB was able to take advantage of local memory to get more specific information about those, as you say, "swoopy inefficient paths." Dedicated in October 2004, the quad was named after John Bardeen, a former professor of engineering and physics. According to Kevin Duff, the Manager of University Planning and Design, Bardeen Quad was designed by now-retired University landscape architect Joe Karr, and several considerations motivated the curves: "partially to be compatible with the Boneyard Creek, partially to be in contrast with the main quad, and partially because the area south of the walks is actually a storm water detention area that seemed better suited to be curvilinear than geometric." Moreover, after the original construction of the quad, some paths were added to fit the places people wanted to walk.
So, Quad-Curious, QB encourages you to think of the Bardeen Quad sidewalks not as inefficient but as a place to take a relaxed and scenic stroll for students who need to unwind. Who said engineers had to be rigid, anyway?
Yours in rowdiness,
- Source(s) Used to Answer Question:
- Email exchange with Kevin Duff, the Manager of University Planning and Design.
Schuh, Jessica. "Engineering Quad dedicated to Bardeen." Daily Illini 15 Oct. 2004 (http://www.dailyillini.com/index.php/article/2004/10/engineering_quad_dedicated_to_bardeen#).
Tilton, Leon D., and Thomas E. O’Donnell. History of the Growth and Development of the Campus of the University of Illinois. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1930. P. 12-15, 54-55.
- Source Call Number(s): 727.3 T47h