Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Learning From Campuses: USC


In the last part of this series we took a look at UCLA. Now let's take a trip across town to its rival campus, the University of Southern California (USC), to see what it can teach us about good urban design.

The "University Park" Campus is bounded by Jefferson Blvd., Figueroa St., Exposition Blvd., and Vermont Ave. in South LA, a half hour's walk from the edge of Downtown. The campus is roughly .5 miles on each side, making it very compact and very walkable. A ton of transit runs by here, including overlapping lines on Vermont Ave., the Harbor freeway buses just to the east, a DASH line, and various others. The Exposition Light rail line will run directly adjacent to Figueroa and on Exposition, starting 2010 or 2011. Bike wise, the perimeter streets aren't great (although a bike lane runs north on Hoover, which touches the campus). Nevertheless, tons of students ride bikes to class, mostly on campus, or from nearby housing to the north and west, which is mostly of low-medium density (1-3 stories). Parking is handled by a series of garages that you have to pay for (good) and most of the interior of the campus is uncut by vehicle roads.

Things are dense and mixed-use on campus, with dormitories positioned right next to academic buildings. The east side of campus features two charming squares, near major libraries, and just to the south, across Exposition, Exposition Park offers more quality open space and museums, such as the Rose Garden, and the Museum of Natural History (although way too much of the park has been given over to parking lots).

Unlike UCLA, the campus at USC is fenced off, hinting at tension with the surrounding community. Rumor has it, these relations are tense in part because of the University's expanding footprint, and young, largely affluent students, displacing the housing of lower-income locals.

Despite these issues, USC is an interesting model of the potential of density and a mixture of land uses to produce a walkable area, well served by transit.

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